The urge to act when we see other people suffering is as old as humanity itself. Even in these jaded times, most hearts hold the eternal human need for hope and most minds the conviction that something should be done in the face of suffering.
The global nature of media and ubiquity of the internet now bring us face-to-face with horrible catastrophes than ever before. Images of a tsunami in Japan, a yellow fever outbreak in Uganda, a tornado in Alabama, an earthquake in Sumatra, a flood in Australia, a fire in Texas, a volcano eruption in Iceland, a typhoon in the Philippines appear in our living rooms and offices almost as soon as they happen . But what can someone do from where they read or watch this unfortunate event unfold to ease the suffering of a distant people? Today not much really, except feel badly and share the news with their friends and family.
An innovative new start up called iGivefirst empowers people to proactively take action during times of need by making charitable giving as easy and pervasive as "liking" or "tweeting". Its bold mission is to increase the total donations of charitable giving world-wide through the use of mass media without adding additional cost to the giving process.
"On-line charitable donations have been limited to a mere 8% due to scams, frauds and inefficient charities," said founder Sharif Youssef. "iGivefirst rewards accountable, trustworthy nonprofits with digital media exposure. We combine digital media and new technology for global good."
Their technology scans content and serves up those nonprofits that are directly related to the story. While the technology itself not exactly groundbreaking the company's business model is innovative. iGivefirst makes its money by charging a 5% transaction fee to the non-profit for managing all of the tax reporting, customer service, on-line fund raising, risk mitigation, marketing and payment processing. Its policy is not to resell or share personal data without the donor's permission although this information is very valuable.
iGivefirst also screens charities to ensure they are legitimate, and registered with the IRS. Optionally they ask charities that would like to participate in the program to get 25 people to endorse their organization and their cause.
Once a donation is made because of a story, about say a tsunami in Japan, the total amount collected is distributed to the charities involved within 30 days. For disaster relief causes, iGivefirst plans on distributing the funds within three business days.
Charitable giving is a big business, $290.8 billion was donated in the United States alone in 2010. According to the IRS there are 1,574,674 tax-exempt organizations, who accounted in 2009 for 9% of all wages and salaries paid here as well as 5.4% of the GDP. In total public charities have $1.41 trillion in total revenues, $1.40 trillion in total expenses, and $2.56 trillion in total assets so, iGivefirst has a lot of work cut out for it.
We wish them good luck and god's speed in this endeavor because someday it may be us who needs the charity.