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Cause.It Unites Volunteers, Local Business, and Nonprofits in One App

After debuting at SXSW, community engagement app Cause.it prepares for its launch.

Can an app boost community engagement? A new mobile app called Cause.it, which made a splashy debut during SXSW Interactive in Austin, may do the job better than just about anything. The company is aiming to transform the way local business, nonprofits, and volunteers interact by giving do-gooders discounts in exchange for volunteering their time or social media accounts for nonprofits. It's a win for the businesses—who bring in new customers and have access to metrics about their cause marketing—and for nonprofits, which acquire new contacts for their mailing list.


"We came up with the idea based on seeing a need in the communities—how do you connect the volunteers with nonprofits and small businesses at the same time?" says founder Gagan Dhillon. The 20-year old Indianapolis-based entrepreneur initially pitched his app idea to city officials, who introduced him to major players in the local nonprofit community. Now Dhillon is preparing for a full launch in Indianapolis later in the month, with five nonprofits and five local businesses on board. Houston is the next city on his list, but he says an updated version of the app will eventually let any community hop on board.

Cause.it offers two actions for users: Sign up for a "say cause"—liking a nonprofit on Facebook or tweeting about it, for example—or a "do cause," a real-world volunteer event to check into, like a tree planting. Participating in either earns a user points that can be redeemed for discounts at local businesses and, Dhillon says, offers a marketing boost for companies: "If I’m a small business that cares about arts organizations, I can target all the people in my city that care about the arts." Nonprofits receive access the email lists of everyone who signs up for their causes for $29 per month.

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