Philanthropy For Everyone
For a lot people, philanthropy is considered an activity of the wealthy. Notable names like Bill Gates, Oprah, and historically, Andrew Carnegie (who believed that wealthy people were morally obligated to give back to society) have been the face of what it means to support causes, people, and institutions, for many years. Undoubtedly, their contributions are meaningful and helpful, and the recognition each of them have gotten is just. Nevertheless, in the age of the internet, the philosophy of philanthropy is becoming more common amongst everyday people.
The internet did not create the idea of small donations nor fundraising. Churches across America would concur, and elementary school children selling various snacks is not a novelty. However, the advent of crowdfunding, a process which allows individuals and organizations to raise money for certain projects or causes, using the internet, has increased the reach of previously niche issues/ideas, and has allowed more people to participate in raising funds, virtually anywhere, at any time, and with a lower price than one might expect a philanthropic donation to be.
In 2013, crowdfunding websites amassed an estimated $5 billion. Growth of year over year charitable giving on these sites was about 50%. Consequently, nonprofits have taken notice and many of them are beginning to use social media to raise awareness, with hopes of capturing the interest of the generous. Done well, social media fundraising can increase total donations by 40%.
An example of remarkable success using social media to inspire crowdfunding is the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. Initially denounced as mere PR, the stunts actually bolstered the cause’s campaign, breaking records and increasing donations by some 800%. Not everyone who participated gave, but many did, some with small amounts, and the outcome was incredible.
Of course this type of funding doesn’t supercede or replace funds from large donors. Such contributions are not only valuable, they are largely helpful for cancer research, housing, disaster relief, and a long list of other problems to be addressed around the world. Nevertheless, the philosophy behind crowdfunding is that everyone can and should make efforts to contribute in meaningful ways.
The United States is the most charitable country on earth, tied with Myanmar, and the overwhelming majority of donations are from individual donors. Perhaps if we continue to see philanthropy as the responsibility of everyone, we will move closer to making the world a better place. Crowdfunding, which makes giving more accessible and social than ever, is just one of the tools driving that idea closer to reality.