Making charitable giving more accessible and participatory

If it's already better to give than to receive, technology has made giving even better by making donating to charity more accessible and participatory.

Or, as Bill and Melinda Gates put it last week, "easier and more fun." The combination is especially attractive to seasonal or infrequent donors, such as the many now catching the holiday spirit, gifting for an altruistic friend or seeking to increase their tax deductions.

With this audience in mind, the Gateses blogged five ways to give online they believe are innovative and well-run. Topping their list was a crowdfunding site — which their organization seed funded — developed by Catsonville-based Mindgrub Technologies.

Beta launched last month, links donors with projects around the world intended to support gender equality. Listing how organizers plan to spend the money they're requesting and empowering curators and teams to surface worthy projects are among the site's noteworthy features., where teachers across the U.S., including in Maryland, raise money for classroom projects and supplies, and charity:water, a nonprofit for safe drinking water, were other picks by the Gateses.

There are plenty of other resources, including for supporters who still prefer to make their actual donations offline.

Besides convenience, exemplified by simple but powerful text message donations, perhaps the strongest appeal of digital giving is agency. Being able to target donations to specific communities and projects can make donors feel more connected and more influential than they might when supporting broader campaigns.

Some efforts even give back to givers, or let them give indirectly. Applying the daily deals model to crowdfunding, Baltimore-based GiveCorps offers discounts from local businesses to entice visitors and email subscribers to donate. Using online games like solitaire and mini-golf to engage consumers in brands' charitable giving, GamesThatGive lets users pick an organization from a list of charities to receive a small sum for every minute they play.

Even those who donate offline or with their time can benefit from charity rating services like Charity Navigator and GiveWell, which prospective supporters can use to evaluate whether organizations are using resources wisely, or at least using them how they say they are.

Do you have a favorite online giving resource? Or do you prefer other ways of giving back?

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