»You have to be the change you want to see in the world«

(Mahatma Ghandi)

Till

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I am one of the supporters of betterplace.org. Even though I haven`t tested the technical plattform yet (the beta version is expected by mid June), I am deeply convinced that betterplace.org will be successful. Why? Because the time is right for CSR-projects, betterplace fullfills all web 2.0 requirements and people (=givers) are ready for it! And above all the enthusiasm of Till Behnke (picture above), CEO of betterplace.org, is catching;-)
Read below what he has to say …betterplace.org – what is the idea behind it?We are creating a global internet platform for philanthropy.

The idea is to provide NGO’s and development organizations with a platform on which they can upload their projects, and for users to have the freedom and opportunity to choose, rate and donate to the projects of their choice.

It is all about giving the users the choice. The key word is transparency! And it is free! We are creating a new marketplace, where users will be able to comment, debate and interact with others on the betterplace platform.What are the USPs of betterplace.org? In other words, why betterplace.org and not any other donation platform?This is something new! We are not just creating a technical platform, but also focusing on real content and the opportunity to do good.

betterplace.org combines the best of existing platforms into one. We have a competent team, who have done their research, and are technically up to date with the latest Web2.0 developments.

Through our »academic alliance«, we will gather the “great minds” of development (universities, professors, selected individuals from politics and industry) who will guide and stimulate debate on the site. We have no doubt that this will also attract media to the platform, giving betterplace and the projects global exposure.

And very importantly – 100% of private donations reach their target, and are not lost in betterplace administrative costs. We feel that this is important for our users, who have become all too skeptical of giving to charity projects.What might be the reason for Deutsches Rotes Kreuz to join your platform?We have found that most development organizations and NGO’s do not optimize the power of the internet. This is understandable as many don’t have the capacity and it is not the core competence of their organization.

However, betterplace.org offers real opportunities for NGO’s. We provide a broad new user base, even joint PR opportunities and the technical framework is state-of-the-art.

These are all value added services for Deutsches Rotes Kreuz!

But in the same breath – we also want to make clear that betterplace is a supplement to existing campaign and fundraising efforts, not a substitute. The platform provides access to a different target group of potential donors who do not use the »traditional« charity channels.

It is important to stay in touch with how people use the internet. Users expect all information to be transparent and accessible, and they will not give without receiving information and feedback.What could be the barriers?Many of the large NGO’s and development organizations get »spammed« by people and organizations who promise great marketing exposure in return for using their name to add credibility to their business models.

Our biggest challenge has been to get our foot in the door. Large NGOs are very »cautious« of new ideas and establishing new partnerships.

We therefore don’t send around concept papers anymore, but instead request 30 minutes of their time face to face. We have received great feedback from all those we have met.
What about the potential givers?
People are fascinated by internet enabled global communities – from MySpace to Xing and Facebook. People want to get involved, make positive change and thereby also give more meaning to their own lives.

There are really no barriers for private users on the platform. Information is transparent and the payment processes are secure and accountable.

However, the giving process is unique – each individual plays an active role on the platform. You can choose the project that interests you, rate its significance and take part in the dialogue, knowing that when you click on »Give«, your money is going where you intended it to go.You are also looking for corporate money. CSR – being a very trendy corporate movement – is not really deep-seated in the structure of a company. It is more or less based on the decision of one of the executives. How do you deal with this?CSR is no longer an issue that can be ignored by corporations, and many are increasingly seeking external support and expertise on the topic. What we can offer is a huge network of charitable initiatives and a communication channel for CSR.

Speaking directly to executives is the shortest way to a decision – if you can get the time and attention of those people. There is no point trying to sell a standard product. But if you have a story to tell, an innovative product and a solution to their problems – it is great to present directly to a decision maker.How will the internet platform look like?From 15 June the betterplace.org platform will be live with its “beta phase”, where the platform will be tested for usability, reliability etc.

You can already go onto www.betterplace.org which is an introductory website, where you can leave your details.

You and your readers will then be invited to test the platform, set up your profile and give money if you wish to projects of your choice.What functionalities can participants expect?
The aim is to provide our users with an interesting and innovative experience on the platform. Navigating on the platform will be easy and stimulating.

Users can register their profiles and browse the community for other users. They can find charitable initiatives from big development organisations as well as small and individual charities. Users can give money, donations in kind or their time and skill to very specific and tangible parts of those projects. They can write in their blogs about the pressing questions of their community or development regions and comment on projects and other users’ posts. This service will be completely free for users and we will bring in corporate sponsors to ensure that 100% of private donations reach the target.

Organisations, charities and even users can register projects that are worth supporting and apply for quality approval for their projects. Project managers will be able to write about the development of the project and also upload media to make it very tangible to the users. Registered organisations on the platform can connect their supporters and build a supporters group.

Corporations can register and connect their organisational entities and employees to their group. They can broaden their visibility by sponsoring selected projects and sharing their CSR initiatives with the users.Which of the web 2.0 requirements does it cover?The real idea of web2.0 is usability and user created content. Ease of use, networking and the opportunity to get involved on all ends will make us a real web2.0 application.

Users can connect, volunteer their time and services, start groups for debate or fundraising and even initiate projects that make positive change. However, it is important to remember – we are not only providing a technical solution, we are also investing as much time into creating meaningful partnerships with corporations and development organisations to bring quality content and soul to betterplace.What about safety and anonymity?As you can read in our privacy policy, we take privacy and data security very seriously, especially when it comes to cash flow.

The platform gives people and corporations the opportunity to be seen and heard, and information is freely available. However, we fully respect requests for anonymity and those who wish to support good causes in private.Goals, perspective (short- and midterm)?Our primary goal is to provide a service that will give people the opportunity to do good that will benefit those less fortunate.

We aim to add a new spark to the development sector, and bridge the gap between those who want to give and those in need of receiving. Once this goal has been achieved, we won’t have to worry about marketing campaigns.

We have a global vision. But realize that a global virtual community is only sustainable through local communities. We are therefore seeking partners in all areas, from charitable organizations and networks, to corporations who can help fund the organizational set up of betterplace in new markets.

Mahatma Ghandi couldn’t have said it better: »You have to be the change you want to see in the world«.


About Till Behnke: German, holds a Degree in business economics and IT. He quit his job as a project manager at DaimlerChrysler Financial Services headquarters in Berlin to build up better place.

Previously he contributed to building up Paybox, the first mass capable mobile payment solution, in Europe as a Product and Sales manager. He has traveled and worked extensively in both Europe and North America, and has gained a deeper understanding of these markets through his project work in various fields across the two continents. Till has a good insight and experience into portal technology and internet-enabled market places, since co-founding and building up an IT and software company with Georg Friedrich in Berlin in 2003.

Living in South Africa as a Rugby player has left him with a personal connection to the continent, its opportunities and its need for development.

Till has brought the better place team together from different parts of his life – both professional and private – and has chosen to take the risk to make his better place vision a reality.

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