Play Off Student Loan Debt with Givling App
If you’re a college graduate staggering under a heavy pile of student loan debt, you may have dreamed about winning the lottery and paying off your student loan free and clear.
Of course, the odds of being a lottery winner are about 175 million to one, but what if you could play an online trivia game that gave you better odds of winning enough to pay off your loan – along with a built-in community and student loan counseling?
That’s the premise of Givling, a startup dedicated to stamping out student loan debt one student at a time. The roughly 200,000 people registered to play trivia on Givling's free online game app are eligible to win daily cash prizes and up to $50,000 to pay off their student loans. Through its partners, Givling also offers loan counseling and access to low-cost insurance.
Givling isn’t designed to solve the student loan crisis – even with its loan payoffs, daily cash awards and other benefits, the startup can only chip away at the surface of the $1.45 trillion dollars of student loan debt that weighs down an estimated 44 million Americans. But for many participants, Givling-sponsored counseling and tools offer new hope -- and the awards can be life-changing.
August 2017: Jordan Shelton receiving his loan payoff from Giving
“It was such an awesome, surreal moment,” says Jordan Shelton, 26, of Manhattan, Kansas, about finding he had won an award to wipe out his student loan debt. His $33,000 worth of student loan debt had barely budged, he noted, even after nearly four years of payment on an income-based plan. “I felt like I would be paying off this loan the rest of my life on that plan,” said Shelton, whose degree focused on intercultural studies, “but this freed me and my wife to do what we’re most passionate about.” (An Indianapolis TV station covered Shelton receiving the surprise award).
So far, the fast-growing startup has given away more than $606,000 and paid off student loans for nine Americans. Givling executives are quick to acknowledge the program’s limitations, but they’re gratified to be able to throw a lifeline to even a small group of Americans drowning in student loan debt.
“We know we’re not the answer to the student loan crisis,” says Seth Beard, MBA, Givling’s chief marketing officer. “But to be able to wipe out student loan debt for even a small number of people – there’s no better feeling. It’s so empowering; it’s wonderful. Every morning, I can hardly wait to get up and go to work. And that’s something I never fully experienced before. It’s more than a job; it’s a mission.”
Launched in December 2016 after its beta phase, Givling brings in money through partnerships, contributions and games. In the latter, the startup pulls in money whenever its trivia game players interact with ads and video commercials, which also gives the players more points and raises their chance of winning.
After using an invite code -- SB163487 -- to sign up for Givling, you join a randomly chosen three-person team. You and your team members then answer true or false questions until you strike out (the more correct answers, the more points you win and the more likely you are to be chosen for an award). You can earn points by playing two games free a day and earn still more points by paying for Givling coins to keep playing. Even if you don't win, you're helping pay off other student loans: The daily crowdfunding -- along with partners and clicks on ads -- funds the next $50,000 prize as well as daily cash prizes. (For those who need help with the Givling app, the site also offers a video tutorial.)
In addition, Givling’s partner Circle decided to fund monthly $1,000 prizes through November for participants who use the Circle app. “That added more excitement to the game,” says the 32-year-old Beard, himself a recent college graduate who is paying down debt he accrued for his MBA. (“The only hard part of working here is being ineligible to win anything,” he jokes.) Players can also give or sell their place in the Live Funding Queue to someone else. After factoring in charges from Braintree and Paypal, 75% of the earnings go to pay off the winner at the top of the queue, 15% to daily cash prizes and 10% to Givling.
Krissey Taplin of Maine, a sign language interpreter and teacher at Bonny Eagle Middle School,
had her student loans paid off by Givling on June 12, 2017.
The startup is the brainchild of Maine resident Libby Pratt, who early in her business career was forced to declare bankruptcy – a painful decision, but one that allowed her to start fresh. After becoming an successful stockbroker, she earned enough to retire in her 40s. Years later, she learned about the student debt crisis and was shocked to learn even a bankruptcy can’t erase student loans.
“’That’s outrageous!’” Beard recalls her saying. Pratt reasoned that since she was able to turn her life around after her early mistake, debt-ridden college graduates should have the same chance “instead of being stuck in a dark tunnel with no hope of escape,” Beard says. Because crowdfunding sites were already overrun with people crushed by medical debt and emergencies, that didn’t seem like a good solution. “But the thinking was, if we’re able to gamify this, we’ll be able to make a difference.”
Wins and losses
Givling has had its bumps along the way: Its followers were so zealous in playing the games and interacting with ads that the startup hit an unexpected roadblock. “Major ad providers were absolutely convinced that we had bots that were automatically clicking on ads,” said Beard, laughing. One browser dinged the company for its unusually high click-through rate, but it’s now reconsidering its decision.
However, the company persevered, creating an invite code, finding new platforms and publicizing its program through events such as a college relay race to drive one of its $50,000 checks to the next winner.
Givling has also picked up speed by partnering with other organizations, such as Circle, a startup that lets you send money anywhere in the world through a tool similar to text messaging apps. Circle offered four $1,000 giveaways to Givling players. which proved highly popular. As a recent Circle award winner wrote on Givling, “Winning the prize money was a huge relief. I’ve been struggling since my loans came due to pay the payments and still have money left over to save for the future. I was behind, discouraged, and down on myself…[This] put me back on track. It is a precious gift not to have to worry so much about money every day.”
Meanwhile, Champion Empowerment Institute – a Givling partner –offers a low-cost subscription for online courses, financial literacy training, a grants and scholarship search engine and free loan counseling to students in danger of delinquency and defaults.
Givling has also partnered with Lemonade Inc., a peer-to-peer insurance startup whose mission is “transforming insurance from a necessary evil into a social good.” Lemonade offers renters insurance for as low as $5 a month and homeowners insurance for as low as $25 monthly, and Givling participants who buy it receive points in the Givling app.
“Both of our companies have social good baked into our business model; it isn’t marketing fluff or an afterthought,” says Yael Wissner-Levy, strategic communications director of Lemonade. “Givling’s mission is also values-based. And as a certified B-corporation, we naturally partner with like-minded organizations.”
With the help of Circle, Lemonade and Champion Empowerment Institute, Givling hopes to give Americans struggling with debt some tools to help lower their costs. It is also hoping to raise enough money to eventually pay off multiple student loans each day, whether people went to a brick and mortar school or an online college. “If the 200,000 registered users spent even a dollar on the site on a given day, we could pay off two $50,000 loans immediately,” says Beard.
“We paid off a student loan recently for someone in Los Angeles who went to school late in life and found herself paying $600 a month just for the student loan interest,” adds Beard. “This debt was completely taking over her life….Now she’s free to move forward.”
Original article: www.forbes.com
Written by: Diana Hembree