How digitization is turning the donation market upside down

Because of digitization, the flow of money no longer benefits only large relief organizations and institutions, but also small social projects, local sports clubs or individuals who have suffered a heavy stroke of fate and need support.

Jeannette Gusko, Senior Regional Manager of German-speaking countries at GoFundMe, spoke with LEAD about how the donation market will change over the next few years. GoFundMe is currently the largest online donation platform in the world – in the fall of last year, the portal also launched in Germany. Gusko was there from the beginning and draws a positive balance.

“In Germany there was already a strong culture of donations”

The ability to donate digitally seems to be well received: According to Gusko, in the past nine months German donors have collected as much as in the previous two years. There are thousands of campaigns and tens of thousands of donors. The biggest categories are emergency relief, charity and medical campaigns. Worldwide, GoFundMe has so far raised five billion dollars (around 4.4 billion euros).

In Germany, the donation flows are distributed relatively evenly across all federal states. According to Gusko, campaign starters and donors are from both urban and rural regions. “In Germany there was already a strong culture of donations and many people volunteer. At the same time, understanding of social networks is growing and information about disasters is rapidly gaining ground. ”


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Thus, after the deadly earthquake in Indonesia at the end of September 2018, a series of donation campaigns were started immediately. Germans living in Indonesia or having a close relationship to the region of misfortune called for donations and asked for help.

Here are some examples: A young woman from Lower Saxony, who now lives in Indonesia, asks for donations for aid organizations that support local victims.

And students and scientists of the University of Göttingen, who know affected families through joint research projects with the Tadulako University in Palu, could collect more than 16,000 euros.

Will people donate more in the future?

These examples also show that the donation market has changed. Individuals come more and more to the fore. Instead of providing an abstract background for disaster relief, the money goes increasingly to private individuals and concrete projects.

These ask friends, family and colleagues for donations or to share their campaign on the social networks, where they pull in the best case ever larger circles. People learn through social media about projects and regions that they did not know before. “It develops a sense of solidarity and it does not feel like a donation any more, but more like a little help for a friend,” says Gusko. It also predicts that people will donate more in the future.

A vivid example of this is the most successful campaign in Germany so far – “Save my little brother Elias”. About them could be collected more than 155,000 euros. Background: The 28-year-old student Elias, who had a serious accident while on holiday in Thailand, urgently needed expensive treatments and a patient transport to Germany, but had no foreign insurance. The Frankfurters in particular – together with hip-hop greats such as Kool Savas or the arrest warrant – helped Elias. With the money, the 28-year-old could be treated and returned to Germany.

Elias ‘family kept the donors up to date on updates, thanked them for their support, described in detail Elias’ dire situation and showed pictures of the seriously injured student. The community was able to participate in Elias’ recovery process. In addition, the campaign starters released the bills of the hospital and trusted that the money was spent in the same way.

The media picked up on the story – as happens more often when the campaigns point to a social problem. These include, for example, the case of Marlies Krämer, who collects money in order to take legal action against the savings bank, because she wants to be called a customer.

The campaign of the cartoonist Tobias Vogel after the extreme right-wing incidents in Chemnitz was also very successful. With his action “Pride chain against Nazis” he scored more than 18,000 euros for the Saxon Refugee Council.

An app for the donor network

“Trust is very important when donating,” explains Gusko. “Of course people want to know what happens to their money, they want transparency. Many campaign starters therefore point out where the money they have been getting goes. “In addition, GoFundMe has developed a system to ensure that the money is used only for the purpose for which it was collected. Otherwise, GoFundMe’s donors would get their money back.

The online platform is now seen as a network: There is an app that will help campaign starters in managing, but also informed donors about updates. If you like, you can comment on donations and give hearts. And if an action earns more than estimated, campaign starters can call for a vote on how to spend the excess. In addition, a team recently to support the campaign starters to launch the most successful call.

Online donation platforms such as GoFundMe or Leetchi, Betterplace, HelpDirect, Kickstarter and offer new ways to interact and give donors the feeling that they have more control over the donation process. There is a so-called democratization of the donation market. Institutions are becoming more and more obsolete, while individuals are more active than main actors.

But they often collect money for a relief organization – just like Tobias Vogel for helping refugees. “Many are looking for donations rather than a birthday present or getting together with friends to raise money for a specific charity out of a heart’s desire,” says Gusko.

Many things that were not possible in the past could be the object of a donation campaign through the online platforms: “Now, areas such as sports promotion, which are more often under the radar of the traditional donations market, are coming to the fore,” explains Gusko. “This makes the commitment more concrete and tangible. Donations are becoming more and more a part of everyday life. ”

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