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To Give or Not to Give: Getting into Your Head

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In a previous blog post, I wrote about a small airfare tax that’s been implemented in a number of countries to help fight three of the world’s deadliest diseases. The idea behind the initiative (UNITAID) is to raise funds by applying a small levy on domestic and international flights; a levy so small that most people do not even take notice. It’s interesting what the success of this method says about us and human behavior. Let’s say, had a traveler been given the option to donate $1 before purchasing the air ticket, the outcome of UNITAID would probably have been very different. While studies show that there’s a strong connection between giving and the level of happiness, most people opt out. Why?

David Brooks of The New York Times points out that “we spend trillions of dollars putting policies and practices into place, but most of these efforts are based on the crudest possible psychological guesswork.” Understanding behavioral sciences is important. As he points out, sometimes “behavioral research leads us to completely change how we think about an issue,” and result in new policy approaches. He’s referring to one well-known example, which has to do with default settings: “Roughly 98 percent of people take part in organ donor programs in European countries where you have to check a box to opt out. Only 10 percent or 20 percent take part in neighboring countries where you have to check a box to opt in.” There’s something magical about the check box!

India's Middle Class Debate Continued: Should NGOs be Looking in the Mirror? Guest post from Bipasha Majumder

Duncan Green's picture

On my recent trip to India, I discovered some talented bloggers – here’s Bipasha Majumder, Oxfam India’s Communications Officer in Mumbai, writing in a purely personal capacity on the Great Middle Class Debate. She also writes a personal blog.

I have had discussions and I have had heated discussions.  Sometimes I have just let the question float in the air, sat back and observed what others had to say.

Whichever way you look at it, one thing is very clear. The great Indian rising middle class is just not bothered. They are largely happy and keen to contribute to the ‘growing’ economy. But when it comes to any kind of contribution to a cause, especially those related to poverty, there is a big wall of apathy around them.

What Influences Individual Donations to Disaster Victims?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We see donation appeals everywhere these days - to help the people in Japan, to help the people in Darfur, to help the people in Haiti. What influences our decision to give? An interesting study comes from British psychologists, who analyzed how individuals respond to donation appeals in the wake of man-made disasters - like war - versus natural disasters. The authors around Hanna Zagefka from Royal Holloway University in London found that natural disasters elicit more donations than those caused by people. Their explanation: people tend to assign some blame to the victims of man-made disaster, while they blame no one for being overrun by a Tsunami.

Using social media to do good

James I Davison's picture

I came across a small, but interesting online effort to raise donations for an organization that works to improve child literacy in Laos. Called Library for Laos, the effort aims to raise $5,000 by May 1– just five days after it started. The money raised is intended to go to Big Brother Mouse, a neat, Laos-based project that publishes, teaches and distributes books to children in a country they say desperately needs it.

It's a nice concept for a good cause, but what sticks out to me are the coordinators' clear attempts to use social media to spread the word about their effort. On their website, they bank on the ease of PayPal for donating money and the viral nature of social media: "How many people follow you on Twitter? How many friends do you have on Facebook? Let's see how valuable they are!" It's early to tell if they're succeeding. After the first day, they had apparently raised $500 dollars.

Either way, the endeavor highlights how social sites like Facebook, which permeates everyday life for many of us, can serve the world's poor. For example, you have the option to join various "causes" on Facebook. And on Twitter, information can spread like wildfire through retweets (rebroadcasting content to your own set of followers). What do you think? Would you ask your online friends and/or followers to donate money to a good cause?

(Found via: Escape the Cube). Image credit: rustystewart at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Making the world a better place, one web search at a time

James I Davison's picture

We've already written about sites that let you help others while going about the mundane tasks you already do. And there's the FreeRice.com game, which lets you donate food by playing an Internet word game. Combining both concepts, there's now Hoongle.org: a modified Google search engine that donates 20 grains of rice for every web search done through the site.

Since searches are routed through Google, it's the same search results most people are already getting. The difference is this site takes revenue from referrals to Google and donates the income to the United Nations World Food Program's "Fill the Cup" campaign. The New York Times' Bits blog interviewed the site's creators, university students in Virginia who say they have already raised enough money to donate 4,000 meals, or 8.5 million grains of rice. The Hoongle FAQ page suggests you add them as your homepage or use their web browser plug-in. All in all, an easy way to make a small, yet perhaps meaningful difference.

It's also worth noting that the site seems to be currently down with "technical difficulties". Searches still work, since they are run through Google, but the rice donations have stopped for now.

(Hat tip: Poverty News Blog)

UPDATE: It seems the Hoongle project was short-lived. Shortly after we posted this, the people behind Hoongle.org put up the following message on their homepage: "Unfortunately, we have run into unexpected issues that will prevent the site from functioning as intended. Because of this, the site has grown beyond our means as college students. As a result, we have decided to go offline." No word on what happened or whether they will ever try to start up the site again, but you can enter your email address into a field on their homepage for future updates.

Take note: October 15 is Blog Action Day against poverty

Claudia Gabarain's picture

Blog Action Day is a global nonprofit event that wants to unite bloggers, podcasters and videocasters around a common issue, on a specific day, to raise awareness about the topic and trigger a worldwide discussion. This year the issue is poverty and the date is October 15.

Search and ye shall fund – Donating to charities through everyday web tasks

Claudia Gabarain's picture

Some months ago Michael posted a short note about donating rice through an internet game: get the meaning of an English word right and you’ve donated 20 grains of rice to the UN's World Food Program. Keep playing and you can actually fill a bowl in a few minutes.

Donate online to help victims of cyclone Nargis in Myanmar - Some suggestions

Claudia Gabarain's picture

As advanced in an earlier post, here's a short list to the webpages for online donations of international NGOs that have a large presence in the country and so are likely to be most effective under the difficult circumstances:


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