Charitable Giving for the (Typically) Uncharitable
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because giving unwisely may be as bad as not giving at all.
By Nick Fouriezos
- Wanting the greatest amount of the cash you give to go to whom you’re giving it to can now be done through apps.
- And you can give more than cash.
It’s easy to be cynical. Heck, some would say it’s only logical, given how often “philanthropies” are caught plundering donor dollars. The news cycle is rife with tales of misdeeds, from diverting funds to hosting decadent dinners.
The global pandemic hasn’t ended that. Many so-called do-gooders receiving government funds have been exposed as do-nothings when it comes to delivering on promises like, say, the delivery of thousands of ventilators to first responders in New York. In Israel, one prominent rabbi’s charity is soliciting $3,000 donations with the promise that donors’ family members will be protected from contracting COVID-19.
But the pandemic has also provided new avenues for the typically uncharitable to exercise their giving muscles, maybe for the first time ever. While major institutions have broken the trust, interest has increased in supporting local charities and nonprofits with a better track record of spending their money wisely rather than on CEO salaries. Plus, platforms have emerged that encourage more equitable forms of charitable giving, the type that can encourage even the most skeptical to put pen to check.
Here are a few ways that the doubting Thomases among us can feel more comfortable giving back.
Most of us are sick of seeing the GoFundMes on our Facebook feeds. Not only does the service offer no accountability for projects that end up being scams, it also skims 3 percent off the project’s total fundraising to fill its coffers. It operates with a cash-is-king philosophy that doesn’t acknowledge other ways people can give back. That’s not the case with Supportful, a crowdfunding platform that allows us penny pinchers out there to donate other useful things — supplies, meals or our precious time — to our neighbors.
“People can’t be pigeonholed to just one thing,” says Nicholas Emerson Mazzone, founder and CEO of Supportful. “In different parts of the country, the ways people show they care is very different. Some people show they care with calories — making a meal — and just sending money can seem very thoughtless.”
The platform provides personal support and coaching over phone and email, while also sending any money raised directly to the beneficiary within one business day. One Utah teenager used Supportful to purchase supplies, and a school bus to deliver those supplies to a village in Mexico, while a homeless couple in Oakland received enough donations to buy a van to live in. In recent months, Supportful has been used to ship groceries to those in need, create care packages and tip jars for local bar workers and schedule digital entertainment for isolated older folks, among other things.
All right, so the app doesn’t have the greatest reputation among communities of color, given the way some “neighbors” essentially use it as a forum for racial profiling. But when looking for a way to give locally, it doesn’t get much easier than plugging into Nextdoor and selecting from among the requests for help, from the mother of three who just lost her service industry job and needs assistance with groceries this month to the guy two doors down from you who pulled his back and could really use a foam roller if anybody has one to spare.
Checking the app can be an easy way to keep tabs on mom and pop shops in your area and ways to help keep them afloat, such as placing online orders at the fabrics store or attending virtual reading events hosted by the local bookstore. Nextdoor also lets volunteers create groups for coordination, and it recently introduced Help Maps, a feature that allows users to create an interactive map of their neighborhood so that they can mark themselves as a source of support for neighbors who need it, “whether you are able to drop off groceries for those that are homebound or hop on the phone to check in on elderly and at-risk neighbors,” says Shannon Toliver, communications coordinator for Nextdoor.
Designed by Digital Europe blockchain experts, this web app allows users to create a unique link that allows them to donate and then spread the message through a hashtag campaign. While that may sound dull, what makes it unusual is that users can then track the spread of their giving through a blockchain ledger, essentially letting them know exactly how much of an impact their actions have in raising funds to fight coronavirus. Not only can you take credit for your contribution but you can also see all subsequent donations that branched out of your decision to give. In a time when people are doing everything they can to avoid spreading the virus, it’s comforting to know that giving can be contagious too.
- Nick Fouriezos