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Now How Much Would You Click-to-Donate?

By the Epopt in Culture
Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:15:37 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

A cartoon shows a street corner. On each side of the corner sits a homeless man. The man on the left holds a sign saying Help Me. He has a few loose pennies in his pile, despite the numbers of passers-by. The man on the other side of the corner, though, has a pile of money up to his eyeballs. His sign reads http://www.HelpMe.com.

There are clear trends in charitable giving in America: the desire for more choice, the desire for "hands-on" control, and the desire for secure, efficient online giving. What are the best ways for a philanthropic organization to support those trends and attract contributions?

I'm part of an effort to raise funds in support of Good Cause [tm]. We're trying to make sense out of the online giving environment. Between confusion over state regulations, the immense number of sites trying to break into the sector, a general lack of knowledge about online giving, and a host of other unknown details, it's clear that opportunities are everywhere.

I believe that online fundraising, online philanthropy and online communications will fundamentally change the way non-profits raise money in this country, and eventually the world. What I'm searching for is the most effective way to get people online to help out.

Many charitable portal sites take advantage of corporate affiliate programs. By your connecting through the portal to, say, Amazon.com instead of logging in directly, the portal receives the affiliate bonus and then donates that bonus to the Good Cause [tm]. Since there are already several of these portals, why would people use any given portal instead of another?

Alternatively, as PayPal and similar services develop, small payments become more practical. How well would a targeted naked appeal -- Give! -- work? Do you think people would be willing to go to the web site of the Good Cause [tm] and periodically make a small donation?

Are people willing to look at ads if the advertiser has promised to give a small amount for every "impression" -- every time the ad is seen?

What are the best ways to encourage online giving? Or is the online community the wrong place to look for charity? Should we confine our efforts to meatspace and paper mail?


Voxel dot net
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o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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To get me to give to a charity, you should
o Use corporate affiliate programs 0%
o Just ask straight-out 32%
o Let me sign up for targetted advertising 1%
o Send me snail-mail or ring my doorbell 2%
o Let me volunteer to pay a little more when shopping online 22%
o Let me buy cause-related "trash'n'trinkets" 7%
o Mug me! 23%
o Other (please comment) 9%

Votes: 71
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by the Epopt

Display: Sort:
Now How Much Would You Click-to-Donate? | 24 comments (24 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Ads vs. the direct question. (4.00 / 2) (#1)
by Christopher Thomas on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:25:42 PM EST

I personally doubt that banner ads would bring in very much, unless you have a *truly* *huge* volume of traffic. IMO, they wouldn't be worth the annoyance factor to your guests.

OTOH, if I trusted online transactions, there's a reasonable chance that I'd click on a "give $100" button for a cause that I felt was a good one. It lets me get rid of guilt without having to leave my chair. Even with a very low click rate, this will pull in more money than banner ads that give you pennies per click-through.

To get me to give to a charity, you should (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by rednecktek on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:26:40 PM EST

prove that more than half of the money goes to actually helping the people it's intended for; not to "administrative expenses". So far, I only give presents and clothes to the Salvation Army Christmas drive. I still can't prove that the stuff actually gets where it's supposed to go, but I feel better about giving clothes and toys than money.

Just remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.
accounting snafus (none / 0) (#4)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:38:26 PM EST

I remember working for a charity. I only stayed a week. Basically the charity paid people to go out and ask for money. I don't have a problem with that. I did have a problem with the way that paying people to go out and ask for money ended up on the balance sheet as money that went toward "the program." It seems that if one arms the alms-seekers with promotional propaganda, then their job can be classified as educational in nature and part of "the program."

[ Parent ]

my attitude on charity (4.66 / 6) (#3)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:33:47 PM EST

Giving to an organized charity is a usually a good thing. (Although a good number of so-called charities are simply well organized scams.) My problem is that organized charities only go so far.

I'd rather see 100 people visit the old and elderly folks in their own neighborhoods than see 1000 people give to meals-on-wheels. Charitable giving is all too often used as an excuse to not involve oneself with society. Giving to charity doesn't do diddly squat to a neighborhood where next-door neighbors can live for years without knowing each other's names.

Of course, this isn't a zero-sum game. One can give money to charity and get involved personally. But I'd argue that getting involved on an organic, local level with the people that need help of one sort or the other is far, far more important than donating to the charity du jour.

Comparative advantage (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by meeth on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 10:51:46 AM EST

There's a concept in macroeconomics called (I think) comparative advantage. Basically, given two countries, even if country A is better at producing everything than country B, it is still probably worthwhile for A to trade with B. For example, if A can produce three widgets in the time it takes to produce one sprocket, and B can produce two, A can probably trade widgets for sprockets even if A is better at producing sprockets than B.

