On October 8, the Stanford Social Innovation Review will host a conference on online giving marketplaces. I’m thrilled to see these platforms are finally getting the attention they are due (and also delighted to be moderating one of the panel discussions). Over the years I’ve paid a lot of attention to these sites – which include GlobalGiving, Kiva, NetworkForGood, GiveIndia, HelpArgentina, DonorsChoose, GiveMeaning, and GreaterGood South Africa – and dozens of others, check out socialactions for a mashup of 30+ platforms.
But why do these sites matter? Is it is just giving as we’ve always known it, but faster, more global, and with multi-media interactivity? Or is there something else, something more transformative, going on here? Why are these sites proliferating and what differentiates them from each other?
Here are a few ways these platforms are important beyond just their speed and glitz factors.
- These sites enable small gifts to be aggregated – by the donors – and let donors manage portfolios of their giving. This is a baseline for ultimately getting to more strategic giving.
- Online giving platforms provide a potential source of data about giving trends and patters, in something approximating real time.
- They could provide a common backbone for donation transactions.
- They are positioned to gather real feedback and input from people within funded institutions, as well as beneficiaries of them (see GreatNonprofits for more on this possibility).
- They might serve as “early warning signals” about issues or giving patterns.
- There are already emerging connections between “online giving platforms” and “social investors” and “social stock exchanges” – it only makes sense that new metrics systems, reporting tools, and portfolio assessment tools will come next.
- These sites are specifically set up as marketplaces – with buyers and sellers connected by interests – a framework distinct from the way nonprofits and donors usually talk of themselves, and one that has both advantages and disadvantages.
- We have not yet seen real interconnectivity between online giving platforms and “offline” donor services – is this next and what might the results of such partnerships look like?