We launched Tab for a Cause in 2011 as a way to turn everyday Internet browsing into a charitable act through online ads. As word spread about how easy and enjoyable it is to be a Tabber, we have consistently grown both our number of supporters and the amount of money we can donate to our amazing partner charities (we are only weeks away from surpassing $250K!). In recent years, that growth has meant we could support larger scale and unique projects such as building a library in Vietnam.
When we began, we were two students who worked on Tab for a Cause on Saturday afternoons. We gave 100% of revenue to charity, because we were personally able to cover the staggering $8/month in server costs As the number of Tabbers grew, a few things changed: our server costs rose beyond what we could personally contribute, Tabbers began asking for more features and bug fixes than we could get done in our spare time, and we realized Tab for a Cause could be even more impactful than we had imagined.
In Q4 2012, we began reinvesting 50% of our revenue into growing Tab for a Cause. We used this money to cover server costs, pay for design help, and eventually to pay for Kevin and me to work full time on the project. It was a difficult decision, because we were afraid of “wasting” money that could go to charity, and we were proud that Tab for a Cause had given every dollar to charity when it first launched. However, in order to make Tab for a Cause impactful, we knew we needed a product, team, and infrastructure that was good enough to appeal to a large audience.
Looking back, we know we made the right decision. We’ve grown the money we give to charity by over 20x since 2012, built strong partnerships with the charities we support, and recruited over 50,000 Tabbers.
To continue to have a meaningful positive impact, we must continue to invest in innovation and growth.
Tab for a Cause is fighting against considerable outside forces
In a wonderful world, Tab for a Cause would simply continue to effortlessly grow, and in a few years, we would be raising millions for charity each quarter. Sadly, it doesn’t exist in a bubble and must stay relevant in a rapidly changing online ecosystem. For our mission, the biggest challenging trends are the slow degradation of online advertising coupled with an astounding increase in the amount of time we all spend staring at our mobile phones.
As a result of those two forces, a very rare thing caught our attention: Tab for a Cause raised less money for charity in one quarter versus the previous quarter (Q1 2016 vs Q4 2015). Even though the total number of Tabbers has continued to grow, the revenue from our banner ads have been consistently falling, each user on average is opening slightly fewer tabs per day, and our growth has slowed as mobile phones have begun to take over our Internet browsing time.
What we are doing to adapt to these forces
- Increase in the use of mobile phones instead of laptops for internet browsing
- We are building a mobile app! Soon you will be able to raise money for charity as easily on your phone as you do on your laptop. We recently did a survey that showed over 80% of our Tabbers are interested in using a mobile app that allows you to view ads to raise money for charity. (As I write this, I am listening to Raul and Kevin code our first Gladly mobile app, so it should be available soon!)
- The degradation of online advertising
- In November, we launched the Goodblock ad blocker, which is an ad blocker that let’s you opt in to beautiful ads that raise money for charity. For us, Goodblock is much more than an ad blocker; it is our vision for the future of online advertising as a whole. We have seen firsthand the proliferation of banner ads, followed quickly by their inability to provide value to users or advertisers. We believe online advertising will only work when users are in control, which is what Goodblock accomplishes: choose when you see ads, what those ads are about, and where the ad revenue goes (hint, a portion of every ad should go to charity!)
What does this all mean?
To date, growing Tab for a Cause has been very economical, so we’ve been able to maintain a 50/50 split of ad revenue between charitable donations and operating costs (servers, salaries, office rent, fun competitions). However, the online world is changing quickly, and we need to invest in innovation—as we did back in 2012—if we want to have a long-term positive impact.
To support innovation and growth, we have decided to move to giving 30% of Tab for a Cause ad revenue to charity (down from 50%). The additional money will support our upcoming mobile app and growth of Goodblock. Ultimately, we believe this investment will result in a much greater charitable impact for each of us and for our community as a whole . It is not a decision we take lightly, but we are confident that it is correct as we look toward the future.
There are a lot of exciting new things coming, and we will work hard to ensure that these efforts result in Gladly growing our impact by another 20x in the next 3 years. For Gladly to continue to be a force for good in this world, we rely on feedback, support, and enthusiasm from our community; so leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!