In a perfect world, people would donate to worthy causes purely out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s nice, though, to get something in return—whether that’s a tote bag emblazoned with the organization’s name, a shout-out in the company newsletter, or some other kind of perk.
The Mutual, a site that’s billing itself as a "Groupon for good," is offering participants a treasure chest of deals. But instead of paying for discounts at individual businesses, they pay for donations to nonprofits and get the discounts as a side benefit.
The Mutual launched last week with five "cause partners," including Oceana, Carbonfund.org, and the Trust for Public Land. Participants pay a $10 monthly fee and have the opportunity each month to choose a cause partner to receive their cash, or spread the money equally across the partners (the Mutual takes a 20% cut). In return, users get perks from participating businesses.
Current perks include 10% off purchases at uncommon goods, a graphic design consultation with Dossier, and 20% off at the O Hotel in Los Angeles. These are good deals from the kinds of businesses that might normally attempt to attract customers at LivingSocial or Groupon. Unlike with daily deal sites, participating businesses don’t have to face one-time customers that take advantage of deep discounts and never come back. At the Mutual, businesses may actually gain both customers and cash. See the comparison graphic for the differences between the Mutual and Groupon.
So far, most of the Mutual’s perks are in New York City. This may change soon; the site is already expanding to San Francisco and Los Angeles, with more cities coming in the near future.
There are, of course, other ways to get discounts from businesses en masse while supporting a good cause—just take a look at the list of perks for joining the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. But the Mutual gives people who want to do good but need an extra push the freedom to donate to worthy causes with a simple subscription service, a la Netflix or Spotify. Giving to good causes is now as mindless as buying a monthly music service. And the perks? Well, they don’t hurt either.