Today we can track nearly everything about ourselves. American Express and Mint.com will tell you how much you’ve spent each month, and where you’ve spent it. Sites like Klout.com and Memolane allow you to monitor your social media activity. And if you’re a video gamer, you’ve long been used to nearly every game tracking your achievements and scores. Heck, even Netflix does a half-way decent job of telling you what you’ve watched.
Yet where are the tracking tools for giving? There aren’t any.
The size of the charitable giving market in the US far exceeds industries like video games or movie rentals. In the US, individuals give well over $200 billion to charity each year, a multiple of what is spent on video games or movies. With so many dollars directed towards charity, it’s amazing that better tracking tools for giving haven’t been built. Why hasn’t this been done? Here are three reasons:
1. Decentralization – Giving is done through many different contexts: cash and checks offline, and donations online through a myriad of websites and portals. Until there is linkage among these methods, it remains difficult to track activity.
2. No greater return – What’s the upside for someone willing to create such a tool? You can’t make money off of other people’s giving unless you can deliver them a markedly better experience.
3. Lack of a common identity – Each time you give through a new site online, you have to register all over again. The philanthropic world hasn’t done a great job of tapping into existing online identifies, like those established through Facebook, Google Accounts, or even Amazon. Utilizing these tools would be a huge first step.