Add a "charity tip percentage" to the amount you'll lose if you go off your yellow brick road
This is from the discussion at http://lesswrong.com/lw/7z1/antiakrasiatoollikestickkcomfordatanerds/
Allow people to add a "charity tip percentage" on top of their BeeMinder money. For instance, if I chose 100%, and I was due to pay $5, you'd charge me $10 and give half to charity. That way, you get the same money (except for the extra deterrent of the higher total), and I get to choose what percentage goes to charity. You also get interesting data about how much people value the idea of some of their money going to charity.
You could start with limited options for the charities - a diverse menu of a dozen good charities would have something for anyone.
I suspect I'd set my percentage somewhere in the 100-200% range. That is, of the total, I would want 50-67% to go to charity.
Once you had data on what numbers people tended to choose, you could experiment with defaults.
I suspect that this would really help you grow. You'd really rather be saying "we've helped raise $XXXX for charity" than trying not to talk about it. And since you are in a market where price is not a problem, you can afford to be somewhat generous.
ps. I admit that the idea that I'd be willing to have the money be about 50/50 between you and charity may be strongly subject to anchoring effect. Having now looked at stickk.com, I feel a tendency to want to reduce your share. It is entirely possible that you'd make more money overall with a stickk.com-like model. Above all, you need data, and you can't get data unless you somehow provide options.
Admindreeves (Cofounder, Beeminder) commented
I like kdecker's proposal a lot! We're just barely ramen-profitable right now so we're actually already (vacuously) implementing her proposal! :)
@Chris, a problem I see with your proposal is that there's a lot of value in having the consequences for failure be both harsh and immediate. Otherwise you can get into a "ok, i'll cough it up this month and get back on track next month" kind of trap. Or like "I'm already off track, what's a bit more?"
I like the charity idea, with a percentage going to Beeminder for maintenance and support. Bearing in mind I'm still relatively new to this, IMO what would be brilliant is higher and lower amounts per month - lower amounts donated if the goals are on track, higher amounts are applied proportional to how much the yellow brick road was missed...?
This way charities and Beeminder don't loose out, while people remain motivated to stay on the road.
I get the sentiment but, honestly, I think that my money going to charity would lessen the sting. I get a good feeling when I donate to a worthy cause. Going off the YBR should not be associated with any good feelings, in my opinion.
What I could see Beeminder doing, however, to look a bit less "greedy" (not that I see them that way) is something like this: Determine what they see as a reasonable salary for founders/developers/staff, then promise to donate 50% of all earnings beyond their base salaries. The other 50% would be bonus money distributed among themselves. That way they can make a living, there's no ceiling on their potential earnings, people can see Beeminder as a generous company, and any money I lose to failed contracts is fairly well separated from any good feelings I might have from donating to charity.