• Frank Makrides

How Spare Change is Disrupting Nonprofit Fundraising

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Since the time of the Robber Barons following the American Civil War, philanthropy and the larger nonprofit sector has grown into a fundamental cornerstone of American society and social progression. Nonprofits played a crucial role in the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements, among countless other societal advancements. Today, charitable giving in the United States is on the rise, as evidenced by the record-breaking $428 billion donated in 2018.

What is less-known and less-celebrated, however, is that while total donations may well be on the rise, the total number of individual donors in the United States has been steadily declining over the past two decades. As such, fewer, wealthier donors and corporations are contributing an increasingly large percentage of total giving in the United States. The concerning result of this “top-heavy” philanthropy is that an increasingly smaller number of people are gaining control over the institutions that catalyze social and political progress, shaping the nonprofit sector to represent the ideals of the few over those of the many.

Recent technological innovations are disrupting charitable giving and placing the power of the donated dollar back in the hands of the average person. The widespread appeal of social media and mobile technology means that it has never been easier to engage with any cause or organization regardless of wealth or social standing. Massive, name brand nonprofits no longer dominate the attention of the average donor, and smaller community organizations have a fighting chance at reaching their would-be constituents.

Particularly noteworthy in the push to democratize charitable giving are philanthropic crowdfunding campaigns. People donate to support other people, and crowdfunding platforms allow donors to give where it is needed most. Never before would someone in California have the opportunity to provide a small business loan for a fledgling entrepreneur in Kenya, let alone hear their story and see their face. It is a historic time where individuals in need can appeal to other individuals at scale and experience the collective compassion of humanity stemming from all parts of the globe.

Further leveling the playing field is the rise of the micro-donation. Platforms like GiveTide now enable donors to collect and donate the spare change on everyday purchases, making philanthropy an automatic and systemic part of their lives. Donated pocket change is no longer limited to a select few nonprofits with corporate partnerships running point-of-purchase campaigns. Donors can give what they can where they see fit and, over time, have a tangible impact on the world at large, all from the convenience of the phones they’re already carrying in their pockets.

Pete Ghiorse's book recommendation: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

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