2008's big buzzword in giving: Micro

Lucy Bernholz

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal:
While universities and other non-profits are trying to make smart choices about their spending there are other trends afoot designed to keep donations flowing.
We're going to talk about some of those with philanthropy consultant Lucy Bernholz.
She's here with the top charity-related buzzwords of 2008.
Lucy, good to talk to you.

Lucy Bernholz: Hello Kai.

Ryssdal: Alright so first things first, I guess small is really big this year right?

Bernholz: That's right if you want to take an idea global, the thing to do is chop it up into little bits. Micro is our first philanthropy buzzword of the year.

Ryssdal: What does it mean though?

Bernholz: Well, it means take something small. Take a big idea and make it small. So, we've got microconsignment, microfranchising, microendowments, microgiving, microphilanthropy. Big ideas made small.

Ryssdal: Use it in a practical application. How might it work?

Bernholz: So, a microconsignment program, such as that which is run by Living Goods in Uganda, helps individual women become entrepreneurs, self-sustaining entrepreneurs by selling single light bulbs, or cook stoves, or band aids, or other health products door-to-door. The women provide a much-needed service to their community in Uganda, which can only afford, individual members of which can only afford to buy things in very, very small amounts and the individual entrepreneurs gets a sustainable income.

Ryssdal: Alright let's keep with the "M" words here, mobile giving is next?

Bernholz: Well, that's going to take the small and make it even easier to use. So now, since everybody seems to have a cell phone, why not let them give from their cell phone? You no longer even have to find your spare change to give to the Salvation Army, nor do you need to find a credit card. Just text the keyword to the right SMS number, and your $5 donation goes right to your cell phone bill and Salvation Army, or whoever it is that you want to support, gets the gift.

Ryssdal: How well does that work though in terms of people actually following through on that, actually doing the mobile giving?

Bernholz: Well, you know, it's a brand new thing. It's just taken off this year. It was launched at the 2008 Super Bowl with the campaign from United Way and they're raising some money. So, you know, it takes takes a lot of little gifts to make a big impact but everything we're seeing this year are ways to make those little gifts a lot easier.

Ryssdal: Alright, buzzword number three please?

Bernholz: Buzzword number three: Good gifting. So, I'm sure you're familiar with the regifting concept right?

Ryssdal: Yes, not that I've ever done it but yeah sure.

Bernholz: No, no I wouldn't think so. But good gifting is the feel-good equivalent of regifting. So, especially in these tough economic times, people are looking for a way to act on their charitable impulses, but also, you know, pay attention to Aunt Martha or whoever it is that they want to recognize at the holidays. So, they're either making a gift to their favorite charity in her name, or even more 2008, they're using a charitable gift card, giving it to Aunt Martha, and she makes the gift to the charity of her choice.

Ryssdal: I don't want to get all cynical on you here Lucy, but it seems to me that a lot of these mechanism that you've described to us, are in and of themselves business opportunites. Some smart entrepreneur can come up with some new way to do this, some new technology or some new methodology, and actually make a little money at it.

Bernholz: I just found out that you can now put your favorite charities on your Amazon wish list. So that when I share my wish list with you, you don't have to just give me a book, you can actually give to my charity and I can assure you that there's a transaction fee behind that that's paying for the costs of Amazon managing that. So, yeah, there's lots of opportunities to make a penny here and there and those pennies add up both for the charities and for the entrepreneurial folks with the technology backgrounds.

Ryssdal: See I knew it. Lucy Bernholz is the president of Blueprint Research and Design, that's a consulting firm for philanthropic institutions, individuals too. Lucy, thanks a lot.

Bernholz: Thank you, Kai. Happy Holidays.

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