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Giving in the Digital World: Responses, and Q&A Session

14 Apr 2010

Following on the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, generous individuals around the world used their mobile phones to make more than $40 million in gifts to aid organisations. More than $1 billion in gifts came in the next four weeks, a large percentage of which was donated online.

But the real stories of how digital technologies are changing philanthropy are not measured in funds given. The real changes have to do with the types of enterprises now producing social goods, the expectations of transparency and accountability, and the growing marketization of philanthropic funding. The most important changes can be seen in the role that data – and the technologies we use to store, sort, sift, and share these data – are playing as the new platforms for change.

By their very nature, data require a different economics framework for philanthropy, one that shifts from scarcity to abundance. The growing role of data also means that global networks, volunteer labour, and new constructs of ownership matter more to philanthropy than ever before. The nature of the digital world not only changes the practices of our existing philanthropy organisations it also requires a reconsideration of relevant policy domains.

While philanthropy is only just beginning to feel the reverberations of the digital changes so familiar to publishing, music recording, and other industries, we can still expect the impact to be significant.