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Meet GoodWorld, the start-up that wants to make giving to charity as easy as using a hashtag

Founder Dale Pfeifer speaks at the GoodWorld launch party. (Dame Coor)

It’s easier than ever to spend money on a cab or music thanks to services such as Uber and iTunes. But how about giving to charity? The start-up GoodWorld wants to let Facebook and Twitter users make donations to their favorite charities by simply using a hashtag.

If a charity registers with GoodWorld, interested donors can use #donate in a tweet or Facebook post and announce their intent to give money to a favorite cause.

With his or her first donation to a GoodWorld partner, a user has to submit their credit card information to GoodWorld. Once that’s complete, using the #donate hashtag will be enough for the money to be automatically sent to the charity.

“What’s really important with giving is that the head, the heart and the action can happen at one time,” said GoodWorld founder Dale Pfeifer. “With online giving people were seeing things and feeling the emotion but had to take like eight steps to go and do it.”

Any tweet saying something like “I #donate $25 to @BeckysFund” is enough to trigger a donation. On Facebook a user needs to post on the charity’s page for the donation to take effect. GoodWorld demonstrated the technology at its launch party Tuesday night at 1776, the Washington incubator it operates out of.

Bill Thoet, chairman of the ALS Association board, was on hand and shared how the Ice Bucket Challenge could’ve been even more successful.

“Everyone who was challenged by someone probably went through eight steps. We have pretty good donation Web sites, but you have to fill out a lot of information. You have to go through that,” Thoet said. “There were a lot more videos out there than there were donations. And I can’t think that there were a lot of procrastinators out there that meant to do it, that wanted to do it, but didn’t go through those steps.”

GoodWorld hopes the public nature of giving it creates will allow every cause to gain attention, mirroring some of the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge. What if someone who lost a loved one to cancer wrote a moving post on Facebook, and mentioned their donation? If the post accrued likes and ended up atop every friend’s Newsfeed, it might lead to more donations.

“Imagine what [GoodWorld] could be in conjunction with live events and celebrities,” said co-founder Charles McGuire Wien. “Imagine that big celebrity tweeting out to three million, four million five million people a live donation, actually giving.”

If GoodWorld can get the millions of charities worldwide to sign up, this could dramatically change the nature and ease of giving. For now the start-up has launched with seven charities — ALS Association, Women Thrive WorldWide, Becky’s Fund, Global Kids Inc., Alliance for Peacebuilding, Healthy Living Inc. and Lolly’s Locks. They expect to have 30 signed up shortly.

GoodWorld takes a 7 percent cut of donations, the rest goes to the charity.

Two years ago, Pfeifer, a native of New Zealand, started thinking about creating a service that reduced the barriers to giving after seeing a post on social media about a struggling Afghan educator. She wanted to donate, but was struck by what a pain it was to go through the process.

“I think that social media is going to be the future of how philanthropy is done in the future,” Thoet said. “And it’s sort of not going to be the million dollar donor, it’s going to be the million $5 donors that are driving philanthropy.”