What does this have to do with charitable giving? Well, presuming that one is a programmer / other well-paid worker, if one wants to help the world, one's comparative advantage will probably be in earning cash and giving it to charities. Other people with smaller incomes may be better suited to actually going out and volunteering.

Of course, this will only hold true if there are fairly good charitable uses for cash. My guess is that there are. The argument also assumes that the purpose of charitable giving/work is to help the world, but the purpose might be to give a sense of fulfillment, in which case the comparative advantage argument does not hold.

[ Parent ]

FairTunes (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by fluffy grue on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:40:22 PM EST

I like the FairTunes model (which can be used for more than donating to musicians, though that's its primary intent). Basically, for now they only charge whatever fees there are for processing the payment, and they can even use PayPal for getting the donations; their only purpose for existing is being able to track down the people to give the money to, and their "administrative expenses" are currently volunteer-based and will apparently be funded by banner ads when that starts to become necessary.

As it stands, if you already know the email address of someone who you want to donate money to, you can already use PayPal (as the Epopt, whatever an Epopt is, pointed out), so things like FairTunes are obviously not even necessary, except that it's very nice that they handle the trudgery and grudgework of tracking down whoever to send the money to, and I can see how the artists would appreciate getting one big(ger) check on occasion rather than a lot of micropayments which wouldn't be the hassle of dealing with (unless they're setup with PayPal directly).

On that note, my electronic busking hat is still empty... ;)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

The Ad model.... (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by evilquaker on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:41:44 PM EST

can be seen at: The Hunger Site and the related sites linked by the tabs at the top of that page. They claim to receive about 250,000 free donations per weekday, which translates to about 35,000-50,000 pounds of food per day, depending upon the number of sponsors they have for that day.

It's an interesting experiment, and it costs nothing to the donators besides a little time (okay, a lot of time if you're on dialup...). They've been going since June, 1999, though they seemed to have peaked in donation totals around December, 1999. They also sell merchandise with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

"Die, spork user! And burn in fiery torment!" -- Handy, the Handpuppet of Doom

hunger site (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by enterfornone on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 09:24:57 PM EST

I'll usually click when I see a link to it, but I'm not one to type the URL in every day. If there was a link to them on K5 or another site I read regularly then I'd probably go there more often.

Perhaps we should point to them instead of goatse.cx when trolling /.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]

cron job (2.00 / 1) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 01:09:53 AM EST

I've had a cron job running for the last... um... two years now, which does a daily wget on the appropriate URL. Dishonest, yes, but all in a good cause, right?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Chinese joke? (3.00 / 4) (#7)
by Electric Angst on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:52:43 PM EST

If I'm not mistaken, the first time I heard the anecdote that was used to introduce this article, it was being used in China as a joke about how Americans treat dot-com companies- That we'd rather give our money to an obviously failing business enterprise than to a human being who needed it.

Makes you wonder what venture capitalists could have done to our society if they would have given their funding for companies like iBelieve.com, Pets.com, Garden.com, et al. and used it to feed and educate homeless people. Hell, think how many bright kids without the funds could have been sent to college... (More profit could have been generated by giving out college loans with .001% interest than investing in those bombs.)

Ah well, charity should be encouraged, and once the current high-tide of libertarianism has subsided, maybe we can even bring in such radical concepts as a strong social safety net that would make it where these charities are less needed... (Of course, Bush looks like he's going to office, so maybe I'm just dreaming...)
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
Objectivist Smecktivist (3.75 / 4) (#8)
by Sheepdot on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 02:53:31 PM EST

I'm a rationally selfish person. I like myself and what I own. If I ever feel a desire to willingly help someone who is in an unfortunate situation, I would like to know that *I* can help them, not a charity.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. So what'd I'd like to see in a charity would be getting to the minimalist proportions of administration, (IE. you'd most likely lose your job) so that I can be assured that when I do attempt to help, I am actually helping out someone that needs the money.

With technology the way it is, it should be viable to post information (making public) regarding wages of those that work in the charity, if any, and expenses used to cover particular administrative costs. And of course, web fees would need to be included as well, hosting and web site maintainer info among that.

You are right about PayPal and other easy ways to donate. But the problem is that security becomes an even more important factor when dealing with charitable donations. I'm not going to donate to charity online if I currently believe that people can gain access to my credit card information if they really wanted to. The argument here is that when one has been putting off buying that new RAM upgrade for months and finally "just has to get it", they'll hop online and order it, hoping that no hackers are out to get them.

Plus, charities, usually don't have enough money allocated to be spent on security issues. And they shouldn't be using the money there anyway, because it is a waste of money that could otherwise goto help people. Thus there is now a catch-22.

