Charity. Meet Technology.

Jonny Darling Insight Leave a Comment

I bought the kindle version of “4-hour work week” by Tim Ferris recently and the first thing that struck me was that 10% of author royalties were contributed to DonorsChoose.Org. Until recently, I hadn’t heard of the Donors Choose initiative. It turns out they are a non-profit organisation focused on education in America. They inspire people to peruse the website and decide which school and what educational projects they would like to sponsor. Donors volunteer their funds to specific ventures all over the United States and feel an immediate connection to these formative endeavours.

Kiva is another great example of social entrepreneurship. Like Robin Hood, Kiva takes from the rich and gives to the poor. In this case however the rich volunteer their money! Unlike donations, funders to the Kiva platform expect their money back. The recipients of these micro-loans are vetted by Kiva. They are the charitable version of an online bank! It’s a remarkable mechanism for encouraging local industry and self-sustainability. It’s also profitable for all involved!

A variety of online charity platforms are established here in Ireland and also in the UK. JustGiving.com is the most notable, encouraging people to create a sponsorship page and raise funds for their selected charity. MyCharity.ie facilitates Irish people to engage online with their preferred charity, albeit for their commercial profit!

My interest in goings-on within the charity sector was ignited by a special report last year in The Economist, which ultimately stressed the growing responsibility of charities to be accountable to their donors as well those whom they pledge aid. Yesterday’s news that Anti-AIDS Global Fund Charity is missing €25 serves to highlight issues of negligence or corruption rife within the charity sector. The Internet can stop the rot!

Where once charities fought for brand loyalty and life-time regular donors, online charities recognise that the mind-share is with individual causes and particular projects. They acknowledge that charities succeed by engaging with topical issues. It is the issue, be it humanitarian, social, environmental or health that people align themselves to. There are copious examples of successfully integrated campaigns such as Movember & let’s Face It. Prolific platforms have created a community of socially-conscious people & empowered them to come together for a common good. A charities’ duty is to right disparity, be it hunger, oppression, disease, abuse or neglect, but honesty is a prerequisite to donor adoption. Accountability ensures that only projects worthy of support, get it. The customer is King so to win supporters the charities must give before they can hope to receive! This is especially true now when people are microscopically discerning with their disposable income, a frugality compounded by growing public cynicism towards charity-giving. While specific campaigning improves some discrepancies, regulation is still a major concern as funds pool back and dilute in the broader charity machine. Donors are becoming increasingly and justifiably demanding of their charities. They expect governance. What’s more, they expect an interactive online experience!

MyGoodPoints.Org, an Irish charity start-up, just might be the answer! Their concept is social as it is technical. Applying technology to collaborate with donors, charities, corporates and the needy, their model propagates through the network effects of online communities. They develop a unified public statement for corporates and state-bodies; “Help us to support charities or we, your customers, will go elsewhere”! Through advocacy, MGPs can represent their fan-base and lobby vested interests to convert waste for good.

For example, if even 1/5th of Tesco’s Irish shoppers petition for Tesco to transfer unused club-card points into my-good points, it would be remiss of Tesco not to take heed. Likewise, should Aer Lingus not be willing to convert air-miles into charity tokens on MGPs, wouldn’t flyers reconsider and go with Ryanair if they had agreed to the scheme. It’s peer pressure and it works! It also brings the power back to the people and levels the playing field. Who wouldn’t want a bit more control these days? Imagine a day when a universal charity clubcard exists with thousands of corporate partners across the world such as Starbucks, Google, oneworld® alliance, Tesco or Taxback.com! Simply by going about our everyday lives, we could amass points in our My Good Points wallet and divvy them out to very specific charity work projects on the ground.

On-line, philanthropic communities can pool their resources and allocate them efficiently and effectively. Collaborative technologies are inherently transparent. Web-users expect full traceability in their online transactions and likewise the application of their funds. Donations platforms reach their fund targets because donors see how their piece in the puzzle fits with the picture as a whole. They also thrive in the social environment of the web. As charity projects come on stream, funding platforms allow people to rate and comment on their goals, their feedback and end-results. MGPs has multiple charity partnerships in the pipeline. The best thing you can do is to set-up an account, “like” them on Facebook & make a direct donation to your project of choice.

Ultimately MyGoodPoints.Org believes we should take what is already rightfully ours and use it for the good of others! It’s an ambitious aspiration but that’s why we like it. The philanthropy sector is awash with donations platform. Do-gooders are flooded with requests to part with their hard-earned money. This is a fresh, scalable approach that serves an established, if sometimes abstruse sector with a unique solution (& thereby developing a niche market) for the fund drought! If their concept can gain ground and reach that evangelical mass, this could be a game changer in global fund-raising, empowering donors, governing charities and pressuring corporate social responsibility to new heights. The world could be a better place, and technology could enable “people power for good” – Watch this space…

As part of Surf Merchant Digital’s philanthropy alliance, Jonny is offering his services pro bono to MyGoodPoints.Org. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and have not been endorsed or sponsored by 3rd parties.