Do eCommerce Giving Programs Effectively Raise Money for Charity?

Hey, the idea behind craigconnects is giving the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power. I see it as everyone doing some small, or big, part.

One way to do this is by giving back via purchases and a few key initiatives.  Organizations like We-Care.com team up with merchants and give a percentage of the proceeds to charity. We-Care works with more than 2500 online merchants, and it’s the merchants who choose what percentage of proceeds to donate (ranging from 1.5% to 15% of transactions). Participation doesn’t cost anything for the organizations, and there is no extra charge for the person who is shopping. Something that’s really useful on We-Care is their toolbar plugin. You can download a reminder that will pop up each time you’re shopping on a site that will give some money to your cause.

Amazon just started doing something similar to We-Care, but aren’t giving as much (just 0.5%). They’re calling it AmazonSmile.

Perla Ni, CEO of Great Nonprofits commented on Amazon’s new giving program, and what she calls “interesting benchmarks” –

“0.5% is an interesting percentage. Amazon’s revenue was $17B last quarter. It would be $80M/quarter if everybody who purchased something took it up. Even though it doesn’t cost anyone to do it, say 20% of users sign up, so that would be $20M/quarter. That would be about $80M/year donated to nonprofits. Google gives about $100M/year and Wells Fargo gives about $300M/year.”

Efforts like these are making donations an every day thing, and this way, according to Perla, “nonprofits may see donations through-out the year, rather than just at the end of the year for tax-deductions.” Perla does voice a concern though. She says: “the biggest potential downside I see is that it may cannibalize individual giving – ‘oh, I don’t need to give on my own, because I’ve already done it just by shopping.’ It may make shopping replace giving.”

We also contacted Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, about AmazonSmile to get his opinion. He said that Charity Navigator will be looking into the project to see if Amazon will use their API to display the Charity Navigator ratings.

Ken also shared with us that “shopping portals that give money to charity usually don’t generate enough revenue to make a big impact on an individual charity’s bottom line. One of the problems is the change of behavior required – same as with Amazon since customers will have to start their purchase process on a different website than the regular Amazon site. However, the scale of Amazon makes this a unique proposition with the potential to make a big impact on a charity’s bottom line.”

I think the most helpful thing you can do to make sure you’re giving to the good guys is to check out Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and Great Nonprofits (like Yelp for nonprofits, with user reviews). These will help you select good, effective nonprofits.

GNP

I support some nonprofits, and some not (more on that here). I make sure to look into a charity before I donate to avoid giving to one of America’s 50 worst charities. It’s useful to be able to give back to orgs that I support via purchases that I’m already making. Although, I don’t think that shopping should replace giving to an org when you believe in their cause.

How are you giving back, if you’re able?

First bi-directional API for nonprofit sector about to launch

Hey, I’m always excited about technology for social good. My motto for craigconnects is using technology to give the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power. Recently, I invested in GreatNonprofits.org to create a Yelp for nonprofits. I asked Perla Ni, of GreatNonprofits to write a guest blog post about this investment I’ve made.

Craig Newmark funds API to build user-generated nonprofit reviews into software

GreatNonprofits.org has a robust website with over 170,000 peer-to-peer reviews on over 16,000 nonprofits. GreatNonprofits.org is now building an API to embed these reviews into grants management and employee giving software and other programs so funders and grant makers can look holistically at their portfolios – incorporating the quantitative and qualitative data into decision making. To start, GreatNonprofits.org is partnering with Fluxx – a new grant management software with a lofty goal of bringing all donor management data into one place for better decision-making.

A screenshot of a Fluxx page.
A screenshot of a Fluxx page.

Collaboration, Bi-Directional Knowledge Sharing and Beneficiary Feedback

With more and more CRM tools (like Salesforce) in the market, talk of collaboration and data sharing is rampant.  Organizations are increasingly working with more data and more people—hence, the need for better tools.  This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where grant makers have many data points to manage and consider—from financial to program data and even beneficiary feedback.

While, as humans we are always well intentioned to gather various data points while formulating decisions, the harder it is to gather and analyze this data the less likely we are to incorporate it fully into our analysis. Sadly, this is often the case when it comes to beneficiary feedback in the nonprofit sector.  Well, that is about to change with this recent investment.

A New API; A Whole New World

GreatNonprofits – now the largest nonprofit review site of its kind – is building a write-a-review API. This new API will allow third party partners to integrate reviews into their systems in a seamless and automated fashion.  One of GreatNonprofits first software partners is Fluxx—an innovative grants management CRM system that allows foundation officers and executive staff to easily make decisions by housing all pertinent data in one place.

