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Are on line 'philanthropy markets' the future?

There has been a fair amount of hype in recent years about how websites like GlobalGiving.com are revolutionising philanthropy. The reality is the volume of donations being attracted by these ‘philanthropy marketplaces’ is tiny compared with the volume of giving overall. GlobalGiving – one of the leading sites – attracted around $4m in 2006-7 financial year. Small beer. So can mainstream NGO fundraisers safely ignore them?
‘Philanthropy market places’ are just one of a number of so called ‘intermediaries’ which have been springing up – principally in the US and UK – to faciliate international giving. Other types of intermediaries include research organisations, rating agencies and advice givers such as New Philanthropy Capital. NPC published a report in March this year called Philanthropists Without Border which provides a useful overview of what is happening in this arena. You can download a copy of the report for free from http://www.philanthropycapital.org/research/research_reports/international/philanthropists_without_borders.aspx
The report states that ‘there appears to be an untapped desire to give more to overseas charities. Over 70% of the 122 donors NPC surveyed…said they would be interested in research and advice on charities in developing countries.’ The biggest challenge seems to be that people don’t know where to go for ./guidance – the ‘gap in the market’ the new breed of intermediaries is trying to fill.
The good news for mainstream charities is that most donors haven’t heard of any of these inermediaries. Better still a study carried out by Bank of America in the US found NGOs to be donors first source of advice – 41% of respondents.
The number of intermediaries is growing, however, and so is the scale of their activity. International NGOs would do well to watch this sector and try to copy some of the techniques and services being provided. Some of course are already doing so. Oxfam’s Projects Direct is an interesting example of how the idea a ‘philanthropy marketplace’ can be implemented by an NGO.