Ultimately I would suggest guessing at the amount of revenue (is that what it is called?) that could be generated and see if it is enough to not only cover the costs of going online, but if it would end up turning a surplus that could be used to help more individuals.

Sorry if I sound like I'm against charities, I've never ran across one that I truly felt was worthy of my money due to: not disclosing their expenses properly, not having a great enough percentage going to actually help people (90% of my contribution I believe should), philosophy behind the charity involves getting the government to act in some particular way.

PayPal, costs and fundraising (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by vastor on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:35:59 PM EST

One of the things about PayPal is its supposed to save you re-entering your credit card details often (just once when you sign up with them I guess, I've not actually done it yet).

Plus by in effect outsourcing the only part that needs the security to somewhere like paypal or kagi.com to take credit cards via their secure services the only costs a charity really needs to worry about is running a fairly good infomational website (naturally paypal etc take their cut, but it is still much cheaper than the costs of a low to mid volume charity having to run a secure server/payment gateway of their own etc).

No reason why a charity couldn't have a volunteer run the website, even if it paid $10/month for a web site account it shouldn't take many donations for it to be a worthwhile venture (the information service aspects should cover the hostings costs alone).

igive.com is another way of raising funds, similar to the portal proposal except they run it for the charity. Distributed.Net has raised a reasonable amount of money that way (a few thousand dollars a year it seems).

[ Parent ]
Three that ARE worthy... (2.66 / 3) (#22)
by SvnLyrBrto on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 01:40:45 PM EST

>Sorry if I sound like I'm against charities, I've never ran across one that I truly felt was >worthy of my money due to: not disclosing their expenses properly, not having a great >enough percentage going to actually help people (90% of my contribution I believe should)

One of the three (and only three) charitys I give to is the US Marine Corps "Toys for Tots" program. And I have little to no doubt that 100% of what's donated actually goes to needy kids.

Now, I'm sure the anti-military types are going to come out of the woodwork with the usual:

"The Marines? They're evil, trained killers, all!"
"They're part of the evil 'military-industrial complex(tm)'"
"Anyone who runs up a beach into enemy fire is stupid"
"Only people too dumb for college go into the military"
"Didn't you watch 'A Few Good Men'?"

But, I was a Navy brat and grew up on many a military base, and actually know a number of Marines personally. And whatever other negative personallity traits a given Marine may have, one thing *every* Marine I've known has in common is that they're honest.... almost to a fault, Jack Nicholson's opinion be damned.

Besides, from a purely practical standpoint, how are you going to skim profits off of donations when they consist solely of toys? What's a crook to do... eBay a donated Furby and keep the cash???

The only other two charitys I consider worthy of *MY* money, are the eff, and dancesafe. This is not because I have any deep insight into their financial books and what precentage of donated money goes where (I don't). But, I agree so totally with the missions of both, and consider both organisations so important and wholly good, that I am willing to take it on faith that they use their resources responsibly. And in the absence of any evidence otherwise, I shall continue to do so, even if they do actually fall below your 90% requirement (I would have said 95% myself).

What really DOES bug the hell out of me, is not so much charitys that fall below the top 90-95%... but "official" company charitys! Especially when employees are "encouraged" to donate, in order to meet a "company goal". (And all too often the company charity is the united way... don't even get me STARTED on those people!) What a bunch of rubbish!!! My last employer had this exact program... where everyone was "encouraged" to give the united way a cut of each paycheck. Bullshit. How MUCH I donate, and WHO I donate to, are *MY* business, not my employers! Fortunately, my present employer pulls no such nonsence.

Note to employers: If you want to be civic minded and charity friendly, do MATCHING CONTRIBUTIONS to charitys of your employees' CHOICE. Don't just pick a NPO from a hat and force it down your people's throats!


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Habitat for Humanity (none / 0) (#24)
by Sheepdot on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 01:13:31 PM EST

Toys for Tots is the only good governmental charity I know. I do agree with you on that one.

Habitat for Humanity is another charity that I've heard good things about. Apparently they help build a house and then sell it, using the money to build another house and such. In the meantime they *never* take money from government programs.

God I love these people, I wish there were more of them out there.

[ Parent ]
MAKE IT EASY (3.50 / 2) (#9)
by DemiGodez on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 03:09:35 PM EST

Arby's has this thing here in MN, where when you check out they ask you if you would like to add 50 cents to your total to go to a foodbank. That's so easy - how could anyone refuse. Plus, it is confrontational so hard to say no.

If everytime I bought something online, they ask if I wanted to donate, I would. It si easier to get money when someone already has their wallet out.

