Mogl’s Anti-Hunger Games Use Peer Pressure to Put Food on Plates
With Thanksgiving just a week away, San Diego-based Mogl has overhauled its Web-based restaurant rewards program to make it easier for people to make a donation to ward off hunger in America.
In the spirit of Toms, which donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold, and Warby Parker, which donates a pair of eyeglasses with each sale, Mogl founder Jon Carder says the startup is stepping up its use of “a profitable, business-minded approach to a massive problem.” But where the “one for one” business model at Toms has been described as “caring capitalism,” Carder has added a whole new dimension, using the tools of social networking to apply what he calls “socially positive peer pressure.”
As Carder explained to me earlier this year, he founded Mogl in 2011 with the idea of “gamifying” a social network loyalty rewards program. Users who signed up for Mogl’s program (through the Mogl website or by downloading the free mobile app) would automatically get a 10 percent cash-back reward for using a Mogl-registered credit or debit card to buy a meal at a participating restaurant. Users also could compete for a monthly “jackpot” cash prize given to the top three spenders at each participating restaurant.
Even in its first incarnation, the company also agreed to donate a meal to Feeding America for every $20 that Mogl members spent at participating restaurants. The first big check was enough to provide about 550,000 free meals to the hungry. After seeing the number of free meals Mogl had generated, Carder said he was feeling all “Aren’t we awesome?” and “Aren’t we making a difference?”
But after volunteering in a local food bank, he learned that hunger afflicts more than 50 million Americans, including roughly one out of every six children. He also learned that the 550,000 meals that Mogl had provided would not go far. More than 70 million free meals are needed each year in San Diego alone. “The more I educated myself, the more bummed I got,” Carder said.
In addition to the food donated by big corporations, grocery chains, restaurants, and individuals, Carder said he learned that food banks also need a steady and reliable source of cash. So he decided to revise Mogl’s cash-back program. With Mogl 2.0, users can now direct all or part of their 10 percent cash-back reward to a local food bank—knowing that every 20 cents they donate equals one meal.
When Mogl users pay their tab at a Mogl-affiliated restaurant they still get a real-time notification about the size of their cash-back award. But they also can immediately decide if they want to donate any or all of their cash-back award to help feed the hungry. The real-time transaction is made possible through a deal with Visa, and a Mogl video explains the process.
Mogl 2.0 also gamifies donations by enabling users to create a “donor leaderboard” with their friends, and share a message like “ I just donated 25 meals” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The new version also features a “hunger tracker” for every city where Mogl is available.
“It represents a whole new driver that enables you to see how you stack up with your friends, and also tracks the number of meals you’ve donated in your city,” Carder says.
Mogl currently operates in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County and Ventura—and expanded to Phoenix, AZ, in August. But the company also has been laying the groundwork for a nationwide expansion—and Carder says he’s willing to enter a new market every time at least 100 local users and five restaurants sign up for the Mogl program.
His strategy might be clever social marketing, or maybe just an update on the concept of “doing good by doing well.” In any case, Carder contends Mogl’s new approach is a more powerful way to give than occasionally writing a check to a food bank. He says, “I think Mogl is going to become the No. 1 way in America to solve the hunger problem.”
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