Nothing like a bright, brisk, BITTERLY FREEEEEEZING COLD day to remind you that some people may not be enjoying such a cosy christmas this year. Just as Montreal delivers its first belting blast of cold, a stalwart network of charities across town are hoping that today, Giving Tuesday, will make a difference.
It’s heartening to see how many companies are taking up the cause. CIBC’s simple Ret-tweet=$1 is bang on. I hope it goes INSANELY VIRAL….;)
— CIBC (@cibc) December 2, 2014
NOTE: Google, who seems never to miss a day with its fun and frivolous dedications is strangely absent.
One of the big challenges charities face, beyond the obvious hurdles of being heard over the racket, is handling the cost of giving itself. Believe it or not this represents a considerable share of their administrative costs. You’ve got to spend money to make money, right? Right! And once the estimated 50% of their budgets that go to fundraisers is spent, they’re squeezed just a little but more by the credit card companies and growing number of “philanthropic startups” that help handle payments and other stuff. That generally amounts to an additional 5-7% of donated dollars NOT going to those in need.
It’s a bad old story. And it’s one of the reasons many people cite for not wanting to give through organizations.
Take Ed Norton’s Crowdrise concept. Great initiative right? Well, let’s a take a closer look at their pricing model.
If you go straight to their pricing page, it looks pretty much the same as any of the others, with three tiers of transactional costs ranging from 5% in the basic “FREE” plan to the 3% all bells and whistles “Royale” plan (nice name, that one), that costs $199 per month (with an annual commitment paid upfront). Oh, yeah and in the spirit of doubling down, as a Crowdrise donor you are asked to make your own contribution to their effort through the checkout process suggesting that the charity hasn’t already paid.
It’s the same basic concept employed by Classy.org but classy isn’t afraid to go Royale with Cheese, imposing a sliding per transaction fee from 5% to 2% and then 1% as you enter a monthly fee structure with them that starts at a $499/mo and goes up to a whopping $1,999/mo. But hey, that gives all sorts of awesome web integration, banking and admin options and multiple sub domains!
No one would blame the tech industry for being entrepreneurial but there’s a big difference between leveraging technology for good, and being predatory. These models, even if they can argue some machiavellian case for raising more money in the aggregate, are simply not doing charities any favours.
As you may have guessed, I am building up to a point here, but before I make it I want to provide full disclosure. As I present what would seem to be the antidote to this problem, and a possible game changing alternative, namely Ensemble.co happens to be a Horse & Cart client.
The brain child of Jason Dominique, Ensemble.co not only turns the whole online charitable giving concept on its head. It also takes what might have been considered a suicidal business model and makes it one of the most attractive aspects of it for charities and donors alike.
NOTE TO READERS: Ensemble is currently signing on charities to it’s service. As such its donor functions are not fully activated. If you would like to help the Ensemble cause, please urge your favourite charity to claim its free page on the site.
Instead of engaging charities as clients, Ensemble speaks directly to the donor and their desire for fair and transparent pricing. It’s so transparent in fact that the company bravely commits to a model that is now and forever 100% free to charities. Hand in hand, Ensemble does a great job of empowering donors. In their words:
“Because a gift isn’t a gift if it isn’t free. This simple, immutable principle is the reason Ensemble exists, but we can’t do it alone. Collective Responsibility empowers donors to take on the cost of giving and ensure that their gifts of charity really and truly are gifts.”
Of course the credit card fees are inescapable. But what if the credit companies could get on board and actually stop charging transactional fees for charitable donations? Shouldn’t they be doing this already?
Happy Giving Tuesday, and here’s hoping this season we all find a way too help out and make life a little better for the people around us.