Absolutely. (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by janra on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 03:50:08 PM EST

Most grocery stores where I live have a pad of 'coupons' at the till - tear one off and put it with your groceries and $2 is added to your bill for the local food bank. If online stores had a little checkbox (unchecked by default of course!) that basically said 'add $1 (or $2) to the total for charity x' then I wouldn't have a problem with donating when I bought something.

For the most part, though, I prefer not to give money but things - clothes to big brothers, food to the food bank. I go door to door to collect food for the food bank as part of their christmas drive.

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Exactly (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by ZanThrax on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 12:52:12 AM EST

I give a little money to one collection box (or random person on the street) when I can, and the Ronald McDonald Children's Charity gets the largest part of what I do manage to give, simply due to convenience. I give the cashier a ten or twenty as appropriate at the McDonalds drive through, and whatever coins I get back go into the charity box at the drive-through window. This can be several dollars thanks to the one and two dollar coins we use here. Similarly, I often leave my coin change in whatever plastic charity box is on a store counter, or in the salvation army cauldron thingy at christmas time.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

NPR just had a good story about this. (4.75 / 4) (#10)
by cetan on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 03:19:37 PM EST

Damn it if I can remember what show it was, I think Evening Edition or Weekend Edition.
The discussion centered around a couple of main topics:

1. Limit your exposure to the web because of the money it can cost. A web presence can become a black hole for money if you're not careful

2. Be very very concerned about corporate logos on your site or to which you are affiliated. (i.e. PayPal etc.). Many people are offended by such intrusions.

3. Know your target audience. If you are the Animal Shelter for Townsville, there is really no reason for you to get a website specificly to get donations. Very few people outside of your local community would be interested in donating anyway. (of course, an informational website on adoption etc. would be most helpful).

4. Make sure you promote "traditional" ways of donating, especially on the website. One thing I do remember from the NPR discussion was that one organization, after pointing a woman to their website, received a check in the mail for $15,000. It was the information and the good design that won her over, not the ability to send in money electronicly.

===== cetan www.cetan.com =====

I wouldn't give him anything! (3.00 / 5) (#11)
by pb on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 03:40:18 PM EST

Shouldn't that be http://www.helpme.org/?

And, no, I'm not giving them one red cent; they're squatters, and they're an eyesore in our Internet Community.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

$$ is not the answer (2.50 / 4) (#13)
by Jim Madison on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:05:14 PM EST

ooh, yeah, another opportunity to type in my credit card online! click to donate? Not!

The real revolutionary power of the Internet is to allow people to participate, to get involved. Traditional charities usually ask you to go somewhere for 2 hrs at the same time each week. Sorry, most of us don't have that luxury. We are busy, but we do care and we do have 15 minutes at lunch and another hr at 1 am before we sleep. Can you figure out a way to let us help? Can you connect me with other people who also care about the same social and political issues? (Does that sound a little like our non-profit intellectual contributions to Kuro5hin?)

Oh yeah, and after that works for a little while, i think i'd might contribute some dotcom shares to you to help with the overhead. Except that I'm trying to start my own non-profit internet non-profit using this strategy. ;)

Got democracy? Try e-thePeople.org.

NYT Article (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by Smirks on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:07:22 PM EST

There's a New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/11/technology/11CLIC.html that has alot of information about click-to-donate sites. It actually has a good bit to do with this post. :)

[ Music Rules ]
I may be cynical.. (3.33 / 3) (#15)
by ignatiusst on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:14:13 PM EST

.. but, doesn't this lead to abuse?

I hear of a lot of so-called charities that, after taking their cut, donate $0.06/dollar (or whatever is the legal minimum now) to the charity.

It seems to me that the web lends itself to this type of abuse.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

ads = bad (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by tlv87 on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 11:35:57 PM EST

I think ad-based donations aren't helping because they also fortify a business that is contributing too much to isolate individuals and focus them on possessions (speaking about the average). And if this is not true for those who clicks on charity sites because their click is not enough rewarding, then they have no interest in giving money to charity-hosts, so there's no issue in the long run in that direction. Micropayments technologies are a solution. Abuse is an issue there to, but at least it allows you to give to the right person.

I'd rather donate my skills (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by bjrubble on Thu Dec 14, 2000 at 03:13:40 PM EST

I've been looking for a while (although not really strenuously) for someplace that's doing good and needs part-time programmers. Sort of the equivalent of cooking a dish for the soup kitchen. My suspicion is that something like this would be plagued by a variant of Brooks' Law, such that an organization with technical needs is better off sucking it up and hiring a dedicated engineer than relying on distributed volunteers. But I'd love for somebody to prove me wrong.

Now How Much Would You Click-to-Donate? | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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