The Case for New-Charity, Part 3
I’m hoping that after you finished part two of this series, you still have some lingering questions that remain — if not unanswered, unclear. You might feel like a good friend of mine, a seasoned fundraising professional, who always says to me: “That’s very nice and inspiring, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. At the end of the day, there will always be things that are constant.”
In other words, am I seriously proposing that we get rid of government and private enterprise entirely in the problem-solving sphere? Of course not. In walking you through that thought experiment, my intention is to get you to think about new-charity in ways you probably hadn’t thought of previously, not axe everything that currently exists.
In practice, people-powered giving still has some kinks that need to be worked out, especially when it comes to ensuring that all campaigns are trustworthy. The best example of this is the now-infamous “paying it forward” GoFundMe. A New Jersey couple managed to raise $400,000 for a supposed homeless Marine Corps veteran who had used his last dollars to get them gasoline when they needed it. As it turns out, the entire story was a lie: The three had organized it as a scam from the very start, with the Marine only speaking out when he got cheated out of his cut.
Recognizing this trust issue allows us to, likewise, recognize the solution. If something can’t do it on its own, then, clearly, it needs help. Thus, to pave the path to a people-powered society — to true new-charity — people-powered giving needs to be leveraged by its counterparts, government and private philanthropy. In this way, it will grow through established, secure institutions and introduce much of the world to its benefits.
I can already see two obvious benefits from incorporating people-powered giving into government, on both sides of the governmental spectrum: local and federal.
When it comes to funding local projects, governments often struggle with allocating the proper funds in due time. Even if the representatives have managed to avoid political squabbles, often times, they have their hands tied by endless bureaucracy. Sometimes, their constituency is too large, preventing them from earmarking cash to relatively tiny — yet important — projects. Lastly, particularly in more right-leaning districts, residents might object to perceived increases taxation and spending, limiting additional revenue sources.
Crowdfunding would allow local governments to bypass all of these obstacles. A people-powered giving campaign would be funded solely on a voluntary basis, allowing a representative to dodge the political problems behind raising more taxes. Most importantly, a fundraising campaign supersedes bureaucracy; if a Charidy campaign is indicative of how much quicker they would be, then a project could be fully funded in days as opposed to months, if not years.
Crowdfunding doesn’t have to exist completely outside of government, however. An effective resource that is commonly used by nonprofits is using government grants as matching funds for their donors. In other words, the ideal government-leveraged crowdfunding is a two-way street: the government gives what it can give in due time to a nonprofit, which uses it to match donations from those who care.
On the federal level, people-powered giving influences government at a crucial point: at the foundation of political campaigns. The most recent elections have confirmed that those who raise the most are those who get the furthest, raising an interesting question: Do candidates who raise the most money get the farthest because they are truly the majority of people's choice, or do they become the majority of people's choice because they raised the most money?
Questions aside, one thing is clear: When people give a candidate money, they become much more engaged in the work that the politician is doing, to the point that they will hold the candidate accountable through criticism and holding back on repeat donations. To avoid these negative outcomes, the candidate reciprocates: Voters are no longer a faceless group, but names that can be read off of the top of their checks and, as such, are treated much more fairly. If a candidate isn’t honest or true to what they say, then donors simply won’t fund their campaign as retribution.
Achieving new-charity doesn’t mean only doing an annual crowdfunding campaign. It’s a complete shift of perspective, one of shared responsibility and accountability between the nonprofit and its donors. It means giving the average micro-donor the same level of transparency as is given to the mega-donor; even if one gives more than the other, treating the smaller donor with respect will lead to the collective giving more than any mega-donor in no time at all.
At its core, it is the place where nonprofits realize that bake sales and email blasts are not not enough — the donor isn’t a target for monetary extraction, but a true collaborative and crucial partner in your cause.
Moshe Hecht, winner of the 2017 NonProfit PRO Technology Professional of the Year, is a philanthropy futurist, public speaker and chief innovation officer of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform and consulting company that has helped 3,000 organizations raise over $700 million.
Moshe's passion lies at the intersection of technology and charitable giving. When Moshe is not at the office, he is writing music and enjoying downtime with his wife and three redheaded children.