Today San Francisco-based Shoparoo, a company that helps people raise money for schools by taking photos of grocery receipts, announced that it has partnered with Unilever to increase the donation value to schools based on brand purchases. The partnership means that when shoppers buy products from one of Unilever’s brands, which include Dove, Vaseline, and Ragu, from Walmart, Unilever will double the donation value. More than 500 schools in 43 U.S. states have signed up for Shoparoo’s platform since it launched in August 2012.
Shoparoo is trying to take grocery product collection programs, like General Mills’ Box Tops for Education, into the smartphone age. “Our primary business is market research, specifically collecting item-level purchase data from households,” said CEO Jared Schrieber in an interview. “We developed an amazing technology that allows this data to be captured in just seconds via people simply snapping pictures of their receipts with their smartphones. However, this begged the question, ‘how could we encourage a large number of people to spend a few seconds after each shopping trip taking pictures of their receipts?’ Our answer, Shoparoo, was inspired by the Box Tops for Education school fundraising program where parents spend a few moments of their time cutting out product labels from grocery products.”
The company’s Android and iPhone applications let shoppers take a photo of their receipt after buying eligible items, which helps them build up “Roo Points.” Those points are converted into money, which users can then donate to any of the 500 participating schools on the platform. Shoparoo users also get access to coupons and deals from brand partners. Though the Unilever partnership only doubles donations for items purchased at Walmart, once the company adds more brand and retail partners shoppers will be able to earn money from purchases at other stores.
Schrieber, a former teacher and coach, said Shoparoo doesn’t require shoppers, parents or other supporters to change their buying habits, rather they earn money by purchasing the items they would usually buy. In terms of how much schools get from each purchase, any receipt under $10 equals a $0.01 donation, purchases between $10 and $49 nets $0.02, purchases of $50 to $99 equal $0.04, and purchases over $100 get schools $0.06.
Any K-12 school, college or university in the U.S. is eligible to sign up for the platform, and Schrieber said the amount schools can raise is similar to the amount they would raise with existing grocery label collection programs, approximately $1,000 a year for a school with 50 active supporters. Users set their school or cause of choice when they sign up for the app, and Shoparoo will mail a check to each school’s principal in August 2013 with the total raised during the 2012-2013 school year. The platform also supports several charities including the American Red Cross.
The company makes money by selling anonymous receipt data to consumer goods companies, who use the data for market research, and companies also pay for the marketing rights to sponsor additional donations. Brands can also offer sponsored donation promotions, for example doubling donations in a given month. In terms of privacy, Schrieber said companies can’t obtain a consumer’s payment information from receipts, and users can choose to exclude any items on their receipts from being submitted. “We encourage Shoparoo participants to cross off any items from their receipts that they don’t wish to share with us before they snap a picture of their receipt,” Schrieber said. “Privacy is always 100 percent in the participant’s control.”
Founded as part of Schrieber’s retail market research company InfoScout in 2011, Shoparoo has raised $400,000 in seed funding from angel investors Len Lodish, an investor in Quidsi and Milo, and Frank Bishop, the former chief executive at Invesco. The company is currently only available for schools and supporters in the U.S., but they’re running a pilot program in Canada, and will be launching internationally after that.
With platforms like Rally trying to leverage online fundraising, and existing offline fundraising initiatives not likely to be phased out anytime soon, there are several ways for people to raise money for schools and causes. Unlike existing school fundraising platforms like Box Tops for Education, Shoparoo doesn’t require parents or supporters to mail in product proof of purchase, so since they’re asking people to turn their existing behavior into a donation, they could be better-positioned to get mass adoption among schools who receive a check in 2013, and parents who want to help supplement school budgets. Right now the company is offering a $1 donation to every parent that downloads the app, and it’s helping schools promote Shoparoo within its social networks, newsletters, and parent networks. Its success will hinge on actually being able to deliver funding to schools, and that in turn will depend on getting more partners like Unilever on board throughout the school year.