It’s still pretty new – and available in the US only, with no word yet of plans to expand. It’s not the first microdonation app. But it is, to my knowledge, the first one with a massive brand behind it, not to mention a ready community of nonprofits eager to be promoted and an existing money transfer service.
So, will this change how we give to charity? Will instant yes-or-no and commitment-free mark the demise of direct mail and clipboard-wielding chuggers?
Probably not. Microdonations, as Cause4Opinion point out, have been around forever, in the form of dropping your loose change into a tin for the local football club or a new church roof. This is what the likes of Google’s new venture – the digital equivalent of the tin on the shop counter – replaces; charities will still need your long term commitment as well.
But apps and other ecommerce ideas do bring in big money. I’ve just come across the wonderful UK-based Pennies, which has raised GBP 1.4 million in less than three years, simply by asking customers to leave their coppers to charity. The beauty of this – and I don’t know why more retailers haven’t joined yet – is that giving is embedded into a transaction you’re already making. It’s not a big ask, cash-wise, or time-wise. (That’s also the concept behind the slowly growing suspended coffees concept.)
So should we all be jumping on board? The UK government, for one, seems to think so. As far back as May 2011 (that’s practically a decade ago, in digital terms) – they called for ‘a step change in giving’ that included encouraging new ways to donate such as ‘through ATM giving and ‘Round Pound’ schemes’. One of the issues with microgiving, though, is that you don’t often get to choose which charity receives your money, or even which charities are included in the scheme (Google gives you a daily choice, but only includes causes that are signed up to its nonprofit scheme). And the risk, as Cause4Opinion point out, is that the main beneficiaries will be the large, national charities with corporate partnerships and marketing departments, while ‘small, local charities, which are already being left behind in traditional fundraising techniques, fall further back.’
Not good for the new church roof, then. Or is there already an app for that? What about linking microdonation to hyperlocal news apps?