App to ‘do more good’ relaunches

By Kelly Pedro on Apr 21, 2022 3 min read

Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) has relaunched an app that shows would-be philanthropists how far their dollars could go in the community.

KWCF originally launched the Impact Amplifier app, which Zeitspace helped design and build, in late January 2020. But within a few weeks the world shut down because of the pandemic and KWCF’s focus shifted to responding to the immediate needs in the community. 

“For the better part of two years, it’s been about response and recovery for not for profit organizations in the community,” said Lynne Short, KWCF’s vice president.

But the pandemic also made clear that it’s hard to predict the needs of tomorrow, so KWCF decided to relaunch the Impact Amplifier with long-term sustainability for charities in mind.

KWCF is focused on making  it easier for people in the community to do more good. In 2018, they dropped the minimum amount needed to start an endowment fund, from $25,000 to $5,000.

Endowment funds distribute money forever, whether the person who made the original donation contributes more or not — rather than, say, donations earmarked for a set amount of time. In other words, when you set up an endowment fund your $5,000 donation is never spent. Instead, that donation is invested and about four per cent is granted to charities every year.

That may sound small, but it’s the constant flow of money that makes endowment funds so valuable to charities. It’s money they can count on whether someone contributes regularly or not. 

“It allows an investment today in the issues of tomorrow,” said Short. “And, fundholders have the flexibility of providing ‘flow through’ amounts to charities right away and/or contributing more to their fund. They get to choose the balance of short-term and longer-term support they want to provide.”

In 2021, KWCF granted about $4.7 million to 355 local charities and non-profit organizations.

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To truly show the difference $5,000 could make, KWCF knew it needed a tool. That was obvious after the foundation participated in a product design sprint with Capacity Canada as part of a program to help non-profit organizations use design thinking practices to become more nimble. During research for the design sprint, Short said people often asked KWCF whether there was a tool that they could use to see their impact.

A few key ideas came out of the design sprint, one of which was a prototype for the Impact Amplifier. The app helps those who want to set up an endowment fund see the tangible impact of their donation. Six charitable organizations — The Waterloo Region food bank, Reception House, Strong Start, Wisahkotewinowak, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, and Supportive Housing of Waterloo — provided information about their work and examples of how far donation dollars could go in the community.

Zeitspace built the app for free. Zeitspace does pro bono work with some non-profit organizations as a way of giving back to the community while helping UX designers and software developers at Zeitspace work on their craft between projects.

“I enjoy doing pro bono work. It’s nice to do that community outreach and help someone who needs it,” said Zeitspace software developer Tyler Delaat, who worked on the latest app update. “It’s a worthy cause and they have an interesting model providing fiscal stability for charities.”

Zeitspace did several rounds of usability testing and came back with suggestions on how to make the app accessible and easy to use. 

“It was a true partnership, really,” said Short. 

When KWCF and Zeitspace originally met about the app, KWCF wanted to have 17 charitable options for people to explore, but Zeitspace suggested six so people didn’t get overwhelmed with choice.

“Zeitspace, I would say, appropriately challenged us in order for the tool to hit the goals we established,” said Short. “That, to me, is a real collaboration because it’s not just about saying ‘We’re going to design this.’ It’s in the interest of the bigger goal.”

Kelly Pedro

Written by Kelly Pedro

Kelly Pedro is a journalist at Zeitspace.