Change the Present! / by Nate Westheimer

Change the PresentFor all the Facebook bashing I do (it's not bashing, really, just solid skepticism ;) you may be surprise to see me tell you about something I'm excited about on the platform.

If you're a Facebook member, go install the Changing the Present app right now!

In the context of its own website, Changing the Present is something I thought would have difficulty finding much traction. However, in the context of Facebook, it exists beautifully, and it's possibly my favorite app to have come out of the platform (my second favorite being the Causes app).

Part of my frustration with Facebook and apps on it (even other "social good" apps) is that nothing tangible happens due to the action you take. However, Changing the Present finally changes that. With their app, you can go micro-gift ($1 a pop) tangible things to your friends.

As an example, my first gift went towards one energy reducing meter for the elderly, and I gave that gift to my friend Evan Bartlett (green energy buff), Dan Fink (green energy buff), and my sister Hannah (who's in the galapagos studying environmental science right now). An green gift for my green friends.

My second gift was to "Create Entrepreneurs," so I sent those gifts to my friends Charlie O'Donnell, Michael Galpert, Tracy Sheridan, and Mike Hudak. Why? Because they are entrepreneurs.

Don't those gifts make sense?

Changing the Present is a micro version of what Donors Choose does for classroom projects, and what Kiva does with micro-financing. The money you give doesn't go to "causes," it goes to tangible things, and that's a sustainable model for "hacking" philanthropy.

Anyway, I'm sorry I'll miss Robert's presentation tonight at the NY Tech Meetup (Dodgeball 2.0 has its second game of the season), but I'm already sold on it.

Quickly, here are a few things I'd do to improve the app:

  • Give us a real micro-payments solution. I shouldn't have to enter my credit card info each time I gift. If you use the AWS payment solution you can let me buy "tokens" and spend them over time.
  • Integrate with the Facebook's birthdays listings. This is the perfect kind of gift to give a Facebook friend.
  • Make browsing gifts easier. Tags help.