This is partly due to the large mobile giving response that came in during the days following the earthquake in Haiti. “The best mobile giving campaigns are the ones where it’s easy for consumers to donate, where the price points of entry are low, and where it’s transparent how the funds are being used,” Jim Manis, Chairman and CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF), told USA Today.
The news of increased online giving comes after the news that in 2010, the 50 most generous donors in America gave the lowest in 10 years – a combined total of $3.3 billion to charity, the smallest sum since 2000.
Warnings about a double-dip recession and federal estate tax and deduction limitations could have affected those numbers (and it’s believed that those issues may be resolved this year).
However, it could be that the face of traditional fundraising is changing. Young philanthropists like 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) gave money to boost public education (instead of giving money to colleges), and 43-year-old Pierre Omidyar (eBay founder) supported work to abolish human trafficking and to foster sustainable energy.
While younger philanthropists are prepared to give – a big obstacle remains: giving money on charity websites is 7 percent harder than spending money on e-commerce sites, according to research by Nielsen Norman Group.
“Donating physical items is even harder,” writes Jakob Nielsen, principal, Nielsen Norman Group, for Alertbox. “For non-profit websites, social media is secondary; the top priority is to write clearer content.”
For examples of nonprofits getting it right, here are a few recent success stories:
- In four years, charity: water has raised more than $20 million and funded 3,196 water projects. One of their successful campaigns invites celebrities and individuals to donate their birthday to raise money for clean water. Just last month, singer Adam Lambert set a record by raising $260,000 for charity:water on his birthday.
- More than $150 million fundraising dollars has been raised for nonprofits through eBay Giving Works – a functionality that allows sellers to donate a percentage of sale price to charity.
- Atlanta’s Shaun King launched a celebrity Twitter auction last year called TwitChange.com that raised more than $500,000 for Haiti. This year the group is targeting education for girls.
- Newly minted, The Girl Store offers prospective givers the ability to purchase much-needed school supplies for young, poor girls in India. It’s an example of how online giving can benefit by functioning more like well-designed e-commerce sites.
- Microfinance site Kiva – which allows investors to give microloans to small business owners globally – was recently named as the charity for the 2011 USA Today Cannes Lions Young Marketers Competition.
- Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), a non-profit based in North Carolina, teamed with an ad agency to create an online game called SPENT that allows users to simulate what it’s like to fall on hard times (unemployed, homeless).
It’s interesting to note how fundraising site Kickstarter has changed the game for online fundraising. While they claim to be the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world, it is not for charity projects or causes. (However, nonprofits with creative projects that fit within their other guidelines are welcome to use Kickstarter). But several people on the Kickstarter’s message boards are suggesting that they should expand their platform to nonprofit causes.
“Most foundations and corporate donors only want to fund a small portion of a project (~25%), but they want assurance that the remaining majority will be raised (sound familiar?),” posted Justin Schott in the general forum. “Kickstarter for non-profits could secure commitments for 6-12 months, thus saving funders the risk of being the only one while showing support for the organization.”
Perhaps nonprofits simply need to take note of what’s working: good design and clear content. Besides, there are always ways to raise money for good causes creatively. Take Andy Davis, whose $30k Kickstarter project was funded this week. The singer/songwriter wanted to raise money to record a new project, but he also wanted to incorporate giving back. He teamed with his favorite local restaurant, Baja Burrito in Nashville, Tenn., which volunteered to buy a meal for a homeless person (through the Nashville Rescue Mission) for every person that contributed to his Kickstarter campaign.
What other ways should nonprofits look to improve the usability of online giving?