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DIGITAL GIVING by Richard C. McPherson

DIGITAL GIVING

How Technology Is Changing Charity

By Richard C. McPherson

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-595-44255-3

Technology is transforming philanthropy.

Nonprofit charities receive billions of dollars in cash and in-kind donations every year, but the Internet is fundamentally altering giving patterns as well as their rationales. It is also generating vast new opportunities for doing social good. Assuming readers are unfamiliar with the current capabilities of the Internet and the universe of global philanthropy, McPherson, taking the form of a quizzical and probing interviewer, offers his slim, economical volume as a primer to both subjects. Short, insightful quotes from successful entrepreneurs and other agents of change fill its pages. In particular, his focus on the positive aspects of the blogosphere–what he calls “Web 2.0”–underscores his assertion that “the democratizing of philanthropy” means anyone with a pet cause can now actively promote it. Explanations of buzz words and phrases are helpful, from RSS feeds to search-engine optimization; the discussion of Google’s controversial Adwords service–how it’s revolutionizing the way ordinary citizens, grant-givers and corporate chieftains choose charitable beneficiaries–is well done. Other philanthropic terms, such as “microlending” and “social networking,” are similarly explored and often demystified. But the most salient elements here are those that put new kinds of Web-based charitable efforts under the microscope, revealing many unique business models and emphasizing the Internet’s global reach, giving readers a hint that self-empowerment–one person with a computer and a Web page–really can make a difference, and that many are already doing it. The potential of sophisticated phone technology to innovate giving is also considered in-depth and not only through text-messaging. McPherson’s example of a service allowing customers worldwide to record prayers for broadcasting at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall illustrates his overall thesis with great effectiveness. It is more compelling than his occasional lapses into folksy writing and optimistic, futuristic nostrums.

A smart introduction to philanthropy in the digital age.