Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Do a little, change a lot. The Future of Philanthropy?

Google announced a few days ago the launch of their charity app 'One Today.' The premise is simple, choose from a list of organizations on the app and donate a dollar towards that cause--easy. Think of it like an indiegogo or kickstarter page for charities except with the tacit endorsement of our friends at Google...although Google will deny that they endorse any charity they promote.

Nonprofits looking to post projects need to be a member of google for nonprofits first, once that happens, an organization can be featured on the app. In looking for more information it turns out that a 1.9% fee is taken on each donation and that unless directed otherwise, your donation will go towards the organization's general fund--meaning they can do whatever they want with it.
"The nonprofit will get all of your donation except the payment processing fee of 1.9%, so for every $10 donated, the nonprofit receives $9.81. Unless mentioned otherwise, your donation goes into unrestricted funds that will be used by the nonprofit at its discretionOne Today partners with Network for Good, an industry leader in Donor Advised Funds, to collect money from donors and disburse it to nonprofit recipients. For each transaction that you approved, you will see a line item on your credit card receipt, with the label GOOGLE *One Today NfG." (http://www.google.com/onetoday/faq.html)
While I like the fact that lesser known organizations have the potential to gain exposure through this app, I'm not the biggest fan of a processing fee being taken on every donation given the fact that this app exists to serve the organizations it features. I would suggest that if you find an organization that you like via 'One Today' that you give directly to that organization, that way 100% of your donation goes to them...and remember to specify where you'd like your donation to be spent if you're not comfortable with it going into a general fund.

Aside from some of my misgivings around the business practices that make 'One Today' run, I don't know how I feel about this app and its potential impact on how donors give: Will encouraging individuals to give micro amounts change how they feel about philanthropy in general? Will donors place less importance on a donation of $1 vs $100, and if they do, will that somehow alleviate the burden on the nonprofit to report on their impacts and be accountable to donors because it was only a buck?

Don't get me wrong, I think 'One Today' has the potential to open doors for lesser known nonprofits and help them gain exposure, but wonder if/how pushing a model of micro donations will impact the overall landscape of philanthropic giving.


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