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This App Pays Your Favorite Charities For Every Mile You Run Or Bike

Everyone wins with Charity Miles. Good causes get money, and you get off your butt.

If you run or bike and like the idea of giving to charity, there’s now a great way to combine the two. Through corporate sponsorship, an app called Charity Miles pays money to good causes based on how many miles you’re prepared to go.

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After you download the app, Charity Miles tracks your movements. Each running-mile is worth 25 cents, each biked-mile 50 10 cents. You can choose which charity gets the proceeds from a list of more than 30, including the World Wildlife Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and The Nature Conservancy.

The app was created by Gene Gurkoff, a New York lawyer, back in the summer of 2012. So far, almost 1 million people have downloaded it and Charity Miles has generated about $1 million in funds. Sponsors include Humana, Johnson & Johnson, Timex, and Lifeway Foods, who pay to contribute as part of “engagement” campaigns (say, $50,000 a time).

Gurkoff claims the platform offers advantages over other types of cause marketing. “In most cause marketing arrangements, the company gives a bit to charity and spends 7 to 10 times [more effort] promoting it. The promotion is what drives the return on investment, not the charity,” he says. “We are trying to reverse that ratio and generate the marketing R.O.I. that companies want from ordinary advertising. This enables them to repurpose their digital media budgets–money that never ever would have gone to charity–for social good.”

Charity Miles itself takes 50% cut of the money raised, with some of that going to a fund to cover the possibility that people will earn more for charities than is available from sponsors. “We cap our overall liability at 50% of our revenue, which works out because we generally have a 50% margin on our engagements,” Gurkoff explains.

So far it’s worked out because the money’s matched up front. But Gurkoff has to keep finding sponsors to keep up with all the runners and bikers out there. Not that he’s complaining. The model he’s created seems to help everyone involved, from people who want to get fit to the companies that want new ways to market to people.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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