Average American Gives 3.1% of Income to Charity. Three Product Ideas To Help Me Be More Charitable.

So the average American gives 3.1% of their pre-tax income to charity annually. Thinking about my own giving over the past decade, there have been several times at or above this percentage, but more often under (largely based on not sufficiently increasing giving during windfall years). There are three products which, if they existed, could help me in being more charitable:

1. “Tripit for Charities”

Nearly all my giving occurs online and is thus accompanied by an email receipt which I save for tax purposes (usually by printing out and throwing in a pile until next year’s tax season). I’d like the ability to forward these receipts to a product which aggregates and tracks my giving so that I can more easily take my deductions but also be reminded of organizations I’ve given in the past, what I gave and how to give in the future. All the email receipts include the tax ID number of the charity so the data here is readily available for parsing. This product can also give me relevant alerts and summaries about activities from the charities I support, since I don’t find their individual mailings to be very effective (nor is following a charity on social media the best way for me to stay connected).

2. Small Group Subscription Giving

I like to give. I like my friends. I like learning. Combine the three and you could do something where a group of friends sign up to commit $100/mth to charitable giving. Selection of the charity each month could take place from a small list of vetted charities all with the same theme (eg “Environment”) or where the service selects a charity from the interests the group has pre-selected. If 10 friends commit, it feels like you’re making a meaningful contribution each month ($1000) and getting educated about an organization that you might not have known about. All the while creating more positive interactions with the people you care about. I *think* something like this must already exist but have had trouble finding one.

3. Matching Dollars

Matching dollars can be a strong incentive to give. When I was at Google their generous corporate matching program definitely caused me to give more – I wanted to “max out” the match allocation each year. Why can’t there be a version of this which isn’t aligned with one’s employer? Here’s how I imagine it would work:

  • Large donor or company pledges $10,000 to a charity in form of matching grant (let’s say the organization will receive the money regardless of whether full match is used or not).
  • When I, as a small donor, visits the charity’s website to make a donation I see that if I can hit a certain level of pledge – say $100 – then the corporate donor will “match” it from their original donation. If I was arriving at the site originally planning to donate $50, I can certainly imagine the corporate match causing me to increase my contribution.

Basically, trying to use various repositioning of how corporate donations are used to help get addition dollars from smaller givers. I’m sure the best behavioral economics could do a redesign of charitable giving checkout flows that would be quite effective!