Sunday is my grocery fetch day. I wake up early, hop into my car and drive down to the nearest store. My list of groceries are carefully inputted in Google Keep and I execute shopping like Terminator.
Last Sunday, I finished up my grocery collection and rolled into the nearest checkout line. The cashier bagged my groceries and uttered the phrase that makes any man fumble their response: "Would you like to donate to the hungry families in need?"
I glanced down towards the floor with deep shame and resentment and muttered 'yes'. Unfazed, the cashier rang up the additional dollars to my receipt and handed it to me. I grabbed my grocery cart and pushed out the front door with my head bowed down.
Asking for donations at the end of the checkout line is a constant source of misery for many shoppers – even if it's for a good cause. But that Sunday, it became a source of inspiration for me.
Thoughts about monetizing online purchases began pouring in. I felt that donating at checkout made sense since people were already shelling out for their grocery purchase and a few bucks more would make no difference. Could this replicated online?
What if people could support their favorite projects when making a purchase through Amazon? I already support my favorite charities with AmazonSmile, but many projects are not 501-c registered and have no intention of becoming one.
My gut instinct was to focus on open-source projects. I'm an engineer and all of my applications have some foundations built on open source software. I have a few projects that I donate to, but I'd love a different avenue of supporting them.
Donating right after checkout would reduce friction between the charitable act and purchasing. It makes it easy. But how could I implement this?
My first idea was to inject a Patreon link into the confirmation page. It would be styled and bold to catch the attention of the user.
Idea #1 Breakdown
1. User can donate any amount directly to the project owner.
2. Doesn't interfere with the purchase process.
3. Non-invasive to the user.
1. Possible legal implications with Amazon. I don't know what the rules are around content injection, but is this in a gray area or frowned upon?
2. How likely would people donate? I don't know the answer to this but I assume it wouldn't be often.
Idea #1 was promising and almost ended up being my first MVP, but I decided to sit on the idea for about a day before jumping into any kind of coding. A eureka moment hit me. Is it possible to donate a percentage of proceeds just like AmazonSmile does for non-profits? What if we could use affiliate commissions to donate to projects?
Idea #2 Breakdown
1. Frictionless donation. Immediate money to the OSS owner upon checkout.
2. No cash comes directly from the user.
1. OSS owner has to sign up for an affiliate account
I had this vision in mind to allow people to effortlessly donate to a project when making a purchase. These two implementations would work great but I decided to jump into Idea #2 because it had the least amount of resistance towards the consumer.
A simple chrome extension could execute this idea well with auto URL tagging – every time the user opens an Amazon page the affiliate tag is auto appended. And thus, my first iteration was born!