Recently I came across an interesting article (warning: its subscription based) on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website highlighting an interesting fundraising program at Middlebury College. The school launched MiddSTART, a microphilanthropy initiative aimed at moving the donor/donee relationship beyond a financial transaction and make it more collaborative. The concept of microphilanthropy has been around for some time. The fundraising model is based on smaller and more direct interactions between those who give money and those who receive.
This past fall, USAToday did a feature on how this type of giving is changing the non-profit sector. The article claims that organizations such as Modest Needs, GlobalGiving, and DonorsChoose.org, who focus on microphilanthropy saw exponential growth in charitable giving from 2004-08. One of the reasons for this large growth can be attributed to technology, social media included, and the ease of access to information about the projects donors are contributing towards.
Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, says about microphilanthropy, “There’s a lot of evidence that this generation is used to instant access to information. They want more direct involvement, to be empowered in the process, and to see results more directly.”
MiddSTART, allows alumni, parents and friends to help aid student driven projects at Middlebury College. The way it works is that a completely student organized initiative submits an application through the MiddSTART website. A panel reviews the applications which are judged on their goals, creative and entrepreneurial merits, and level of organization and commitment shown by the student(s). Once a project is accepted a unique page is created with its details, goals, and ways to follow the project. The maximum budget that is allowed for projects is $2,000; however donors can also choose to support a MiddSTART scholarship which is $10,000.
It would be understandably difficult to incorporate microphilanthropy within an athletics annual giving program, especially if the emphasis is on unrestricted donations. However, in speaking with others who work within athletics development we commonly are challenged with having our lower level donors understand how impactful their support really is. So I will ask the question is there a way to emulate the success of a MiddSTART type program for athletics?
There is no one answer to this but it is an interesting topic to think about. Again, integrating the concept of microphilanthropy into athletic giving may prove challenging but there are aspects of it we can utilize. As we strive to find ways to highlight the value of all donor support, this giving model may provide an opportunity to improve the format of our communication and messaging in order to further enforce the impact of all levels of support.