According to the website, GreaterGood.com
takes 25% of the revenue to offset operating costs. The rest goes to Second Harvest
and the Mercy Corps
. Second Harvest distributes food in the United States. Mercy Corps is an international organization. The legitimacy of the Mercy Corps aside, there is something unsettling to me about The Hunger Site.
The fact that it has been forwarded in e-mail so many times, that it has shown up on every blog imaginable, has become a fad in Finland (according to the above writeup), leads me to believe it is actually detrimental to donation as a whole. All it requires is a mouseclick. It takes so very little to do so very little, but it makes you feel so good. While it can be argued that the return on donations do not have to be proportional to the investment, there are other implications.
Although making donating easier sounds like it would encourage more donations, it is different from making donating trivial. That is what The Hunger Site is doing. You do not (directly) invest any money. It takes almost no effort to help.
Secondly, there is a detachment from the cause. When Sally Struthers begs you to feed the children, you can see the starving children. You can empathise. When you drop a quarter into the beggar's hat, he or she thanks you. There is interaction between the donor and the receipient.
These two things can lead to an apathy towards donation as a whole. By detaching the donor and making the donation trivial, the donor gets an artificial sense of satisfaction, creating a bubble around him or her. It is a comforting sphere, but separates the donor from the reality. In effect, it creates less incentive to donate to other causes.
The Hunger Site operates on an aggregate basis. The hope is that while each individual makes little impact, combined with all the other individuals, that person can make a difference. However, the question remains, is the good The Hunger Site is doing enough to offset the damage its donation model is causing to donation as a whole?
The point of my writeup is not to bash The Hunger Site. It is certainly an innovative donation model, a meme that has spawned other similar sites. I think, however, that the act of donating in this respect has become mindless. It is my intent to make people think more carefully about the implications.