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Hands on: Google’s ‘One Today’ app hopes to change the world $1 at a time


When we think of generous people, we usually think of those with lots to give; A multibillionaire like Bill Gates or Richard Branson who has more money than they know what to do with and have no problem parting with some of it because there are really only so many things you can buy for yourself anyway. But being generous doesn’t require having tons of wealth to part with. The concept of Google’s One Today app is to prove that people can make a big impact by doing just a little.

OneToday2Think of One Today as a sort of Kickstarter for charities and non-profits. It aims to link up prospective armchair philanthropists with causes that are interesting to them and encourage donations as small as just $1. A different project will be brought to focus every day, and the app informs you about the project itself and the organization that is behind it. Additional information is provided, including details about where your money will go, what it will help do, a blurb about the organization, and a website you can visit to learn more about its services. These daily projects give you some insight on projects you may miss otherwise, giving you a chance to spread around your generosity and support a wide variety of non-profits with worthwhile causes.

Aside from the daily features, there are plenty of other charitable projects worth checking out on the One Today platform. There are categorical labels on the project pages, which we hope eventually turn in to a way to sort through different projects and help show the types of projects you’ve given to previously. There is an emphasis on keeping track of your giving history with the impact tracker. This shows how much you’ve given and what you’ve helped to accomplish. The app does a good job places emphasis on how much good just a little bit can do, explaining what a small donation will help purchase.

While the basic donation for One Today is $1, you can increase your impact in a couple different ways. The easiest is by giving more than the minimum. This allows you to throw a little bit extra behind causes you strongly believe in or feel deserve it. The second way you can give more is more vague as to what your final impact will be. You can offer to match donations, meaning if another person decides to donate, you will give the same amount as them. It’s not only a great way to give yourself, but it’s also a nice way to encourage someone else to give, as they will see that you’ve offered to match.

Really, that’s the strongest tool that One Today has: It’s very good at creating guilt. You feel bad and you want to give. From the previously mentioned “donation matching” feature that will give you a name of the person that will match you and make you feel obligated to give to the information that shows you how much a small donation can do, to project names that are clearly intended to provoke a little extra generosity. (Think: The Orphan Kitten Project.) It’s not exactly like walking past people with bells singing carols, but it’s still effective.

With One Today still in beta, it’s hard to know just how big of an impact it could have if it had widespread installation base. As it stands, though, the people who are using it appear to be very engaged. Many have given a nice amount of money to plenty of charitable causes. Even if One Today doesn’t seem like it has a huge impact, it’s still bringing thousands of dollars to worthwhile organizations, and you never know what the people who benefit from those donations might end up doing with their lives. Maybe One Today can change the world after all.

You can sign up for an invite to One Today beta or get updates about the app to learn when it goes live here.