Click and Go: This Startup Wants to Make #Donate the Future of Online Fundraising

These days, people of all ages spend at least a part of their day on social media. That’s doubly the case for us younger folks. For better or worse, social media has become the way many of us find out what’s going on. It’s also one way we connect with the things we care about, like politics (seen Facebook lately?), friends and family, and causes we’re interested in.

That last one, causes, is the focus of Goodworld, a tech startup at the forefront of “hashtag donations.” Forget all those cumbersome donor signup pages and lengthy forms: With a Goodworld account, simply type #donate in the comments field of a charity’s post and confirm an amount. The donation process goes through automatically from there. There’s no need to leave your social feed. 

According to founder Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, ease of use is Goodworld’s main calling card. Citing a younger donor demographic, Pfeifer says navigating away from a newsfeed and through a complicated giving page can cut deeply into the potential of online fundraising. Situating the entire act of donation in a single social media framework makes it easier for donors to give—and charities to receive. 

Most of the hype around online giving centers on crowdfunding, for good reason. With crowdfunded campaigns reaching record levels last year, and the advent of crowdfunding-friendly events like #GivingTuesday, companies like Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and the rest have been on the upswing.

Goodworld is part of the same tech-enabled crowd, but it takes a different approach.

Pfeifer’s mission is to “revolutionize” charity for a new generation, to make charity go viral. In this, Goodworld mirrors its peers in the crowdfunding arena. But unlike them, Goodworld matches the way its target demographic finds donation opportunities (via social media) directly with the nonprofits that actually need the money. The platform is already enabled on Facebook and Twitter, and Pfeifer says testing for Instagram is underway. On the back end, Goodworld builds a donor database and provides nonprofits with analytic data: a service-sector parallel to the ad data that social media giants depend upon. 

As one might expect, Goodworld markets itself to millennials, an age group many charities have found difficult to engage. A full 65 percent of donors through Goodworld are first-time givers, while the average donation size hovers between $28 and $30. These are far from major gifts, but en masse, they can add up. Of course, good storytelling and viral potential are the secret sauce for success.  

As we’ve seen with crowdfunding, stories that make a splash on the national news cycle drive online giving and engage more young donors. Last year’s Orlando tragedy was a prime example, as was the giving spike to the ACLU and other civil liberties outfits following the Trump administration’s immigration ban. But on social media, the news cycle isn’t the only determining factor. Social media niches like the environment, animal rescue, humanitarian aid, celebrity endorsements, and even online raffles can be excellent places to leverage tools like #donate. 

The danger here is that less flashy causes, like affordable housing or financial services for low-income communities, simply don't have the same potential on social media. It’s not impossible to envision engaging storytelling around those issues, but it’s much more difficult than getting funding for dogs in need of homes. 

At the same time, funders and nonprofits accustomed to old-school fundraising methods shouldn’t turn away. Younger donors giving $30 today may be the ones giving $30,000 a couple decades from now. As Pfeifer puts it, social media fundraising involves learning a new rhythm: Direct mail campaigns have one rhythm, and social giving has another. Facebook and Twitter have become heated ideological battlegrounds, and organizations that can channel those emotions into action will reap rewards.