If you haven't heard of Omaze yet, you're missing out on one of the more genius ideas of the last decade within the growing world of cause marketing.
Here's how it works: users visit the platform and donate as little as $10 for a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as being drawn into an episode of Family Guy and meet Seth MacFarlane, or appearing in an ESPN 'This is SportsCenter' commercial. User donations make a difference for amazing causes, which is an incredible feeling, and moreover, the charity gets support from a brand new network of people, allowing them to continue their life-changing work - the biggest win of all.
How did this all get started? When co-founders Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins initially surveyed the landscape of cause content, they saw there was a clear pattern: cause marketers were creating plenty of awareness around their campaigns, but due to a lack of effective storytelling, not nearly as much impact as they could have. As passionate storytellers that wanted to commit themselves to cause marketing as a career, Pohlson and Cummins knew that they had to build something much more permanent and impactful.
Of course, launching a startup is never easy. So Matt and Ryan decided to go to business school. "We came in as creatives, at a zero level, and got up to a 50," says Cummins. "But we surrounded ourselves with folks who were really smart about creating models that had similar revenue streams, and then started trying to apply that to our storytelling."
Omaze is introducing an entire world of individuals to the concept of philanthropy and doing it in a unique manner. "We make giving fun and easy," says Cummins.
The Omaze platform is impressive from a technology standpoint, but to Cummins, that's only part of why his startup has taken off. He believes you can build a technology that democratizes giving to charitable campaigns, but if there isn't a compelling story attached to the cause, then "you don't get massive eyeballs on it to make it a viable system."
Omaze's value proposition to influencers - offering a platform to raise significantly more money and awareness for causes that they're extremely passionate about - puts Cummins and Pohlson in a position to be able to tell stories on a global level. When Robert Downey Jr. mounted a five-week campaign to support Julia's House, a hospice center for children with terminal illnesses, he's not just going out and raising money on some project; he's impacting the lives of kids, their families, and untold thousands of people for years to come.
The storytelling inherent in the Omaze platform is augmented by celebrities such as Robert Downey Jr., who have massive fan bases and foster tremendous engagement from their fans. In the case of Downey, whose projects are always of high quality, he's the face of Omaze campaigns to promote causes that are inarguably altruistic and good - such as helping Julia's House to sign a 999-year lease. The same holds true when Kobe Bryant gives away front row seats to the NBA legend's last game ever, which raised money for a number of causes close to Bryant's heart.
Pohlson and Cummins have found that when they introduce people to Omaze via one campaign, it's not the end of the relationship; it's the beginning. After people donate for the first time and are aware of the cause, they're likely to donate again or tell somebody else about the initiative. When one friend tells another that they have a chance to go hang out with Ben Affleck and ride in a Batmobile, that's powerful word-of-mouth marketing - for the star, the cause, and for Omaze itself.
Omaze is a powerful tool for reaching new audiences that charities such as Julia's House, Water.org, Farm Sanctuary, and many others wouldn't be able to attract as much attention otherwise. The platform's stickiness leads to stories of one-time donors who go on to support causes on an ongoing basis. In fact, it's safe to say Omaze has a base of supporters who are now loyalists to the platform itself.
When Omaze partners with brands, studios, networks, and celebrities, it provides an avenue for the cause as well as the "talent" to suddenly be able to message a story in a different way than they otherwise are able to, thanks to the "philanthropic halo" effect. "Audiences are accepting of whatever the talent might be doing because it's fun and a different thing," says Cummins. "It doesn't feel promotional. It feels like it's coming from just a good space and it is coming from a good space because the 'talent' are doing it because they are deeply, deeply invested and extremely passionate about these causes."
"We're grateful for the opportunity to partner with the world's biggest celebrities and cultural icons to channel their passion and influence for good", says Cummins. "And we've seen that the further each campaign spreads, the more awareness is garnered for each cause. This creates even more impact for the world, so it really is a win-win."
With celebrities, fans, and causes all coming out ahead, you might even call it a win-win-win.