Social philanthropy


By Elizabeth Rudd

Charitable giving or philanthropy is essential for the funding of many global charities. In recent years fund raising and gift giving have begun to use the internet in innovative ways to raise money including the ability to collaborate to raise funds, communicate with other donors with similar interests and to visualise the impact your contribution makes.

What is changing?

The charitable sector operates alongside government and private industry to provide essential services. The World Giving Index measures charitable donations in over 150 countries, the 2012 Index (the most recent year) reveals a trend of declining donations, less engagement around giving behaviours and less involvement from youth in giving. Many of those countries ranking highly in the index are advanced countries with good access to the internet; Australia, Canada, Iceland, UK, USA, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

In order to reverse these declining trends in giving or charitable behaviour many charities are turning to the internet which offers the opportunity for greater learning and engagement. (Using online gaming to educate and increase engagement was covered in a previous trend alert: Can Video Games Change the World?) Charities have begun using the internet to increase engagement and provide transparency around donating money.

With organisations like Charity Watch, and the online Charity Navigator, working to provide greater transparency and accountability around donations, it would seem the internet may provide a solution. Charity Watch ranks the worst charities each year and the lowest performers spend less than 5% of funds donated to provide the services to recipients.

Charity: water is an organisation receiving positive press for its efforts to improve transparency around where your donations are going and make fundraising a social activity. Fundraising options involve micro-donors as well as wealthy entrepreneurs which engage in visiting local projects or donating to specific projects. Transparency is created by “mapping” the location of water projects on Google Maps so donors can monitor progress. Charity:water enables donors to create their own page setting their own fund raising goal. Most will use social media to fundraise. Many high-profile media celebrities have run successful fund raising campaigns for the charity. was an early interactive charity allowing donors to “build” an orphanage in Haiti. Individual donations are made for specific items from baby cribs and bags of concrete to a square foot of land or a construction worker’s daily salary. Online users “watched” the orphanage being “built” as more donations were received. lets supporters of a charity connect with other supporters of the same charity via an online forum through the use of a “code” entered when you purchase a t-shirt supporting a particular charity. Supporters have access to contests, stories, and videos.

Why is this important?

Charitable organisation play an important part in modern society, and fund raising and volunteering are essential to their success. The internet provides the opportunity to create greater transparency of funds while engaging people in both raising donations and in seeing the outcomes of their projects.

If the sector can improve accountability, engage a new generation of donors, and reverse recent declines in giving behaviours through using the internet it will create opportunities. These include opportunities for entrepreneurs to become involved in the sector and opportunities for greater involvement from donors which in the long term may lead to better outcomes for the recipients of the charity. It may also provide the opportunity to have a better view of the impact charities make globally.

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