Need a little extra push to roll out of bed in the morning? Would ponying up a 25-cent penalty for oversleeping do the trick? The small change could add up.
That's the idea behind a clever new alarm clock app for the iPhone and other iDevices. Snooze "charges" you a quarter each time you hit the digital snooze button. At the end of the month, the app tells you how much you've pledged and makes it easy to donate the pledge to your selected charity.
Anything that makes it easier to give to charity—and make it a habit—is a good idea. This app isn't likely to net millions for the participating nonprofits, but as they say, every penny helps. It's more interesting, though, to view Snooze as an example of what's to come in the world of fundraising apps. New technologies and mobile platforms now offer nearly seamless donation options. As the barriers to giving drop, creative techies are starting to play with easy, habit-forming ways to donate while doing other things. Will integrating micropayments into everyday life increase total charitable donations, or displace other giving? Time will tell.
The possibilities are wide open. There are all kinds of self-help applications that could "charge" donations instead of a true penalty for breaking a promise to yourself. Imagine a more noble version of the gym that charges you for not exercising. The Snooze app was developed by LetGive, a company testing out all kinds of innovative ways to expand micro-actions to charity through mobile devices.
Some economists worry Snooze could backfire, because the app's goals are contradictory. We want to encourage both sides of the equation: giving to charity and sidelining the snooze button, yet the app pits the two habits against each other. Giving to charity shouldn't be considered a punishment, as, presumably, users want to give. Likewise, if do you want to give to charity, it's not much incentive to get you out of bed to toss a quarter at a cause you support. In fact, it might give you moral cover to your sleep-fogged brain to stay in bed longer.
That concept motived the snarky folks at ThinkGeek to dream up a concept for the SnūzNLūz alarm clock, which flips the incentives. You pay to causes that you hate with each snooze use. "Are you a butcher? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to PETA! Are you a Republican? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the ACLU!" they write.
Clever satire, but there are many other potential uses for LetGive's concept of integrating donations within daily usage apps. We're eager to see what they come up with next.