Another version of philanthropy disruption

1 Jul


The past week has seen Sean Parker in the news talking about “hacking philanthropy”. If you don’t know Mr. Parker he founded Napster which tried to bend the rules around music copyright and he was also an early president at Facebook.

Here’s a clip from the movie “The Social Network” which chronicles the early days at Facebook. Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker.

From what I have been able to glean from Mr. Parker’s thoughts on “hacking philanthropy” it is that there are Silicon Valley elites with millions if not billions sloshing around in their pockets and that they will set a new course for philanthropy as they rise to prominence. Ostensibly they will exert new influence on philanthropy and they call this a “hack”.

I could be a bit jaded but I found nothing new or noteworthy about Mr. Parker’s viewpoint. Included in the interviews with Mr. Parker was the announcement of the Parker Foundation. His foundation is funded to the tune of $600M and for this I salute Mr. Parker.

When asked about what the foundation will do it seems that life science and health are at the forefront of what interests Mr. Parker. Good.

I’m sure that the railroad and oil barons of the early 1900s aimed portions of their wealth at causes that were important to them. Given the health maladies of their time one could argue that Mr. Parker’s just doing the same thing – picking winners from the pool of philanthropic causes that excite them.

So how is this “hacking philanthropy”? To me it’s nothing new.

Here’s something new however, and this is how I would “hack philanthropy”.

1. Hasten the demise of direct mail

The United States Postal Service subsidies and the decades-long use of direct mail has, in my opinion, made nonprofits complacent in their use of technology.

Yes “it (direct mail) still works” but examine that statement. “Still”? The statement implies the coming demise and the 80,000,000 millennials coming of age as full-on givers means “still works” will morph into “what just happened?”.

Moral of this story – federal subsidies for the use of online fundraising tools.

Put technology on par with direct mail. Today.

2. Get the US wireless carriers together to pay for an open and free fundraising platform

The wireless carriers would howl at having to do this and yet their spectrum licenses are an excellent place to place a tax which would support the operation and ongoing development of the platform. When they purchase licenses have a set portion go towards a democratized online giving platform.

Instead, what we have from the carriers today is text-to-give. And, here again, only certain causes can afford or want to do text-to-give and millennials pretty much say “Meh” to text-to-give.

So why can’t the carriers rally behind an alternative? They could but they too are complacent.

I’ve said this to one carrier and their comment was lame and uninformed: “how do we know that this cause just isn’t Susie trying to buy a new house?”

There are bountiful ways to validate causes and do a much better job than what exists out there today in the way of crowdfunding campaigns that never deliver on their promises.

Moral of this story – The wireless carrier group called CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) could champion this effort in the name of democratized mobile fundraising for ALL CAUSES LARGE AND SMALL.

The carriers need to come together and do this. Today.

3. Everyone rally around uniform giving processes, security and ubiquity

Comscore reports that over 77% of the US population has a smartphone. Soon, this percentage will represent saturation-everyone will have one save for a few that really don’t want one for whatever reason.

So ubiquity awaits for frictionless, mobile-optimized giving through smartphones.

And yet, security is a concern as well as the myriad processes a donor must wade through on their “donor journey” as the nonprofit space calls it.

Here, the hack would be to follow the model set forth by the likes of Amazon and Apple – a simple, known, repeatable way to buy or in this case, give.

With Amazon it’s one click. With Apple it’s that they have my credit card on file. Both use a tokenized vault to store credit card information and tokenization (RAZ Mobile has it too) has been referred to as “hack-proof”.

The uniformity of the Amazon and Apple experience means you can buy most anything or any content easily, quickly and securely.

So again imagine a platform that admits any nonprofit and allows any donor to make a gift in seconds using the same giving process over and over again on any screen at any time with nothing to download and no passwords to remember.

Moral of this story – a common platform for all nonprofits with the same simple, fast and secure way to give is preferred to the myriad ways nonprofits receive gifts today

A common platform is true “hacking philanthropy” in my mind and it can be done. Today.

I applaud Mr. Parker for his efforts and his foundation could be home to such a platform as I described here. All of the barriers to doing this are hackable and were some of Mr. Parker’s friends in Silicon Valley ready to engage in this kind of hack it would result in the kind of positive disruptions that are being unleashed by Uber, AirBnB and many others. If by chance Mr. Parker reads this post I can be reached at and we can get started. Today.

Dale Knoop leads a great team working to make RAZ Mobile a powerful platform for any cause engaged in fundraising. Any cause can create a content-rich mobile presence, share it through text messages, social media, QR codes, advertising and more and best of all-quickly and securely process donations from motivated supporters with a minimum of friction. Dale holds multiple patents and applications for patent in the mobile space including advertising, content optimization, geo-targeting, negative QOS and a mnemonic device QR code alternative.

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