The footprints network emerged from an inspirational concept following the devastating Asian Tsunami in 2004, and from there it has grown into an independent network of e-commerce businesses that share the same ethics and values and, through technology, want to change the world in which they live and do business. This is our story so far.
It began with a philosophy
The team behind World Nomads, the founding partner of The Footprints Network, have all travelled widely and, philosophically, they have always believed there is a moral obligation to give a little back to the communities to which any traveller visits. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do. But the question remained: just how do you ‘give back’ in a valuable way?
Then came an idea
With a background in web technology, Simon Monk, founder of World Nomads, had an idea about how to use his e-commerce skills to make a difference.
If customers were already spending money online, why not ‘piggy-back’ on the same transaction and ask them to make a small donation to charity at the same time?
Charities cannot manage thousands of small donations — the administration is just too difficult — but Simon was confident that web technology expertise could enable his business to collect and efficiently aggregate thousands of ‘micro donations’ on their behalf.
If it sounds like a simple idea, that’s because it is.
But would it work?
By the end of January 2005, Simon’s technical team had finished integrating it into World Nomads and were ready to start collecting thousands of micro donations from people in many countries and in many currencies.
Simon and his team felt sure they were onto something, but there was only one way to find out: try it on their customers. These people already had their credit cards on the table, so why not ask them to spend just a teeny bit more?
By the end of the first week, there were a few hundred dollars in the bank; by the end of the first month, a few thousand dollars, and by the end of the first year nearly $50,000. One hundred per cent of the funds raised were distributed amongst six registered Australian charities.
The size of individual donations was small — the cost of a coffee or lottery ticket — but the volume of donations was significant. With the help of technology, small was proving to be very powerful.
How to improve?
Over the initial trial period, an astonishing 70 per cent of World Nomads’ customers donated, which was an outstanding result, the team at World Nomads felt there was still room for improvement. They came to the conclusion that the problem with just handing money to a charity is that donors often feel very disconnected with the cause, and sometimes even sceptical: how do they know where their money went, or if it actually made a difference?
So they decided to offer customers the option to donate to specific charitable projects, such as $2 to help fund 200 eye operations in Cambodia with the Fred Hollows Foundation.
By November 2006, World Nomads customers were being asked to donate to location-specific, project based initiatives. The projects were tangible and the process was transparent, with donors being kept up to date with news on, and results from, the project to which they had contributed.
The donation rate jumped from 70 per cent to 90 per cent and by the end of the second trial period, World Nomads had raised over $176,000 in total.
So how to really change the world?
After the success of project-based donations, the World Nomads team decided if they really wanted to make a BIG difference, they needed to share their technology with other e-businesses: to build a network of e-businesses across the globe willing to raise a lot more money for tangible charitable projects. And so it was that The Footprints Network was founded.
The technical team went back to work for six months to re-engineer the technology out of World Nomads to make it what it is today — an online application with a standard API. The technology is now available — for free — for e-businesses to integrate into their web sites. E-businesses that join The Footprints Network help by becoming economically efficient ‘collection agents’ for approved charity partners: essentially serving as the glue between individual donors and charitable projects. The more e-businesses that join The Footprints Network, the more projects that can be funded.
Today, The Footprints Network is a registered non-profit organisation (#INC9884228) that works with third-party charities and NGOs to source, manage and report on charitable projects globally, and partner these projects with like-minded e-businesses. World Nomads continues to independently fund the development and administration of The Footprints Network to ensure that 100 per cent of funds raised go to charitable projects, however, the future of The Footprints Network has moved way beyond the initial hopes of World Nomads.