If you’ve chatted with me lately, I’ve likely babbled on about an idea called peer-to-peer giving. You can read some earlier thoughts here. In summary, philanthropy has done an amazing job at getting folks to give (time, money, goods) to organizations. However, in the process of being so good at this, we’ve unwittingly dis-empowered folks from giving to one another.

How does it feel?

I’m now asking what are the barriers to making this type of giving a reality. Right now, I’m mulling over three (which will be its own post): conceptual, behavioral, and technical. Since I believe the technical will be the easiest to overcome, I’m starting a little research on other giving platforms. What I’m looking for is not fully baked, but I want to know ‘how does it feel?’.

What allows some platforms to make us feel like our gift matters, that satisfies our need for accountability, that encourages us to engage our community in our action, and that makes an individual connection.

Right now, we have the opportunities to give via many technical platforms. When we give, an organization must receive the donation. This is absolutely fine, but in considering peer-to-peer giving, I want to see if its possible to conceptually and behaviorally expand these boundaries. Technically, it is already possible.

Case One: Small Change Fund

To start my research on ‘how does it feel’, by chance, a giving platform happened to contact me this week. The Small Change Fund uses crowdfunding (donation-based) to fund grass-roots projects in local Canadian communities. This week, in advance of Canada Day, they are highlighting seven projects across the country. As part of my ‘how does it feel’ research, I thought I’d start with them.

I donated $25 to the River Journey Project: The Berger Inquiry Revisited. The project jumped out for two reasons – it’s focus on the oil and gas industry and its focus on teaching advocacy skills from elders to children. Ah, yes, and there’s a technology angle to it as well.

What I think Small Change Fund does extremely well is focus on these grass-roots projects. That’s the same reason I really like the focus of Donors Choose.  Somehow, the small project angle allows me to imagine the folks who will be doing the work.  The story page of the River Journey Project hosts photos, video and maps to inform the donor on the project, but after reading, its wasn’t just the project that I knew more about – I was interested enough to learn more about the pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley.  I would have liked to see an opportunity to share my action & interest with my community (through social media) right after donating.  (Though, technically I’m doing that through this blog.)

As for accountability, I was a bit disappointed to see that with two days to go, there is still over $2500 to be raised.  One side of my brain wonders if the project will be able to happen without the full amount, if not, what then?  This question might be one of the biggest hurdles in thinking through peer-to-peer giving.

We have drilled into our organizations that we need more and more accountability, metrics, and results. I sit on the board of an organization that works with children who are hungry. When they went through the discussion of metrics, the chair asked, “What if we don’t measure? Are we just going to stop feeding hungry kids?” The same is true for peer-to-peer giving. How much accountability do you really need to know to reach out your hand?

Much more thinking will follow. I’m both of academic and tactical mind. That may show in my writing.  If you take one action from this, check out Small Change Fund’s Seven Wonders of Canada campaign in honor of Canada Day (It ends July 1).

Always pleased to hear your thoughts.

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