By Katharine Gammon
Giving to charitable organizations is awesome, but donors are often left wondering how much of their hard-earned cash is actually going to the cause. Donations to the Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy, for example, are much more likely to go toward blood services than to rebuilding storm-torn cities.
HopeMob, a kind of Kickstarter for charitable giving, hopes to change all that. Today they announced a new free-to-use online platform for charitable giving. In the past, donation platforms have skimmed 2 to 15 cents off the top of each transaction. HopeMob will cover the processing costs of any donations, making sure that every dollar donated to a cause actually goes to that cause.
Shaun King, HopeMob's founder, got his start using social media for good when he started a church in downtown Atlanta in 2008. He promised that a local school would get uniforms and toys for students, and he took to Facebook and Twitter to raise the funds. "It's funny looking back on it, but at the time it was a big deal to raise money on Twitter," he muses. "Since then, a small team and I have done several social good web projects. We've raised more than $7 million for projects around the world."
The problem, as King sees it, is that online donation platforms are tilted toward people who are already well-connected or are good story-tellers with social media skills. "If you have a really good social media following, and you're a good writer, you can raise money. But I have seen so many stories with compelling needs from people who lack those skills, and they fall flat on their faces," he says.
HopeMob is trying to bridge the gap between people in need and people who have resources--people that don't often share the same social graph, says King. "People like you and I rarely have people in our iPhone contact lists who are human trafficking victims, or that have hunger problems," he says. The goal of the site is to bring those people to the same table.
King hopes that HopeMob can connect motivated donors with causes that are checked and verified. In one instance, a family needed $5,000 to purchase hearing aids for their daughter (and insurance doesn't typically pay for hearing aids). The donations poured in and HopeMob paid the doctor's office directly for the device. King says that donors increasingly want to know exactly where the funds are going, and that HopeMob is responding to their requests.
Since the site launched in April 2012, HopeMob has successfully completed stories for 28 individuals and families from 15 states and seven countries. The charity says it has more than 500,000 followers on Twitter and 120,000 on Facebook, over 2,000 active volunteers from 46 states and 25 countries on six continents, all of whom are committed to helping and mobbing people with hope.
"We're a charity, so other platforms aren't our competitors," says King."I see disease, dirty water, lack of access to education, and poverty as our competition. We'll try anything we can to get a leg-up on the things that ail people."
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.