Gen Z are becoming the driving forces for change on climate action. Forms like apps are showing an easier way to connect with grassroot climate organizations
The modernization of charitable giving structures
Changes have affected most sectors with the online boom during the pandemic. Some, like fashion, have resorted to trying out new business models that revolve around digital garments and special collections inviting thinking about the future of a world that is more aware of its impact on the planet. With charitable giving, the typical model involves selecting a well-known charity like WaterAid or WWF and giving the consumers funds over to the charity. This process is usually clouded over as to the application of individual funds, with most people happy to donate without following the money trail through all the way to the people making the change in their local environments. In a changing world where consumers want to be shown and involved in different processes, giving to charities is also changing, with a model that involves both those on the ground and the consumers, bringing them closer to understanding the work they are contributing to. According to a Sparks & Honey report, individuals contributed over $424 billion to charities in 2018, comprising almost two thirds of giving. This means that the greatest power to change charitable giving lies with the consumer and how they engage with those organizations.
Uncovering the charitable giving sector process through transparency
The issues with changes to the charitable giving sector are that they can be quite slow in adapting to the modern ways of addressing problems. With surgery donations getting crowdfunded through hyper-local petitions, grassroot funding and celebrities supporting their fans by donating to them directly or paying for college funds, the way that those in need are supported aims to bypass systems that make it difficult to access the funds they need. This can mean that those affected could be waiting for money for months, if not years. According to the Washington Post, there has been a 225% increase in giving circles and hyper-local groups of people pooling resources for giving from 2006 to 2017. The same applies to helping those communities that affect real change through action on the ground, most of all when it comes to tackling climate change, conservation and saving oceans. According to ClimateWorks Global Intelligence, a company that provides insights for those funding climate solutions, less than two percent of global philanthropic giving is dedicated to climate change mitigation. Companies like Milkywire aim to tackle the issue of connection between those working on the ground and those supporting them using technology and social media like content reporting. Their founder, Nina Siemiatkowski said, «This applies to both private individuals and companies – when we see the impact that we’re having and we understand where our money goes, you feel a greater connection, thanks to that transparency and traceability». In addition, they involve brands that younger generations relate to through their values like Pangaia – a climate-focused brand looking into new technologies to avoid negative climate impact – to promote their mission with those who are most social media literate: Gen Z. They also offer several different ways to integrate charitable giving, from gift options to charity pages and corporate employee engagement programs. According to reports by Gen Z think tank Irregular Labs, sixty-three percent of Gen Z turn first to social media channels for social and political issues and sixty-two percent say brands should help connect them to resources that will help their social/political goals. Gen Z are more engaged, more critical of companies and greenwashing and more directed by how the values of the brands they buy align with their beliefs. This makes them a perfect group for ushering a new way of helping the environment through an online presence.
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Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have made it easy to connect with people working on causes around the world like bee conservation and plastic pollution clearance, showing their lives and how they are helping improve the world. Users can see them live, ask questions, and get involved in the process. Companies like Milkywire go one step further, auditing and pre-selecting the organizations they work with based on set criteria, also ensuring alignment with the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The seventeen goals, focusing on key topics like responsible consumption, clean water and no poverty have clear targets across each category that focus on actionable steps. As charitable giving supports these goals, companies like Milkywire work on four specific ones (Clean water and sanitation, Climate action, Life below water, and Life on land) that they commit to across all their pre-selection. They also work with capacity building where these small charities working in these areas need help, through marketing and providing a source of continuous funding for planet saving projects. Marketing those on the ground as ‘impacters’ allows them to become influencers, showing their passion and knowledge about the projects that they are dedicating their lives to with their community that supports them through donations. The model makes it simple to connect and draws on the personal experience the founder had when supporting lion conservation projects across east Africa while working on the photography exhibition ‘Book of Leon’. This aspect of small, yet consistent change shows that regular engagement with the charities brings in a desire to continue supporting them, instead of donating just once.
How technology could be used further to enhance the process
Auditing, careful pre-selection, and a focus on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development are ways that organizations like Milkywire can build trust with their consumers that are used to greenwashing and company promises that don’t deliver on sustainable action. This new model of charitable giving showcases a future where values drive change through conscious consumerism. Other technologies can also be used to enhance this model in the future like blockchain, allowing for full tracking of the donations in a closed, permanent system. While Milkywire has not used blockchain to develop their system, they are focusing on bringing out new features that show the donors exactly how the money is used by the impacters, bridging a substantial gap in the fostering of trust between the two. This relationship can form the basis of an understanding that shows the inter-relatedness of those across the globe.
The platform was founded by Nina Siemiatkowski and is based in Sweden, aiming to re-design the charitable giving system, focusing on empowering those on the ground working for grassroots nonprofit organizations through access to technology and social media like reporting. 80% of the donations go directly to the organizations, with ten percent being used to help the ‘impacters’ with storytelling, marketing, compliance and other capacity building, with the other ten percent being used to sustain the platform and transaction costs.