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How the Web is Changing the Face of Charity Forever

How the Web is Changing the Face of Charity Forever

It’s no secret that access to the internet has given individuals the ability to make a bigger impact on the world than ever before — often with very little effort. Want to break into the world of film? Experiment with YouTube and you’ll find a global audience. Want to get published? Start up a blog and tell the world what you think.

What if you want to do something even bigger? What if you want to raise money for a cause you believe in, without going door-to-door or cold calling potential donors?

Well, it turns out there’s a way to easily do that online, too. The key is a special type of online fundraising called “crowdfunding.”

So what is crowdfunding, anyway? Lately it’s gotten a lot of press as a method of funding independent art, publishing and tech projects — particularly through the popular Kickstarter platform. As crowdfunding rises in popularity, more and more people and organizations are turning to this innovative method to fundraise for charity.

Some are more organized (and ambitious) efforts than others. When bus monitor Karen Klein made national headlines after being verbally harassed to the point of tears by students in her care, Max Sidorov knew he had to do something to help make things right. His solution? To set up a charity campaign on the site IndieGoGo — and raise $5,000 to help Klein take a well-deserved vacation. The campaign went viral and ended up raising more than $700,000, which allowed the 68-year-old to retire and establish her own anti-bullying foundation.

Since then, Sidorov has gone on to fundraise for a number of various causes on IndieGoGo, including support for Sandy Hook victims, and anti-bullying projects…however, none have managed to find the same amount of support as his first project, most hitting around $1,000 in donations and one topping out at $25.

Sidorov’s failed campaigns don’t spell disaster for charitable crowdfunding, but they do stress the unpredictable nature of the medium. More organized charitable causes have met with more success, and more media-saavy organizers have been able to run multiple successful campaigns.

Take Matthew Inman. Already a popular internet cartoonist, his first foray into charitable crowdfunding was actually an angry response to a frivolous lawsuit. After complaining publicly about FunnyJunk.com, a site that repeatedly reposted his artwork without credit, attribution, or a link back to his site, he found himself staring down a letter from FunnyJunk’s lawyer demanding $20,000 in damages for his accusations that the site used copyright infringement as a business model.

That didn’t go over well with Inman. Instead of responding to the legal threat, he wrote an open letter inviting his readers to help him raise $20,000 to donate to two charities: the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. He ended up raising $220,024. (By the way, as you can imagine, the lawsuit didn’t really go anywhere in the end.)

After seeing the success of his first campaign, Inman ended up teaming with a New York nonprofit to raise money for a cause near and dear to his heart: preserving the legacy of Nikola Tesla and establishing the first Tesla Museum at the site of the scientist’s historic laboratory. In the end, the museum fundraiser ended up earning $1,370,461 — with a matching grant of $850k from the state of New York. After years of fruitlessly searching for the funding to build the Tesla Science Center, crowdfunding was the secret ingredient that has finally made it a reality.

While Inman has led two of the most successful charity funding campaigns to date, others are also finding success with less ambitious projects, notably raising funds to cover medical costs for cancer patients and  to help rescue animals. One campaign on GoFundMe.com has even managed to raise more than $171,500 to help one of the critically injured victims of the Aurora theater shooting last July.

Even Occupy Wall Street got in on the crowdfunding action last year — raising half a million dollars in order to help buy off and forgive over $11 million in medical debt across the U.S.

While the concept of crowdfunding is largely still in its infancy, nonprofits, charities and ordinary people who’d like to make a difference in the world need to start taking notice of this powerful vehicle for social change. As more and more of public life makes its way online, crowdfunding — and not traditional fundraising campaigns — may increasingly be the way of the future.

 

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39 comments

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4:45AM PDT on May 15, 2013

True

5:35AM PDT on May 6, 2013

Thank you Julie, for Sharing this!

1:57PM PDT on May 4, 2013

The coming generations will be totally familiar to donate just online ... and I think the free clicks will increase because it builds a direct win-to-win situation to all involved.

6:47AM PDT on May 4, 2013

WORD OF CAUTION ...

Greatness of heart is often abused. Would suggest checking CHARITY NAVIGATOR (America's largest independent chair evaluator providing free ratings of financial health, accountability and transparency of thousands of charities) so as not to be sucked into any storefront scams which are abundant.

8:35AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

6:24AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Charity is just another form of business that profits the shareholders /stakeholders not the victims.
true charity starts at home and true service which is the 4th law of the universe occurs when we help someone in need without an expectation of a return and more importantly they don't even know we did it. Imaging how hard this is for humanity to do today. They would not get their name mentioned in the media or get awards or honors for the amounts they previously donated. and for most they would not be able to claim it as a tax deduction. Charity in its present form is just another con job in manipulating the gullible.

2:51PM PDT on Apr 25, 2013

So true!

4:26AM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

2:45AM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

4:23AM PDT on Apr 22, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

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