Too often the discourse in philanthropy today revolves around tax incentives, effectiveness metrics, or the merits of strategic philanthropy over effective altruism. This is limiting the potential of philanthropy to flourish because it is disconnected from the exploration of the natural human impulse to be generous.
That same human impulse—like almost every other dimension of human behavior—is being tested in the virtual realities that increasingly surround us. As our transactions and realities have increasingly shifted online, our brains have had to cope with more information, more distraction, and many more computations than ever before.
It is time to start an alternative line of discourse in philanthropy, one that starts with what makes people generous, and what engrains that impulse in the fabric of our lives. It is the right time to look into this question, as we are in the midst of a long-term shift to a post-materialist society, one that increasingly privileges experiences (virtual goods) over material goods. This is good news for philanthropy, but only if we focus on it with a lens of generosity.
By focusing on understanding generosity in the virtual world, we may be able to create new contexts for generosity that have never existed before. Not only can this lead to a potential breakthrough how much we give but it could well make us happier.
There are now many crowdfunding sites. DonorsChoose.org, GlobalGiving, and Kiva were engaged in crowdfunding before the current trend, and we are all mission-oriented. Public education, international development, and microfinance require long-term commitment before we can see results, so it is critical we avoid the short-term treadmill that relies on acquisition over retention.
Moreover our organizations have collaborated closely for over a decade. We will build upon our existing relationship and work in collaboration with Dr. Michael Norton to explore how can we make generosity a habit.