By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

A FUNNY thing happened to the World Nomads bottom line when the company started accepting charitable donations through its network of websites – the sales conversion rate increased.

Now World Nomads, a major online travel insurer, is inviting other online businesses to join the not-for-profit organisation it set up to administer the donations – The Footprints Network.

World Nomads CEO Simon Monk, the founder and Executive Director of Footprints, says the organisation has raised more than $500,000 since it was founded in 2005.

“Unlike many other not-for-profit organisations, Footprints takes zero for administration, salaries or any other form of cost so that 100% of every single cent raised goes to the projects for which it has been promised,” he says.

The administration costs are borne by World Nomads – an approach that will continue even as membership increases – as part of the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility.

“We believe that not only is it the right thing to do, but there are also business benefits,” he says.

Monk now wants other companies to join Footprints, which he believes has the potential to raise “tens of millions of dollars”.

Technology is central to the success of Footprints – it makes donating simple and also streamlines the reporting process.

Companies that join Footprints are given its fund-raising Application Programming Interface, which is placed in the transaction pathway, a technical process that would take around four hours.

From that point on all administration is handled by Footprints.

Consumers are invited to donate a couple of dollars, no more, to one of a range of specific projects The Footprints Network has going at any time.

“For example, 2453 donations from people in 27 countries funded 200 operations in Cambodia for the Fred Hollows Foundation,” he says.

A sophisticated data management system enables Footprints to communicate with consumers on the outcome of each donation, fostering loyalty both with the scheme and the company providing the service.

Monk says 91% of World Nomads transactions (it turns over around $30m) now include the donation option, while the sales conversion rates of the sites have actually increased (by more than 1%) since Footprints was introduced.

There are a couple of reasons for the high level of acceptance, believes Monk:

 The donation amount is consequential, just $1 or $2
 The donations are now tied to specific projects

He adds that tying the donations to specific projects – rather than a nominated charity, which was the initial approach – made a significant difference to the level of consumer acceptance.

It’s also been more rewarding for World Nomads staff involved in the administration of Footprints – they get to choose the projects and are able to see them through to completion.

As for the increased sales conversion rate, Monk believes consumers are looking for more than just the lowest price – customers want to deal with a company they believe has its eye on more than just the bottom line.

And therein resides a certain irony.

Further information:

Travel Trends: February 19, 2007

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