Minho Kim

Arts & Sciences: Economics | PhD


Cohort 2008


Graduated 2014

Partner University:

Yonsei University


Career: Research Fellow | Korea Development Institute | Sejong, South Korea

Scholar Highlights

Innovative Charitable Fundraising

I have 155 Facebook friends. I know most of them in person, but some are connected through this new social networking system that is not yet a decade old. Moreover, an even newer system, Twitter, instantly lets these friends follow whatever I post through my cell phone. Not only individuals but many firms utilize these tools to put themselves in the matrix of a fast-changing global network. Have you seen or can you imagine a charity that actively connects interested people in Facebook and “twitters” its progress of ongoing projects? Interestingly, some charities have started to be actively engaged in these new web tools.

New market spaces where people and resources can be gathered and redistributed are increasingly being opened in this Web 2.0 world, and this means that social networking tools and marketing strategies based on Web 2.0 can be adopted in innovative fundraising efforts.

Charities often have a difficult time finding the donors they need to reach fundraising goals. However, if they can manage to be successful in harnessing a new social networking system, they might save substantial time and money in finding potential donors.

On many occasions people wearing bright colored shirts with big printed letters on them have approached me on the street with open brochures. I am reluctant to talk with those people not only because they are strangers, but because it takes time to figure out whether the charity is legitimate. Moreover, these charities often pursue issues that are not high on my priority for donating. As a result, they are likely to be wasting their effort. These experiences have led me to conclude that charities should strive to achieve efficiency in fundraising and transparency in spending.

Charities often have a difficult time finding the donors they need to reach fundraising goals. However, if they can manage to be successful in harnessing a new social networking system, they might save substantial time and money in finding potential donors.

New technologies can make it relatively easy to achieve these goals. DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization, makes it possible to use new Web tools successfully. Facing a shortage of materials in public schools, the philanthropist Charles Best created a website where individuals can contribute resources to a specific classroom in need. Public school teachers post the projects they would like to do with their students. The estimated cost of doing the project (e.g., buying books or calculators) is also posted. Then individuals can browse through the projects and choose to make a donation starting at $1. Efficiency is achieved since this system directly connects people who share a common interest in improving public education. Feedback is important for encouraging contributors to make another donation, and the system can provide for that as well. Individuals can see photos and even get thank-you letters from the children. And of particular note is the fact that actual costs are reported, allowing people to track how money was spent. As a result, I can easily access how transparent the organization is. This organization funded over 132,900 projects, and most of them were in schools from high-poverty areas. And there are many more such projects I could list.

However, adopting new technologies in fundraising efforts by no means guarantees success. Simply making a charity an online organization does not attract people and resources, especially when today’s web space is inundated with ads and information. Charities must target like-minded people and persuade them why they should be supported. Social networks like Facebook can go a long way to facilitate connections among people. In 1998, former Microsoft executive John Wood traveled to Nepal and saw children who were eager to learn, but had few books to read. He requested some used books by sending out e-mails to his friends, outlining his experience and explaining why he wanted the books. His friends knew John and hence they had a reason for believing that their contribution would reach the students in Nepal. This was the start of the inspiring effort of the philanthropic organization Room to Read, which has built 10,000 libraries and 1,000 schools. The organization has distributed over 7 million books to people in developing countries. Again in this case success comes from maintaining efficiency and transparency. Room to Read strives to keep administrative and fundraising costs below 15 percent of the total fund. It also sends out e-mail reports to donors, making it easy for individuals to look into the details of their operation on the Web. I can set up my own personal fundraising bar on their website and invite friends via e-mail to help me fill up my bar or at least let them know of my interest.

There are many other dimensions to the evolving possibilities for online fundraising. For example, there are new opportunities for securing online payment and setting up interactive websites. There is even a way to review tips on how to proceed at a website run by the organization Network for Good. Once you realize the potentials of new technologies in this newly created market space, you can come up with your own innovative fundraising initiative. But remember, your charity will flourish only when efficiency is maintained through networking with like-minded people. And don’t forget to twitter what you are doing so people can follow up and click to make their donation!

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