Good Things Come ...
In the summer of 2000, I launched an e-advocacy portal called eActivist.org. It was a fiscal project of the Tides Center, and I was able to operate and fundraise like any other 501(c)(3). Back then, the launch of "Donate Now" technology in 1997 and its potential to transform philanthropy was all the buzz — much like social media today is all the buzz.
Like other early adopters of the day, I was more than eager to pay the $200 Donate Now account sign-up fee and high donation-processing rates. Donate Now buttons were perhaps the most exciting "Next Big Thing" to hit to charitable giving in decades, if not ever.
Well, imagine my — rather our — disappointment when we discovered that simply having a Donate Now button on your website didn't result in thousands of dollars in monthly donations. In fact, I think the first month I hit $100 in total donations was a much celebrated benchmark. Many of us just assumed that donors, especially younger ones, would automatically convert their giving from using checkbooks to credit cards. We were wrong. It took almost a decade for online giving to reach just 5 percent of all giving in the United States.
We discovered almost immediately that donors were going to need some time to get accustomed to giving online. Many donors feared the new technology — that their credit card accounts would get hacked or their personal financial information stolen. As a result, we spent the next 10 years crafting our print and Web materials to soothe those fears, and as of today, I'd say we were successful. Young people are mostly perplexed by the idea of writing checks, and 25 percent of those 65 and older now donate online. Across all generations, online giving is now more common and the fear mostly subsided.