A JHU Prof on Why Online Fundraising Fails

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Thanks to the various, proliferating apps and social media platforms out there, giving money to a worthy cause is as easy as clicking a button. But do you know what’s even easier than that? Pledging a donation and then never even following through.

Such “social slactivism” is more common than you might like to think, according to recent research out of Johns Hopkins. Carey Business School assistant professor Angelo Mele and his colleagues looked at thousands of pledges made on one online site, which funnels donations to organizations like the Red Cross and Homes for Our Troops. He found that 64 percent of pledged donations were fulfilled in full, while 13 percent were only partially filled. And 16 percent were just simply… deleted.

The researchers also conducted another experiment in online giving, creating a sample fundraising campaign for Heifer International. While the campaign reached 6.4 million Facebook users and racked up tons of likes and shares, it only translated into 30 actual donations.

One explanation for this shoddy follow-through may be that people feel the payoff for making a public pledge– and then once they’ve already gotten all the warm fuzzies and Facebook accolades, they don’t feel any real need to, you know, actually donate money.

“In spite of all the hype, it’s actually quite hard for lesser-known charities to raise funds online,” said co-author Mario Macis, also of the Carey Business School. “What our findings indicate is that many people may regard online social networks as basically free platforms for personal exchange and much less as vehicles for an activity that comes at some cost to them, whether that cost is of money or time. In more traditional forms of activism, participants make a tangible contribution. Online platforms, in contrast, provide opportunities for activism that may consist of nearly costless actions.”



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