With the success of online campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge, there’s no denying the power of social media combined with random acts of kindness. Together they’re great for spreading goodwill, powering a cause, or benefiting charity. Despite their viral capabilities, sharing these good deeds online is largely fragmented, with no way to track a single deed for a cause in one place. Nobly is a new mobile app aimed at bringing it all together by connecting people through good deeds and tracking all the people impacted through its Pay It Forward Network.
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The team behind Nobly developed the app to not only bring together good deeds, but to do so by encouraging people to interact together. “There truly are so many acts of kindness happening around us. Amidst the morose and sensational stories are gestures of goodwill and genuine caring. With Nobly we wanted to create a fun and social means for capturing those acts, and a way to pay them forward,” says lead developer Josh Garwood, who built the app with fellow Charleston-based entrepreneurs Jared Hellman and Jason Benjamin.
The catalyst for the app originated from the team’s own experiences with random acts of kindness. One such instance happened to Garwood on a mission trip to Mexico 15 years ago. “We were building homes in an impoverished area, and a man who made a living off of selling doughnuts simply gave his entire batch to us. An entire day’s worth of wages, just given away,” recalls Garwood. “It just felt so pure and genuine. I took that back with me, and it still resonates today. It was a simple act, not extravagant, and I wanted to create something that inspired others to act in a similar way. We started doing research and found there really wasn’t a social pay-it-forward app in the market.”
The moment of validation for the app came from the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which was a perfect real world case study for Nobly. “We found the entire campaign to be encouraging, as it validated both our concept and idea. There is an opportunity in this space. It’s the ideal use case for a platform like Nobly as it is centered on doing a good deed and tagging friends to pay it forward.”
Garwood also points to an article by LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, called “Random Acts of Kindness? There Should be an App for That.” Essentially, Weiner notes that people are drawn toward doing good for others, but that it isn’t always as simple as paying for the person in line behind you. It would take an app that can coordinate the details of the act of kindness depending on one’s circumstances. It should also make it easy for people to share their kindness and inspire others to do good more often.
Although random acts of kindness are often shared through social networks like Facebook, Nobly is the first app to focus in this sector and designed to document and encourage them. “While Facebook can be a great medium for posting good deeds, not everyone feels comfortable sharing in that space; it’s not a formal venue for that. We hope to make Nobly that venue for posting acts of kindness,” says Garwood. “We’ll also be providing fun stats to show how many deeds were done as the result of your original act; how many times your deed was paid forward, where it’s been geographically, and ultimately how many people were impacted.”
Part of Nobly’s goal is to change the way we approach our day; to think more about what others may be going through, and to actively pursue opportunities to change someone’s day for the better. To facilitate with that, they’ve introduced Nobly Cards that work in tandem with the app. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Do a Good Deed
Start your chain with a single good deed you’ve done for someone or that someone has done for you. It could be buying someone a drink, giving them a ride to the airport, returning a lost dog, or donating food.
Step 2: Post to Nobly
Post the deed into Nobly by scanning the Nobly Card (using a QR code) with your mobile phone.
Step 3: Pay It Forward
Pass the card for the next person to pay it forward. That person can then create another deed and keep the chain going. You can also create a Chain of good deeds under several categories, such as in someone’s memory, honoring a birthday or anniversary, or for a cause such as your favorite charity.
Even if you don’t have a Nobly Card, you can still post your deed, or start a digital chain through the Nobly mobile app, tagging friends to ensure the chain of good deeds goes on.
The Nobly app features a “Deed Feed” to discover and watch new deeds that are popular in its Pay It Forward Network. It has social networking features to add friends, see their deed activity, hashtag linking, and more.
While still in the very early stages, Nobly is gaining traction locally and abroad, generating good deeds that span from rescuing a deer and donating food to MUSC Children’s Hospital, to memorial tributes and partying for a cause.
The Nobly team is currently working on two major features that should expand the ways in which the app can be used: The ability to accept donations as part of a fundraising campaign, and the ability to invite friends via text or email. Garwood says, “It’s been a thrill getting to this point and we’ve been humbled by all of the support here in Charleston. We know we have some improvements to make, but can’t wait to bring them to market and share them with you in the coming months. Please stay tuned.”