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A donor-friendly page from the DirectChange website.
Thanks to imaginative uses of new technology philanthropy is changing and fast. New sites are being started by and for donors and are rapidly gaining popularity because they offer easy and convenient ways of giving coupled with increased scope for accountability and transparency. Some of these donor portals will bypass traditional ways of giving so charities can’t be complacent, but the initial signs are that these new channels will be positive for both donors and fundraisers. And most importantly, for the causes they serve.
Medium of communication:Online.
Type of charity:Children, youth and family, poverty/social justice.
Target audience:Individuals, single gift, corporations, granting organisations.
Country of origin:USA.
Ken Deutsch (US citizen) and Sylvan Browa (Ivory Coast citizen living in the US) were founding board members.
Name of exhibitor:Richard McPherson
Date of first appearance:June, 2006.
DirectChange.org was established to create a self-sustaining nonprofit organisation to accomplish four goals: eliminate aid barriers to African children’s charities, reduce the loss of contributed funds from bureaucracy, build the capacity of African NGOs and encourage a new generation of donors not previously involved with international charity. The strategy was to use Internet technology to provide core donors with the tools to reach others and thereby to recruit new donors and raise money as the lowest possible cost.
By targeting returning Peace Corps volunteers and Americans with African adoption or other family connections, DirectChange.org sought to motivate a traditional donor base to reach new donors. By carefully vetting African NGOs and making them responsible for donor reporting, DirectChange.org forged a personal connection between NGOs willing to be accountable and donors wanting accountability – without creating a costly administrative structure. By emphasising grassroots initiative, many local, creative efforts emerged. Founder Ken Deutsch described their approach as ‘People create, we replicate’. This means that grassroots ideas are widely shared through online technology and copied (and enhanced) by others.
The concept of a donor ‘marketplace’ that helps reduce administrative cost and rewards the most accountable NGOs has drawn interest from the USAID programme, which is studying DirectChange.org’s impact. More importantly, there is a dramatic growth in student- and school-driven fundraising based on the use of DirectChange.org’s model. (See results)
The organisation’s start-up costs, including charitable registration, website development and staffing was US$56,421 in its first eight months (through 28 February 07) during which it raised US$284,572.
As of February 2007 the total contributed has risen to $420,162. Note that this is without the benefit of traditional major gift fundraising. The group is on target to reach its goal of US$1 million in its first full fiscal year (Feb 07-Feb 08) at a cost of below 10%.
DirectChange.org is an exemplary use of new technology to bring new donors (and a new generation of donors) into charity to help meet urgent needs. While the technology and strategy are new, the results represent the best tradition of philanthropy and fundraising: maximise giving while minimising costs, engage donors with the practical impact of their giving, reward NGOs for transparency and accountability and allow a broad base of people to be creative in developing grassroots ways to help.
Other relevant information:
DirectChange.org, like other new technology-driven US charities (e.g., GlobalGiving.com and DonorsChoose.org) is receiving attention from the press, government and academia, suggesting a growing interest in the use of new technology to expand the total amount given to charity in the US and to allow a higher percentage of donations to reach NGOs in distant countries. It is also a reminder that there is still room for more charitable players, even in the crowded US environment, as long as they serve a distinct purpose and/or offer an improved way to become involved.