“We’re trying to push all information to the program manager in one place. And once that data is available to the program manager, he or she can pivot on the view,” says Jason Ricci, CEO of Fluxx.

So whether you’re at a foundation and need to check the 501(c)3 status prior to writing a check or if you want to understand other charities that fellow foundations have donated to, you can do this all in one place.

The partnership between Fluxx and GreatNonprofits is one of the first of its kind to bring this bi-directional data together in one place.  And this is key, because in all the data mining, some times the stories of the beneficiaries served gets lost. But with over 170,000 reviews and growing, plus this new API functionality — these stories will be made available to foundations and corporations all in one place.  And this benefits not only the foundation or corporation who is trying to analyze the impact of the investment beyond financial metrics, but also to the nonprofit who needs a little help in demonstrating their impact to the world.

“What I love about GreatNonprofits,” says Ricci, “is that they’re collecting actual reviews from people in the field who know an organization’s work well—and those reviews are starting to tell stories about that organization’s work.  So from a grant maker’s perspective, they’re not just looking at an organization’s financials to make decisions on whether to fund them, but they’re looking at real reviews from real people.”

So What’s next?

This is the first of many ventures for Great Nonprofits to extend over 170,000 nonprofit reviews to other sectors.  Along with this, GreatNonprofits is looking to partner with employee engagement software providers, so employees of corporations can read and write reviews about the impact they are having on nonprofits, and the corporation can easily collect these stories of impact to marry with other information about their charitable giving programs.

Toward this goal, GreatNonprofits is also in discussion with Benevity, (www.benevity.com), a software social enterprise.  Benevity’s award winning employee giving and volunteering solution, Spark!, is used by some of the most notable companies in the world to engage employees around causes.  Benevity has committed to embed the GreatNonprofits.org API into its platform to help inspire and inform giving decisions for its end users.  The soon to launch partnership with Benevity will help its clients engage their employees and add more information and interaction to their giving activities.

While we wait… (back to Craig)

As an investor, I think it’s really important for the next advancement in the nonprofit sector to bring reviews and crowd-sourced information about beneficiary feedback directly to donors, foundations, and nonprofits.

While we wait for this launch, you’re able to play a part in increasing beneficiary feedback and collaboration by writing a review at GreatNonprofits.  And then, later this year, the information that you write about your favorite nonprofit will be available in the Fluxx grant management software, Benevity’s Spark! workplace giving solution software among others. This relates to my recent blog post, Supporting some nonprofits, and some not, here’s the deal.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact GreatNonprofits’ CEO and founder, Perla Ni at perlani@greatnonprofits.org.

Supporting some nonprofits, and some not, here’s the deal

For well over ten years, a whole bunch of nonprofit orgs (NPOs) have asked me for assistance, and I think I’ve gone way above and beyond to help as much as I could.

The vehicle for all that is now craigconnects.org, where I support some causes for the short term, while learning how to do it way, way better with a twenty-year horizon.

I’ve chosen a range of causes that feel right to me, they resonate for me at a gut level. Military families and veterans efforts feel right, so does the effort to help restore trustworthiness to journalism.

altruism2-meme

One way that I validate my gut reaction about a NPO is through good orgs like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Center for Investigative Reporting, and GreatNonprofits. They help me find good, effective nonprofits. When they talk about America’s 50 Worst Charities or rate how NPOs are doing, I pay attention.

If I believe in a cause enough, it becomes a craigconnects focus, and my team and I locate NPOs who are really good at helping, at “moving the needle,” and support them.

Also, I’ll support NPOs that are effective and do things that I believe in, with no specific pattern.

The danger with going with my gut is that we’ve learned, the hard way, that some NPOs are really good at telling a really good, heart-rending story. Turns out that they aren’t really good at helping anyone who needs help. Cash sent to them winds up in some briefly attention-getting awareness raising, something normally useful, and in salaries and perks. Usually, an NPO gets attention via getting real results, but the kind I’m talking about, they get attention, and hope that no one checks if they get anything done.

NPOs want help from me in social media, both in consulting mode and in using social media to their benefit. I’m okay with both. Even a nerd can get to be good at all this, though I’ll never be good as a natural.

For more, please check out craigconnects.org, check out [connect with Craig], that’s a start, and I really appreciate it.

Thanks!

 

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