I have recently joined the likes of John D. Rockefeller, Bill Gates, and Bono in the noble pursuit of philanthropy. Just today, I saved 35 square feet of South American rainforest, reduced two pounds of harmful gases from our atmosphere, fed the mouths of several hungry people in third-world countries, funded a free mammogram, and contributed to a book fund for illiterate children.
In all, it cost me about a half hour of my time and not a single penny of my income. And boy do I feel good about myself.
“Click donation” sites take the traditional pay-per-click business model and apply it to the various fields of charity work being done to improve our world. The sites base themselves around one or more legitimate charity organizations, bring in advertisers who seek exposure in a market of conscientious web surfers, and install a simple “charity click” button on their front page to bring them together. When users click on the button, they are presented with a banner ad, and the sponsor donates a set amount of money/food/books/etc. to the charity on the user’s behalf.
The simple and logical formula has proven hugely successful on all fronts. Advertisers have the rare chance to get their message in front of a receptive audience with a newfound trust and appreciation for their brand. Charity organizations have raised staggering amounts of money for their causes on a few of the major click donation sites alone. And best of all—once established, the process repeats itself over and over as users flock back to the site to give and give and give and give.
The original click donation site, HungerSite.com, is still the most trafficked and expansive one of the bunch. Since it launched in 1999 (briefly shutting down after the dot com burst and reopening in 2001), Hunger Site has donated 300 million cups of staple food to needy people in countries such as Bosnia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Honduras, Mozambique, Eritrea and the United States. It works with the charities Mercy Corps and America’s Second Harvest, two trusted and respected organizations, who distribute the food.
Hosting over 3.5 million unique visitors a month, Hunger Site is a great example of the huge potential the click donation model affords enterprising advertisers. Every time a user clicks the donation button, they are taken to a separate page with the sponsor’s banner ad and a solicitation to “Please click every day and thank our sponsors.”
This space is ideal for smaller-name brands looking to reach proactive, issue-conscious consumers with a grassroots approach. When people feel like they’ve collaborated with an advertiser on a worthwhile project, they are much more likely to take their message to heart.
Hunger Site itself operates a network of click donation sites which address different pressing concerns in our world, including Breast Cancer Site, Child Health Site, Literacy Site, Rainforest Site, and Animal Rescue Site. Other popular click donation sites are EcologyFund.com, RedJellyFish.com, FreeDonation.com, and TheEnvironmentSite.org.
Click donation sites are a refreshing reminder that the Internet is still a viable place for fostering wholesome and progressive campaigns. My only criticism of most of these sites is that while people are clicking to support their causes in huge turnouts, I would guess that many are not taking the time to educate themselves about what they are supporting. When it comes to battling such huge enemies as cancer, AIDS, poverty, homelessness, and environmental destruction, a revenue stream is a positive first step, but awareness itself is the most powerful weapon we have.