We are all sensitive to the economic plight that faces our country and the world: the banking crash and bailout and the unemployment that has grown close to 10% and could linger for some time. The beating the economy has taken shows its bruises first-and-foremost on those bodies least equipped to handle it: the working poor, the ill, the disadvantaged, and the organizations trying to help them out. Donations, as we have often noted on the blog, have taken a real hit since late 2008 (even though the US remains the most generous nation on earth in this regard). Nonprofits and charities are often temped to seek out the biggest donors to help balance the books and keep the good work going. Though that strategy has many merits, we would encourage these groups to remember the microdonations that became part of the donor landscape about eighteen months ago and continues to make a positive impact for their recipients (and for the folks who can spare even a few dollars to their favorite causes).
Micro donations have probably always existed, but their worth to an organization was severely trimmed by the costs of print materials, stamps, and hand-sorted collections. With the rise of on-line donations, and especially of donations via social networking, those same micro donations can prove to be cost effective. In a sense, rather than depending on the margin of a few big donors to cover costs and sink capital into projects, a charity or mission-based company works with the volume of small donors who share with each other via various social networks to create a steady stream of donations. Again, the cost to the organization is minimal. Better still, the buzz among the givers serves as a receptive audience to get more deeply involved with the organization’s work in the future.
A number of sites exist that encourage people to sign up and connect to their social media accounts of choice, then use those accounts to donate a few dollars here and there. A nice roundup of some of these sites can be found here (Alas, TipJoy.com and Fundable.com are no longer with us). One of the better parts of the microdonation movement for organizations that do not yet follow it is that the necessary technological infrastructure is already built. Establishing accounts and branding, then getting the word out, are what are now required.
Watch for creative ways the microdonation spirit is marshaled, whether via websites dedicated to them, or via better established networking sites (think: Twitter and Facebook), or even via mobile devices (like the drive by The Red Cross to raise funds for victims of the Haitian earthquake via text messaging). During this Great Recession, we can still give, and leveraging each others’ social networks to give a little bit will be an important way to do so.
Written by: Christopher Gardner, PhD
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