Answering my own questions since 2001

How Online Fundraising Got Faster

David Armano did a lovely thing yesterday, asking people to help out a family in need. It was, as they say, an overnight success, and he’s raised nearly $15,000. There are lots of stories to tell about this worthy effort–the power of crowd-sourcing and influence, the importance of personalizing a charity appeal and so forth.

A conversation I was having with Sean Moffitt on Twitter, however, highlighted another angle. Sean remarked that David had said that the flurry of fundraising wasn’t repeatable. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I was reminded of Flowers for Al and Don, a project I was involved with about five (Good Lord, was it been that long ago?) years ago. We raised a similar amount of money through an ad hoc (even, one might say, accidental) online campaign.

But here’s the difference: David did in two days what it took us two weeks to do.

So, I see David’s project as a story of the real-time web, and the power of microblogging services like Twitter. We’re able to compress activity into a shorter time frame, and focus attention in a way that was hard to imagine in 2004.

One other interesting observation: the payment system is pretty much exactly the same. We used PayPal for Flowers for Al and Don, and the service that David’s using, ChipIn, is just a kind of widgety layer on top of PayPal. As far as I can tell (and I’m certainly no expert), we’ve really gotten nowhere with micropayments or, I don’t know, web-based accounts which might further streamline this kind of project.

David’s project reminded me that I need to wrap up my little Kiva loan project. More on that next week.

2 Responses to “How Online Fundraising Got Faster”

  1. David Armano

    Thanks for this post. It all helps. To clarify, I don’t know if I, personally could pull it off again (any time soon). But it doesn’t mean that others can’t step in when the time is right.

    I think that’s the challenge and opportunity.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Rahel Bailie

    I understand Sean Moffitt’s point. This was a relatively new phenomenon, and David could make the cause real, personal, which is a motivator for people to donate. What happens the 10th, 20th, or 50th time people are asked to donate? Donor fatigue sets in, and the donations shrink, in numbers and in amount. Don’t get me wrong – I think what David did is so admirable. I hadn’t been on Twitter all day, and all of sudden I’m reading about a successful campaign, and upon scrolling back, realize the entire campaign was less than a day long. Wow.

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