Adtruism is a new social technology startup that allows anyone with a website or blog to raise money for a worthy cause without soliciting donations. The thinking is simple: an Adtruism widget, once placed on a website, displays commercial advertisements. Then the ad revenue is passed on directly to your chosen charity.
The company, founded by student Brian McCormick while studying law at University College, Dublin, is being supported by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland to the tune of somewhere between $43,000 and $262,000. It also lists “pro bono” support from KPMG and ZEDO. Perhaps most surprisingly, it’s entirely run by student volunteers from UCD and Trinity.
Adtruism’s widget is designed to be non-invasive, and it’s backed by ZEDO’s global ad service. ZEDO is a hefty partner: it is the most successful independent ad server in the US, with development centers as far as Russia and India, and the clout to serve billions of views each month. In an interview with Silicon Republic, McCormick stated that getting ZEDO on board has been Adtruism’s “biggest achievement so far.”
At current, Adtruism supports the Make a Wish Foundation, UNICEF, and Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres). And they work exclusively with “socially responsible” advertisers, such as 123.ie and Horizon. While it’s understandable they would want to work with specially selected “socially responsible” advertisers, doing so will significantly restrict the revenue they will create for charities, and might be a decision they come to regret.
Adtruism is the latest in a long line of social tech startups streamlining the giving process. Giveffect, a charity crowdfunding startup founded by three Toronto entrepreneurs, launched on the 21st of June. VISO, the network operator of VISO Give – which allows users to “donate” to charity by watching videos on a prescribed YouTube channel – claims 158,000 views. GoFundMe, a crowdfunding website for donating to anything, has been said to make Kickstarter look “frivolous by comparison.”
Webmasters of the corporate world can drop the Adtruism widget onto a business page fairly simply, contributing toward Corporate Social Responsibility requirements. McCormick hopes bigger, international web portals will turn their massive traffic rates to a higher social calling. “Projects like this can really justify themselves in terms of their social impact,” he stated.
When you hear the opinions in these Yodle reviews and read the latest thoughts from marketers, you soon realize that companies today are moving budgets away from display ads. Companies want targeted ads that let them capture existing demand, but that isn’t something that Adtruism’s model can capitalize on. At the same time, large display networks still generate billions each year, creating a sizeable opportunity for the startup.
In the meantime, McCormick is sticking to the Adtruism cause. “I am hoping to work full-time on the project for as long as needed to get started,” he explains. It seems he believes that to be sooner rather than later: his corporate profile page states that he will be joining Irish law firm McCann Fitzgerald as a trainee solicitor in 2015.