Gift cards have been a godsend for just about all of us at one point or another. Anytime that we don’t know what to get a friend, colleague, or relative for an upcoming special occasion, gift cards provide just the right balance between practicality and thoughtfulness.
They show that you cared enough to exchange some cold hard cash for something more personal, while at the same time ensuring that the recipient doesn’t have to make a trip to the mall to return something they don’t want — let alone making them pretend to like whatever it is you got when they open it in front of you.
But here’s the thing: every year, more than $1 billion worth of gift cards go unspent.1 In other words, that’s $1 billion a year that goes into the coffers of some of the world’s biggest corporations for providing essentially zero tangible value in return.
From the viewpoint of those big companies, that’s about as efficient as it gets. For society at large, on the other hand, it’s the opposite. How much positive impact could be made with that $1 billion each year if it was going towards charitable causes instead of corporate bank accounts?
That could be a rhetorical question, but let’s actually go ahead and quantify it to put it all into perspective. According to the non-profit research organization Give Well, it costs approximately $3,340 to save a life for one of the world’s most effective charities, the Against Malaria Foundation.2
Some quick math tells us that — if we assume that life-saving rate to be constant — $1 billion could save an extra 299,401 lives. The numbers might not be so steady in reality, of course, but the takeaway here is that $1 billion can have an enormous positive impact on the world if it enters the philanthropy economy.
Getting corporations on board
Our idea is simple: get companies to opt-in to a Token Ibis program that convert unspent gift cards that expire into social good through a charity currency.
There are a couple good reasons that said companies would be wise to opt-in, even if they care much more about maximizing profits than social impact:
- Tax-deductible: the moment an unspent gift card gets converted to Token Ibis, it becomes destined for charity and can be deducted from taxable revenue.
- Improve public relations: unless a company has a monopoly on a certain product or service, public perception can make the difference between somebody choosing them vs. a competitor.
- Sell more gift cards: the first companies to opt-in would set their gift cards apart from the more wasteful, for-profit ones.
The second point is the one we really want to focus on, because it’s something that comes up over and over again with Token Ibis use cases.
Public relations are a massively important part of running a successful business, especially in the modern age of social media.
Imagine if a company opted-in to the Token Ibis gift card program and simply had every gift-card purchaser or redeemer vote on where they’d like to see the funds from unspent gift cards be donated. That would mean that every single person who buys or uses a gift card would know that the company cares about doing good in the world, even if 99% of the money from gift cards gets redeemed before expiring.
How many millions (or billions) of dollars do these companies spend on public relations that doesn’t have near the impact on public perception that a Token Ibis gift card program could have? Turning unspent gift cards into highly-visible charitable donations can provide a very good bang-for-your-buck in this respect.
And for those not-so-soulless corporations who actually do prioritize social impact, it’s an even bigger win-win.
The bottom line
If we zoom out and look at the bigger picture, unspent gift cards are just a tiny fraction of the economic inefficiency that can be transformed into social good thanks to Token Ibis.
What’s truly exciting is that there are likely hundreds of yet undiscovered business models out there that can take advantage of these inefficiencies, and millions of bright citizens who can think of and implement those new models.
The key to making that future a reality is simply to spread awareness about the idea of a pure charity currency far and wide, and then to let the natural market forces take care of the rest.
You can help us get the ball rolling by following us on social media and telling all of your difference-making friends about us. Every share pushes us one step closer to making all of this a reality!