Going That Extra Mile for Charity

Charity Miles

Who could have predicted that cellular phones would one day be more powerful than personal computers, and that we’d be living our entire lives through these pocket-sized devices?  And that making calls would only be a secondary function?

Huge advances in personal technology, affordable data and speedy wifi, have all aided our growing obsession with the quantified self.  We now have the ability to track and record all our activities and movements, mining our own big data for insights.  On any given day, I might be using a number of mobile apps to track my sleep cycles, expenses, diet and mobile data.

When I took up running 2 years ago, I relied entirely on the wonderful Couch to 5K podcast to motivate me, and I made sure that every step of the journey was recorded on my Nike+ app.  I’ve got to the stage now where if I can’t track a run, it may as well not have happened (and somehow I convince myself that my iPhone battery life might be the only thing standing in my way of completing a marathon).

So I was really excited to discover an award-winning app that could track my miles, and raise money for charity at the same time.  Talk about doubling the feel-good factor!  Charity Miles is a free app that records how far you walk, run or cycle, and credits each mile with a donation through corporate donations (10 cents per mile for bikers, 25 cents per mile for runners and walkers).

Charity Miles

The app allows users to choose from 26 different charities each time they start a new session, so it really resonates with causes close to everyone’s heart.  Their blog, #EveryMileMatters, is brimming with such inspiring and touching stories.

The app is very easy to navigate and users can start clocking miles within moments of downloading it.  I was impressed that the interface is controlled through swipes once the run has started, as finding small buttons on a flat screen can be difficult once in motion.

The Team Leaderboard lets anyone who uses a group hashtag to view their collective fundraising efforts, which is a useful and fun tool for anyone taking part in an organized run.  Sharing is an essential part of fundraising and has been proven to increase donations.  So I appreciated the pre-populated tweet that the app crafted for me to send upon completion of my run, and through the campaign hashtag #SXSGood I could see just how many other people were also getting involved.

Functionally, the app does have limitations and the aesthetics are fairly basic too.  For example, I would have liked to see an ongoing total of the amount I have raised over multiple runs, as well as my total miles run.  I raised just under a dollar for my run, so showing the incremental impact of each session would have really cemented the feel-good factor and emphasized the purpose of the app.

Also, since the app measures distance through GPS, a map to show the route taken would be a nice feature to include, as Nike+ does below. That said, there is no reason you cannot use it in tandem (pardon the cycling pun!) with this or any of your other favorite apps.

Nike+ Interface

One of the most compelling aspects of the app is the opportunity for brands to connect with users in an un-intrusive and meaningful way.  Throughout my run, the screen showed an ad for the Timex Ironman sports watch.  Upon completion I was asked ‘did you appreciate the Timex’s support?’, and was prompted to click through to their website for a 25% discount.

Timex Ironman Ad

This is such a great way to engage with a dedicated audience who are aligned in their values, so I’m surprised that more brands are not all over this.  There are so many ways that advertisers could enhance the experience even further, such as offering messages of inspiration along the way, giving bonus donations for reaching set goals, and further targeting based on location and demographic profiling.  At a 90 cent donation for my 35-minute run, this must be an extremely cost-effective placement.