A Russian supermodel has teamed up with a former Google employee to develop a philanthropy app that’s been backed by a UK government minister and the cofounder of social networking site Bebo.
Natalia Vodianova, nicknamed Supernova, has caught the eye of internet safety and security minister Joanna Shields and Bebo cofounder Michael Birch because of her mobile app that aims to make it easier and more fun for people to engage with charities.
The Elbi app, launched on the App Store last Tuesday, allows people to donate £1 with a “Love Button,” create content, send messages, and vote.
The app is supported by a star-studded advisory board that includes notable leaders in technology and philanthropy.
In addition to Shields and Birch, the startup is backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Huffington Post cofounder Arianna Huffington, Mind Candy founder Michael Acton Smith, as well as the founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, Chris Meledandri.
Vodianova said: “Elbi is a platform that brings the power of social and digital worlds to charities and connects them with people around the world. With Elbi you can do small actions that make a big difference. That is what Elbi stands for — little actions that can make a big difference.
“Little actions can make a big difference. So often these stories are lost. Now all of us can take action straight from our phones and make a difference all over the world.”
The app currently allows users to donate to a number of UK-registered charities including Save the Children International, Walkabout Foundation, Blue Skye Thinking, and several others.
Charities can create campaigns on Elbi and engage with their supporters by posting live updates directly to people’s phones. Charities can also choose and promote their favourite pieces of user-generated content in the Elbi app.
“Elbi is pioneering a new model of micro-philanthropy where little digital actions that make someone’s day can be just as valuable and rewarding as sending money,” said Elbi CEO and cofounder Eugenia Makhlin, who has previously worked for Google and Facebook. “This is great news for the love rich, time poor. Contributing on Elbi takes seconds but makes an instant and positive difference to recipients.”
Elbi claims its platform is perfect for cheering up a sick child in hospital or creating content for classrooms in small, remote villages.
Commenting on the app, Arianna Huffington said: “Elbi provides an innovative, empowering mobile platform to help others. The Millennial generation is so eager to make a difference; and Elbi fits perfectly into their busy digital lives, giving them small but impactful ways to help others around the world.”
Baroness Joanna Shields added that Elbi is a “wonderful journey of self-discovery.” The internet minister, who wants to ensure children’s safety online, said the app will enable young people to explore the power of doing good directly from their phones. However, giving children the ability to spend money through a mobile app (albeit to worthy causes) could ring alarm bells with parents.
Business Insider downloaded Elbi to see how it works.
The app opens and starts by explaining that it will take less than three minutes to “do social good.” It tells users to “Discover 3 little deeds each day,” “Support real people and hear back,” and “Feel good when others feel it too.”
The three deeds featured at the time of writing include: “Games at Breakfast,” “Water for Schools,” and “Cartoon Time.”
I decided to click the “Water for Schools” deed, which is being run by a charity named ASAP. The app then took me to a page with a picture of a young Tanzanian girl called Dotto carrying a container of water in her school uniform and a headline that reads “Promise Dotto you’ll save water”.
Beneath the headline, I was informed that a girl named Dotto has to carry water 6km to and from school every day. I was also encouraged to say how I’ll waste less water today and given the option to donate by tapping the Love Button.
One of the eight messages left so far reads: “Dotto you are amazing! I promise to save water today by turning the tap off whilst I clean my teeth.” Another reads: “Hey Dotto, I always try to take shower no longer than 3 minutes.”
I decided to make a donation. The relatively simple process involved tapping a plus symbol and then the so-called Love Button. I was then taken to a page in Safari where I used the camera on my smartphone to scan my debit card and make a donation.
Some of the other campaigns get users to engage through drawing cartoons and playing games.