"The Mouse that Roars," UniversalGiving featured in the Christian Science Monitor

Jun 23, 2008

Boston | Monday, June 23, 2008

By Jane Lampman

Staff Writer

The Web has radically changed the way we shop, conduct our finances, get our news, and participate in politics. And it's changing the way we give.

America is a giving nation: In 2007, for the first time in history, more than $300 billion dollars went to charities, according to the annual report of Giving USA Foundation released June 23. While online giving is a small percentage of that total, many signs suggest that e-philanthropy's time has come.

Traditional means of fundraising-- direct mail and telemarketing-- are growing less effective and more expensive each year, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Online fundraising in the United States has grown rapidly from $250 million in 2000 to an estimated $6.9 billion in 2006, according to the ePhilanthropy Foundation ($13.2 billion globally).

Donors Warm Up To The Web As Giving By Mail Declines

Innovative websites have helped boost the growth of giving globally. Kiva.org, a person-to-person microfinance site, enables individuals to become direct lenders to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world. UniversalGiving.org helps donors engage with projects in countries and causes of their choice- projects that have been carefully vetted for quality. "We don't take any cut in your donation- 100 percent goes to that project," says Pamela Hawley, founder of UniversalGiving.

The Web service has seen tremendous growth: 85 percent from the first quarter of 2006 to 2007, and 101 percent from the first quarter of 2007 to 2008. She attributes such growth to the "gift packets" they've introduced, such as $20 to help provide "a lifetime of clean water" for a family, or a similiar amount for eyeglasses to "save the sight of a child." People can also design their own packets, she adds, like the 10-year-old who is sending soccer balls to youths in Ethiopia. "What seems to be compelling is that we aren't asking for a change in [donors'] lifestyle-- they already give gifts for birthdays or anniversaries. We're just asking them to give something more meaningful," Ms. Hawley says.

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