Texting and Philanthropy

from Harvard Business Review:

How Texting is Changing Philanthropy

As human beings we are wired for personal connections. We love to feel like we’re making a difference in a specific person’s life. That’s why various campaigns such as child sponsorship and alternative gifts (give a goat, for instance) play up one-to-one connections. The P2P illusion is compelling in this way but it must be genuine. When the illusion is exposed as not creating that link, donors tend to get quite angry. Take for instance the case of Kiva. When it became clear last fall that the P2P connection between lenders and borrowers that Kiva touted was actually much more tenuous and theoretical, Kiva faced a firestorm of criticism. Part of the reason that people were upset is that the connections implied are now plausible. The communications infrastructure around the world has reached a point where beneficiaries of any program could conceivably be text-messaging regular updates on their lives.

Kiva’s misstep is an important sign of things to come for the entire nonprofit industry. The expectation and reality of true P2P connections threatens to dismantle much of philanthropy’s standard operating model …