Trensy Uses Competition to Drive Volunteerism

December 26, 2012

9:00 am

Last year, around 64.3 million people volunteered in the U.S.  But with massive social, environmental, and economic problems facing our country, these millions of hours only make a dent in creating the change needed to improve our society.

So,Trensy cofounder Bryan Naas decided to challenge people to give even more of their time, with a new app that gamifies the act of giving. With Bloomington-based Trensy, volunteers can earn points by working at food banks, animal shelters, or other nonprofits. These points can be redeemed for discounts or freebies at local small businesses, who get to participate in Trensy’s cause marketing partnership program.

Below, Naas shares how he is combining his dual roles as do-gooder and entrepreneur.

Tech Cocktail:  Who are you trying to reach, through Trensy?

Naas:  Trensy targets groups, such as schools, charities, and sports teams, that are looking to get their supporters more involved in their community missions, and rewards them for that commitment. From tracking service hours, to engaging fans in a new way, to increasing participation in events, Trensy’s competition platform gives groups the tools they need to capitalize on their community mission.

Tech Cocktail:  Cause marketing is certainly not a novel idea. In a crowded space, how do you make Trensy stand out from its competitors?

Naas::  Our biggest competition is right here in our backyard with, and our differentiation is all about the competition. Sure, I love getting coupons for coffee, but we’re looking to change real behaviors. When that coupon isn’t there anymore, we want to ensure that those behaviors stick around. We believe in the real motivation that competition and gamification bring to the change in behaviors we see everyday.

Tech Cocktail:  Since good deeds can happen anywhere, what makes Bloomington the ideal place to grow Trensy?

Naas::  Central Indiana is great because it is such an open community. There are countless opportunities to talk with some of the most successful people in our industry. On the downside – and I’ve heard this before – sometimes people are just too nice. When I’m looking for feedback on our product, I need people to tell me what sucks about it so we can make it better.

Tech Cocktail:  Even with the best intentions, launching a startup is hard. What challenges have you faced, as you’ve worked to bring Trensy to fruition?

Naas:  When we first launched, we were focused on being a direct-to-consumer product – marketing to individuals and trying to get them into using the app. Frankly, we fell flat on our face. We soon realized that the best way to those individuals was to leverage the relationships they already had. So we pivoted, made some changes to the product, and moved forward talking with groups. By targeting groups, we give our end users a compelling reason to get started and can leverage our sticky features to grow their use.

Tech Cocktail:  What made you decide to start a community-focused company?

Naas:   We wanted to find a way to make a difference in our community, so we leveraged our software expertise to build a fun way to get people more involved. As avid sports fans, the competition aspect seemed so simple as a way to really get people invested in making a difference. It may seem shallow, but I love knowing I’m kicking my friend’s ass at recycling or volunteer hours. The competition inspires me to get out and do more, and I hope we can spread that inspiration!

Trensy was a featured startup at our Tech Cocktail Bloomington Mixer & Startup Showcase.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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