Google One Today: An app that changes the world, one dollar at a time

Google One Today: An app that changes the world, one dollar at a time

April 25, 2013  |  Articles, Featured

Google has a famously simple slogan: “Don’t be evil.” With its One Today app, Google has ventured into “doing good” territory. Google’s One Today app is also simple — donate one dollar a day to a featured cause, get friends involved, and see exactly how much impact you’ve created.

The more times you donate, the better the app gets at featuring non-profits and causes that matter to you. You can also match donations from others, up to a preset total. And the app presents huge improvements in personal impact tracking as it places impact measurement and tracking front and center. We had a chance to try out the app in its Android pilot and are incredibly excited at just how catalytic One Today could turn out to be.


Micro-donations are great for two very important reasons. One, they offer a very low entry-fee to donation, and two, they allow someone to spread out their charitable funds among a variety of causes. The challenge with micro-donations, and the make-or-break aspect of the idea, has always been the ability to find a large enough donor-base to justify the small amounts. Google has just that kind of user base.

One Today asks for one dollar a day. In fact, a user can only directly donate one dollar per day; if you try to donate more, you’re greeted with a message saying “You’ve given your One Today. We’ll see you tomorrow.” Although some would say that limiting the donation amount is self-defeating, we would argue that this hard limit broadens the donor base.

There are people out there who want to do good, but for one reason or another, they cannot follow through. Whether the barriers be mental or economic, a $1 hard cap on donations absolves all excuses from donating, as well as all guilt from not donating enough. That second part is vitally important. The limit offers users an excuse to donate just $1. No one can question your frugality — which might be just the push many people need in order to start engaging in charity.


While you are limited to a $1 direct donation a day, you can do more by matching other donations. Before you even donate to a cause, One Today shows you who has pledged to match your donation. It’s an incredibly powerful motivator to see your donation double, or even triple, because of the combined generosity of the community.

To start matching donations yourself, all you have to do is specify the total amount you’d like to offer, up to a set limit, to be used to match others’ donations. Google starts by matching any donations from your friends and then moves on to donations from other app users. It can be a bit perplexing, however: even if your matching funds are not used up in the end, the non-profit will still receive the funds.1 Although matching seems to be mostly a cosmetic mechanism, the social element is sure to help spur donations and create a strong community of those who share a similar passion for individual causes.


We’re impact metric aficionados at CraveGood. The first thing we looked at with this app is how it presents impact measurements. Google has really emphasizes impact measurements here. Every project has a “How your $1 helps” section that highlights where the money is going. Certain things may cost more than $1, but users always know how their dollars are being used, which is very important.

One Today also has a personal Impact Tracker that records a running list of your charitable acts. It’s always nice to be reminded of what a saint you are, and it is this self-serving side of philanthropy is one that needs to be explored further. We feel good when we donate and that’s one of the main reasons we do donate at all. Selfishness in our selflessness is a good thing and Google seems to agree.

There is a low processing fee of 1.9% that is deducted from the donation amount. Interestingly, donations “accrue” in a user’s account until paid off through a Google Wallet account.2


This is a powerful step forward for micro-transactions and mobile donations. Even so, we see several areas that could be improved. First, while the Impact Tracker shows your previous donations, it does not show the impact in material terms. An impact record that actually tracked literal goods (gallons of water, trees planted, books donated, etc.) would be incredibly powerful and help the user connect even more deeply with the causes.

Second, while you can advertise donation matching within your social networks, the app could do much more in advertising direct donations. Not everyone can match, but everyone who donates can help spread awareness.

Finally, we would love to see Google follow through with impact reports that show the long-term implications of these donations. It is lovely to champion a cause, but to see long-term impact is where donors reap the greatest rewards. When the social media potential of donations is matched with the powerful impact reporting a company like Google is capable of, One Today will truly become an app that can change the world.


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  1. Great idea with instant impact. Organizations like ourselves trying to takle huge issues need all the help they can get. Awesome start.

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