Technology and Philanthropy

Guest Blogger: Josh Swallow is an undergrad student at Texas A&M. He is currently in his final year and exploring opportunities in the non-profit sector for his career.  This summer he spent time working at Dexterity, meeting with charities, donors and social entrpereneurs.

I think it is safe to say that technology has had a huge part in my life since the day that I was born. So many aspects of my life have been made “easier” because of it. For example, paying my bills at university is one of the simplest things in the world now (aside from having to let go of them sweet, sweet, dollar bills y’all) that takes a few minutes of my time whereas it used to be somewhat of an ordeal. This is a simple example but the same concept can be applied to charitable giving. So how has technology affected the charitable sector?

To start things off, let’s take a look at just how prevalent online payment services such as PayPal are. Back in 2015, close to 5 billion payments were processed through PayPal with 28% of them being completed on a mobile device (PayPal. "Who We Are"). If this doesn’t illustrate how easy transactions have become thanks to technology then I don’t know what will.

I am personally more likely to do something if it is relatively easy and my charitable giving through platforms such as Kiva or Humble Bundle illustrates this. Since 1975, charitable giving in the world has seen a steady increase starting around $75 billion in 1975 and reaching a whopping $737 billion in 2015 (National Philanthropic Trust, "Charitable Giving Statistics"). The steepest part of the curve comes after 1990 which was when the first major internet providers first hit the scene and when the technology boom arguably first started. Thus, I think it’s safe to say that charitable giving and the evolution of technology are tied together and will continue to stay that way.

Now let’s take a look at another innovation that has come about in the charitable sector due to technology.

Crowdfunding has become an incredibly popular way for companies to get started. Crowdfunding giants include,,, and etc. Kickstarter alone has received almost $2.5 billion for projects which have ranged from movies to products to social enterprises (Kickstarter, "Stats"). One such social enterprise that received 618% of its funding goal on Kickstarter was Krochet Kids Peru, Limited Edition Hat Collection. The project seeks to work with women in a number of third world countries who make the crochet hats that are then sold in other countries (Kickstarter, "About this project"). There have been a lot of other social projects such as this that have been funded through crowdfunding sites and it stands to reason that such projects will only increase as time goes on.

I know that I only gave a few examples regarding the effect that technology has had on the charitable sector as a whole but hopefully these examples illustrated how important the relationship between technology and the charitable sector is. It will be very interesting to watch this relationship continue to grow into the future and hopefully lead to more good being accomplished as well.