Moving Online Philanthropy from GOOD to Better

Marc Manashil
See all of Marc Manashil's blog posts

News of the Jumo/GOOD merger has brought much coverage and commentary about the reasons and potential benefits of the two companies joining forces. For those unfamiliar, GOOD is the publisher of a website and magazine highlighting stories of good in the world while Jumo is a social networking site that enables people to connect with causes and take action.

In his article on techcrunch.com and WashingtonPost.com, Erick Shonfeld suggested that despite its sophisticated platform, Jumo could not drive sufficient visitors because people tend not to actively look for causes to support over the course of their day. Shonfeld suggests that GOOD could help remedy that problem by pulling in prospective givers through its content, which drives 3 million monthly unique visitors to the site according to Jumo Founder, Chris Hughes.

Maybe so. Though I’d add one other dimension of the challenge facing Jumo/GOOD and other online giving platforms. Driving visitors through engaging content is an important first step, but then what?  Content on GOOD may lead potential givers to the platform, but will it keep them there? And even more importantly, will it lead them to give their time and resources at the scale that such sites promise?

Online platforms can be great be conduits for informed philanthropic choices, but they must also be catalysts that inspire, engage and sustain action for good. After enticing potentially generous people through like-minded content, such sites must go one important step further by helping visitors move beyond information consumption to the activity of effective giving.

The success of any giving platform must be measured by the extent to which its ultimate purpose is being achieved. A site’s impact cannot be viewed only in terms of its number of unique monthly visitors or how many people like it. Prospective givers will need to eventually move from liking to engaging personally with the causes they care about. And that engagement must encompass action -- more dollars flowing and more hours volunteered to advance the social good.

As I write one of my first posts on this new blog, I bring a background that is primarily rooted in in-person philanthropy. I’m a relative newbie to online giving vehicles, though I’ve been observing this space for a long time. So I by no means have all the answers! What I can speak to is the power of communities or “small groups” to change the world, paraphrasing the famous Margaret Mead quote. As a facilitator of giving circles at The Clarence Foundation, I witnessed donors pooling together their time and resources, engaging with the issues, collaborating and debating the impact of their philanthropic choices. And although distinctions should be made between the online and offline arenas, I’d argue that the need for personal connection and engagement is equally important in both.

Vehicles like Jumo are no doubt going to play an increasingly important role in the future of giving. However, for such platforms to maximize ROI, they’ll need more than increased traffic, but a commitment to community engagement that ultimately moves online philanthropy from GOOD to better.

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts about the Jumo/GOOD merger? Let me know what you think here or connect via Twitter @MarcManashil. And stay tuned for more thoughts on philanthropy, community engagement, tech and impact in future blog posts.