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?