Thoughts on Improving Charity Solicitation

Seth has an interesting post about one of the big problems in getting people to donate to charity: overcoming the feeling that no matter how much one gives, it’s not enough and therefore it’s not worth giving anything.  This is tricky.  I understand because I’m one of those types.  Making donations to organizations that tackle big problems like world hunger and child and animal abuse often feels like throwing money into a black hole; I know it’s helping in the abstract, but there’s no obvious, immediate return-on-investment to point to and feel good about.   

This is where itemization and benchmarking would be beneficial.  Instead of asking for general donations for a worthy but daunting cause, non-profits would be better served itemizing exactly where donations will be going to the extent possible and funneling them to those areas through donor choice.  For example, a charity dealing with animal welfare might have a “Donate” page on their website with specific projects listed on it.  Each project would have its own ‘Donate’ button next to it, along with a brief description of the project and a fundraising goal for it, telethon style.  People could then choose which project to donate to and do so until the target amount was met. 

I think this would attract more casual donors who are normally dissuaded by the “how much is enough?” dilemma.  They’d know how much is enough because the project listing would tell them.  So they could give all or part of the goal amount and walk away feeling good.  The non-profit could still solicit and accept general donations for normal overhead, and institutional and wealthy donors could still be counted on to shoulder the bulk of these expenses.  Only now the average Joe who actually wants to see his dollar doing some good today would have an incentive to chip in too. 

This organization is a good model.  Making the local national, and vice versa, is the ultimate leverage.


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