Giving In The Digital World

Encore: December 22, 2015

In a Manhattan warehouse, volunteers at the charity Baby Buggy sort and package books, clothes and diapers for families in need, particularly this holiday season.

The organization, founded by Jessica Seinfeld, got its start as a local charity in New York City to provide mothers in need with gently used items for babies and kids. But the need, and those willing to donate their gently used items, expands far beyond the metro region, so the organization went national and now serves nearly 20 regions in the country.

Part of that expansion was thanks to Public Good, a website that lets charitable users on one side of the country find lesser-known organizations on the other side of the country.

Public Good Co-Founder Dan Ratner, who worked as the director of technology on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, says the service helps users connect with vetted charities that have the specific qualities they’re looking for.

“Let’s say you want to feed the hungry,” Ratner said. “Is it more important that people get fed? Or is it more important that the people who get fed get nutritious, sustainable and wholesome meals? Or is it more important that the people that are getting the services are getting a whole suite of services including job re-training? And there isn’t a right answer to that. It’s totally a values thing.”

Public Good’s search function gives smaller charities a better chance to reach donors without being overshadowed by big-name nonprofits. Ratner says the organization also rolled out a “Take Action” button that transports social media users directly from a news story to the charities that support that issue.

“Folks were kind of going through the Internet and encountering these causes and encountering this content that made them care about things and the only opportunity they had was to like it or share it and that’s a really hard thing to do when you’re looking at a story which is really tough when you’re looking at something about kids who don’t have what they need or refugees or natural disasters, it’s really hard to click a little thumbs-up button,” he said.

In the U.S., more than $350 billion was donated to philanthropic organizations in 2014, making it the fifth straight year that charitable giving grew. Public Good is meant to build on that momentum and serve donors’ desire for more personal investment in their financial giving.

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