by Daphne Su
Today’s technology is growing at exponential rates, bringing with it unprecedented potential for the future of philanthropy. We are living in a world where faster communication and an ever more connected global community make giving increasingly easy and ubiquitous. Where will we be in five years? Ten? What can we do to maximize the use of technology for doing good and introducing philanthropy into the lives of people across all ages and continents?
Take, for example, the new model of citizen philanthropy that capitalizes on social networking. Made popular by actor Edward Norton’s initiative Crowdrise, it allows people to create projects and use their social networks to raise money and track impact. Norton says in a CNN article that the crowd-sourcing model “has the immediate advantage of easily engaging a young generation,” a section of the population that traditional organizations have found difficult to reach and inspire.
Smart phones have also contributed to the huge leap in ease for fundraising–mobile payments enable people to give small amounts of money on the go; volunteering apps have been created for the younger generation who would not otherwise make the extra investment in discovering or participating in philanthropy. In the arena of education volunteering, mentors are no longer restricted by geography and can now use Skype to teach students all over the world via video-conferencing. Continuous development of innovative inventions such as the XO-1 $100 Laptop created by One Laptop per Child make technology accessible to those without resources, opening doors for learning, opportunities, and progress.
All of these are small but marked steps in making giving a natural part of life for the future. However, as Voltaire and Spider Man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Advancement of philanthropy on all levels highlights an importance for stricter vetting and monitoring. Luckily, technology should also be able to improve the transparency of projects in many ways. One possibility would be to use citizen journalism by volunteers, recipients, and organizations to clearly showcase work and impact behind the scenes and at the forefront of efforts. This not only creates transparency, but goes hand in hand with the trend towards instant gratification that is becoming an important part of today’s culture. People want immediate and tangible results that show their efforts and donations are being put to good use, and online tools are rising to the challenge. A new organization called Charity Water has created its own online tool that shows donors how every dollar is digitally accounted for, accompanied by continuously updated photos of projects taken by volunteers.
This is a global connectivity and evolution in human relationships that we have never experienced before. It is important to ask ourselves how we can best utilize this to effectively direct and transform the landscape of philanthropy into what we envision for the future.