Charitech – Where Charity Meets Technology
Last August I had a moment. One of those moments that forever changes your trajectory. That moment came from my experience with a story about a displaced Palestinian man, who fled Syria to Lebenon with his two kids. He made a living selling pens on the street. The amazing element is that a picture of the man spawned a kickstarter style campaign, raising over $250K for him and his family! The story of such giving floored me. And looking at myself in the mirror, I knew I that I wasn’t doing enough. Why? Because I wasn’t DOING ANYTHING! I talk a good talk, but that was it. So at that moment I decided to change. I launched a new blog (www.developingcharity.net). And I started an effort I called “Project 520” where I would donate $10 to a different charity every week of the next year ($10 X 52 weeks = $520). And I’m just wrapping up my 10th week. And it’s been great so far. But I wanted to find a way to connect my love of technology with my newfound charitable efforts. And that’s what “Charitech” is all about.
Charitech – How technology tools can enhance the process of personal philanthropy (in big and little ways)
I’ve long held that technology needs to enhance our lives. That’s the essential element. I have found tech tools that enhance my experiences with charity, and I plan to highlight a couple of them in “Apps of Note” in the coming weeks and months. But let me introduce you to one tool that is well worth your time. It is called “Charity Navigator” and it is availalbe as an app (iOS and Android) and a website. If you are a skeptic when it comes to charities. If you wonder, “where does my donation actually go?” or “how much of my donation goes to administration and fundraising?” This app will help you. This app can give you a wealth of information in an easy to digest package. So let’s break it down with a simple “App of Note” review.
In the simplest terms, Charity Navigator is a repository of sorts, gathering up data on a vast array of charities from around the country and around the globe. With a simple “search” function, you can lock in on a specific charity and look at the basic metrics of their philanthropic efforts. A quick search for one of my favorite charities, “water.org”, shows a 4 star rating, and a score of 95.38 out of 100. These numbers are arrived at through an analysis of both the financial responsiblity of the charity, as well as accountability and transparency. The main page of the search shows the address and phone number of the charity, and lists the board leadership, CEO, and mission statement. All important information to have public, ensuring that your chosen charity is on the up and up.
A slide to the right reveals the next feature of the app, “metrics”. Two pie charts are shown, the first a breakdown of where contributions come from (contributions, gifts, grants = good), and the second charts shows how the expenses break down (the larger percentage going to “program” the better). For my chosen charity, 99.2% of their funds come from “contributions, gifts, and grants” and 73.4% of their expenses go to program. That’s not too shabby. Though I have seen charities with over 90% going to program. It’s just important to remember that the
larger the charity is, the more money is probably being donated, and there will be corresponding overhead, in terms of the people needed to manage those funds efficiently. Which is what leads to the final section.
Sliding the screen down from the two pie charts you are greeted with a vast array of data. Revenue vs Expenses in bar chart. Full breakdown of expenses. A checklist of accountability and transparency including things like “audited by independant accountant”, “independant voting board members”, and “CEO listed with salary”. The more check marks, the stronger the charity. Finally you’ll come to the money. Actual totals of revenue and expenses. Here’s where you find out if a large adminstration cost is justified. Water.org has annual contributions of over 15 million dollars. So I can understand why they would need people to manage those funds, and ensure proper distribution to the people who need the services the charity provides (in this case, clean water to third world countries mostly).
The Whole Cup Summed Up
Charity Navigator is a tool in the arsenal of anyone interested in becoming engaged in philanthropy. I agree when the skeptics say you need to know where your money is actually going. Where I break with the skeptics is the next step. Many people use the bad charities as an excuse to do nothing. If there are charities mis-using donations then all charities are bad. I guess that’s the logic. But with tools like Charity Navigator, we don’t have that excuse. This tool helps anyone become educated in intelligent giving. You can know with a reasonable amount of certainty that you are indeed giving to a good cause by using these tools. And I highly recommend checking the app out.
Charitech – Where Charity meets Technology
This is just the first tool I’m sharing on Two Lumps of Tech. I have others. I have a whole folder on my iPad and iPhone filled with such tools. Giving isn’t hard, once you do it. It’s that first step. That first buck or $10 in my case. And once you have your tools straight, once you have your plan of attack, then it’s easy. And it feels good to do it. Because now your technology is not only helping you, it is helping others. And that brings our gadgets to a whole new level.
Remember – Something is Better than Nothing.