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why is funding good stuff so hard?

Just reading about Alive in Baghdad’s funding woes (a project of Small World News). They are a news video service, that gets close to issues no one one in big media cares about: for instance, how car bombs actually affect Iraqi families and individuals.

So why is it so hard to get funding for good projects? We’re having a similar problem with the Atwater Digital Literacy Project.

There are a number of micro-pay philanthropy sites now, and alive in baghdad, for instance has paypal subscription buttons … to try to get people like you and me to support them.

But it’s not really taking.

What could we do to make this easier for those of us who want to pay, and those in need of financial support?

I’ve often though about something like my Internet Support Bank Account – with an easy button. So I put in, say, $250 at the beginning of the year to my “micropay account”, and as I surf the web, finding projects I like, I drop, $5, 10, 25 or whatever to the cause. Until I run out of money.

In order to make this work there would have to be some kind of standardized payment system – that could work for instance on different platforms. I guess paypal works something like that – but I want something more dedicated to this idea, less corporate.

Probably there has to be some fun component too? I’m not sure.

I pay a couple of bucks a day for coffee, and i’ll buy a pint of beer without thinking twice. Why so hard to support projects I care about I wonder?

[tipped off by twitter Julien]


  1. Hugh Hugh 2007-10-01

    well there are a number of neat web intiatives, that’s one,, and to name a couple.

    but still it’s just not… easy? current? obvious? widespread? … enough. it’s still really an ad-hoc, aside kind of thing.

    would be nice to see it better integrated into (my) online life.

  2. mtl3p mtl3p 2007-10-01

    or, people doing internet work might have to learn fundraising skills just like everyone else. Womens’ shelters, non-digital literacy skills, etc – they all need to be able to argue their relevance to funders and to attract people with money to commit to their project. Plus ca change … At least that’s what I’m figuring on and working towards.

  3. mtl3p mtl3p 2007-10-01

    actually – but yes I agree that it is hard for non-traditional public interest projects to get funding from existing channels. I think it just takes hammering away.

  4. Hugh Hugh 2007-10-01

    my point is not so much that it’s *harder* for digital projects to get funding from traditional sources (individuals, foundations, govt & the like), tho maybe it is, i don’t know. fundraising of any stripe is a painful pain in the ass.

    rather, i’m saying that “we” should be building more/better tools to make it easier to get (and maybe more importantly give) funding. the net is built in large part to move data – writing, images, audio, video – around. we’ve spent lots of time and effort making easy tools to do that for many things (eg. wordpress, flickr, itunes, youtube).

    it’s also good at moving money around (ebay, amazon, itunes, etc).

    but it seems the tools/ideas are not around, or visible, or fun enough to move philanthropic money around well. or maybe it’s cultural. maybe peolpe don’t want to give funding to such projects, I don’t know.

    I do know, there is no lack of money in the world, it’s just not circulated very well or widely.

    maybe I am naive, but i think part of the problem might be (just a theory) that the tools are not easy/fun enough, not well enough integrated into daily online life.

    maybe i’m wrong.

  5. heri heri 2007-10-01

    the biggest problem on “micropay” or “microdonations” are the transaction costs.

    iTunes music store go past this hurdle by regrouping transactions for their customers so that they don’t get killed by credit card companies.

    another problem is the mental barrier associated to a transaction, and this is why all micropayments startups failed 5 years ago. startups realized that people in general always go through the justification process when buying something (“is this product/service worth it?”); people are willing to go through it for purchases > 20$ but didn’t bother for stuff like 5$ or less.

    hopefully, there are new technologies that can overcome like this, the most notable being Amazon Flexible Payments, which allows the creation of third party services you just described. If i was in the US, i’d definetely create something (it requires a US bank account to operate)

  6. Hugh Hugh 2007-10-01

    HR: “the biggest problem on “micropay” or “microdonations” are the transaction costs. iTunes music store go past this hurdle by regrouping transactions for their customers so that they don’t get killed by credit card companies.”

    HM: Right, so having a service designed for philanthropy, where you deposit, say, $250, the service takes a flat fee, then all micropays are allowed would overcome this in the same way that itunes does. tho in the case of itunes, the real way they overcome it is that they are taking a big cut of each sale – but i see what you mean re: credit card cos.

    HR: “people are willing to go through it for purchases > 20$ but didn’t bother for stuff like 5$ or less.”

    HM: i think part of this has to do with the technologies and culture. 5 years ago, you could have said, people don’t write on the web because it’s too difficult to learn HTML. wordpress, blogger, moveabletype changed that. so, could the blockage here be changed by the right mix of tools and approach?

    HR: “Amazon Flexible Payments,”…

    HM: cool, will check em out.

  7. mir mir 2007-10-05

    I think to a large extent it has to do with how easy it is to translate a need into simple words.

    Some needs are simple, (not to sound crass but) homelessness, war-children. It is not any challenge to understand the pressing need for people to support these causes.

    Something like a tech literacy project is seen as more of a frill, so then the language of “helping” has to struggle to find a vocabulary to make it seem like a “cause” that people can believe in – rather than what it is, IMHO: a necessary skill-set that gets neglected through traditional education practice to the detriment of peoples quality of life.

    So then the ’cause’ borrows the language of economic determinism, and says learning to be creative and techy will get you work – I mean that’s not my underlying reason for thinking a project like DLP should get funding, but it works.

    It is not simple to explain why digital literacy is worth support, nor to find the ‘sectors” in which that support can be found. I think that’s the main problem.

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