An enduring question in the non-profit sector has been the decision of how anonymous a donation should be. A recent article from the Nonprofit Quarterly frames the question as a public vs. private matter. They ask whether charity is an individual and private decision, or one that relies on community involvement. The philanthropy section of the New York Times introduced the topic, asking about whether public giving is about a name on a plaque or building, or if it is an integral part of building donor relationships? Both of these articles, and other sources, choose to frame their arguments in a Judeo-Christian context, emphasizing the belief that humility in giving is almost as important as the act itself.
However, in my opinion, this approach seems dated, and fails to fully take into account or embrace the themes of social connectivity, and the changing public face of philanthropy. We are in the age of social media, where nothing is truly quiet, and the way people are motivated into action has changed. As social media has changed the way we communicate and keep in touch with our acquaintances, it makes sense that philanthropy would follow the same route.
It seems that whether or not you give anonymously, both choices seem motivated by individual needs than by broader good. Asking for privacy is perceived as avoiding the pressure for further donations, and receiving a special plaque or building seems like a quest for immortality. Alternatively, a donation with a well-known name behind it helps bring publicity to the non-profit, and bring in further donations. While these questions are still being discussed by the major sources of non-profit news, it seems as if the debate will soon be made obsolete by our social media culture. People spread awareness about all sorts of issues and causes, and publicity is no longer about an engraved name, or seen as crass self-promotion.
For those of us who aren’t wealthy enough to earn our name on a park bench, or organizations that don’t rely on large donations, quiet, anonymous gifts may be counterproductive. In fact, 15 to 18 percent of donations are referred from Facebook in an average peer-to-peer campaign. Most of the people who “like” a charity on Facebook do so because they want to publicly display their support for the charity to their friends. In addition, over half of social media users who engaged with a non-profit or cause took further action by donating, volunteering, or continuing to spread the word.
Of course, just as selecting a cause or organization is a personal decision, so is the choice to make your donations public or strictly private. Keep in mind however, that small non-profits especially rely on social media to garner donations, publicize campaigns and build a strong following. When you can publicize what you ate for lunch, why not use social media to share a cause you are passionate about?
Whether or not you make your donations public, small organizations like Jolkona can use just a small contribution. Make a difference and donate to a project today.
Read our previous post about Social Media and Philanthropy.