Where to send coronavirus donations?

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coronavirus donations

The speed of spread of coronavirus snuck up on us in the United States. So did the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and that it afflicts young and old, healthy and sick. We're only starting to feel the economic impacts that the critically needed social distancing and home isolation will have. During the first week of March, our last open nomination period, we had no idea what was coming. So you may be wondering how Charitocracy can help channel coronavirus donations right now.

It just so happens that the March 2020 front runner is well aligned with today's needs: RIP Medical Debt. Coronavirus tests may be freely available (rationed for those with symptoms). But the care required for patients with positive test results is not free. And for those without health insurance coverage, it's just one more hardship at an already bad time. RIP Medical Debt empower donors to forgive the billions in oppressive medical debt at pennies on the dollar, so far almost $1.4 billion for ~650,000 Americans. Quite relevant right now!

Pandemic-related charity nominations

On April 1st the floodgates will reopen at Charitocracy for new nominations! There are already some great nominees at Charitocracy that are helping with the crisis. Also peruse the resources listed below for more ideas. Then during the first week of the month, feel free to nominate a new charity that's well positioned to help stop the spread of coronavirus, expedite the treatment of COVID-19, or somehow lessen the emotional, financial, or other suffering of the most vulnerable among us.

Need to pause your Charitocracy donation?

Speaking of which, if you feel like you're being hit from all sides these days, don't let us add to your burden. Charitocracy donations automatically recur annually for most of us. (There are monthly options for those who prefer!) But if your renewal comes at a bad time in the middle of this mess, I get it! Reach out and I can hit the pause button for you, or you could cancel future donations for now and resume them when you're rolling in cash again. Soon I hope! 🤞

You can find the date and amount of your next recurring donation in the "Me and My Votes" widget on the Dashboard once you're logged in. It's in the sidebar if you're on a big screen, or scroll way down on your device. Here's an example:

Charitocracy nominees worthy of your coronavirus donations

While some are recent winners and not yet eligible to receive votes again, consider donating directly to these highly relevant charities during the pandemic crisis:

  • American Red Cross: They recently won for Hurricane Dorian relief in September 2019. Now, more than anything, they need blood donations for the record number of COVID-19 patients.
  • Feeding America: Food security is more problematic than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic while more folks are out of work and children are out of school. Feeding America has launched a Coronavirus Response Fund to redouble their efforts of providing meals safely through their network of regional food banks and local food pantries.
  • Heart to Heart International: nominated on the very day Charitocracy opened shop back in September 2016, this cause hasn't won the prize yet. But they're helping slow the spread of coronavirus by distributing thousands of Hygiene Kits to local shelters, healthcare facilities, school districts, faith-based programs, food pantries, and public safety organizations. Sponsor a $10 Hygiene Kit here!
  • No Kid Hungry: This is an easy one, and our December 2019 winner. A billion kids worldwide are now out of school, where many of them usually receive meals. For some it's their only meals. No Kid Hungry is helping feed as many as possible during this pandemic. Since they just won, they won't be eligible again until next December, but you can make a donation here.
  • UNICEF: This is another long-time nominee that hasn't yet won. To date UNICEF has delivered almost 1.5 million protective items to health workers. Learn more about how they're looking out for children during this crisis.
  • World Central Kitchen: July 2019 winner, this organization responds to just about every crisis in the world, and coronavirus in no exception. They're a group of chefs creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. You can find out how they're responding to the pandemic in the US and make a donation here.

Additional resources to discover more coronavirus charities

Whether you're looking to volunteer, donate, or nominate at Charitocracy in April, here are sites with great ideas on how you can help:

I'll update this post as more worthy recipients crop up for your coronavirus donations, or more useful resources become available. In the meantime, stay well, stay safe, and take care of each other! ❤️

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Fifty thousand reasons

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Fifty thousand reasons

Fifty thousand reasons... for what?

Fifty thousand reasons it's hard to run a charity?
Fifty thousand reasons to complain about solicitation registration paperwork?
Fifty thousand reasons to decry social media advertising costs?
Fifty thousand reasons to give up?

This morning I'm writing out Reach Out and Read's $1722 award check. That's for winning the October monthly pot, plus drawing an unusually high $540 worth of "pot sweetener" one-time donations. And I'm noticing something worth mentioning...

We have crossed the $50,000 mark!

As of this morning, Jessica and I have cut $50,000 worth of grant checks. They're for worthy nonprofits you've selected, packed full of your donation funds. You guys are ever-generous, and also gift us with the continued motivation to make Charitocracy even better each month.

I have some big plans for Charitocracy. I probably say that a lot, and I mean it every time. There's no joy like adding new features, fixing old bugs, and doing whatever I can to make Charitocracy easier to use for current donors and more attractive to prospective donors. If you asked me, a GPU software engineer, ten years ago or even five years ago, I never would have predicted this is how I'd be getting my kicks on the eve of the year 2020.

And yet 4 years ago this week we were registering the charitocracy.org domain and kicking off the logo design. We were setting up social media pages, and purchasing this laptop I've been banging away on ever since in my free time. And 4 years ago next month we'd be filing to become a nonprofit corporation in the state of North Carolina. As far as we've come in 4 years (3 years fully operational), I have a feeling 2020 will be our biggest yet.

Fifty thousand reasons to be proud, and fifty thousand reasons to keep at it. ❤️

Show Benj the money

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No such thing as over-Sharing

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Social Sharing Pop-Up

Sharing is Dead

Sharing nominee cause pages has been broken at Charitocracy for a long time. Any time you voted or nominated a cause, you'd get an annoying pop-up asking you to share with your social medium of choice. And no matter which cause you just nominated or voted for, it would always just share a link to Charitocracy's home page with a generic image. BORING!

And then even that annoying pop-up stopped working. Some change in my Charitocracy code or our social sharing plugin broke it, and I didn't bother to fix it. Honestly, that pop-up disappearing was an improvement, since the social sharing experience was terrible.

Well, I'm proud to announce: The annoying pop-up is BACK!

Long Live Sharing

I've been quietly laying a lot of the groundwork all year:

  • Most of the site, including the discussion/voting pages for nominated causes, was unreachable to the general public behind the "pay wall" unless they donated and logged in. So you really couldn't share anything but the front page anyway. I opened up the whole site to everyone, but only donors can click on Vote buttons.
  • When sharing, you want a nice big image to go with it. Furthermore, Facebook and Twitter prefer images of different sizes and aspect ratios. So I had to make some! 87 x 2 so far, to cover all past nominees.
  • After voting, Charitocracy used to redirect you to the Dashboard page where you could cancel votes or adjust percentage split between different causes sharing your vote. But then if you tried to share after voting, you'd be sharing the Dashboard page instead of the cause page. Nope! So now the vote adjustment controls are at the top of each Vote page, and voting just reloads the same page. So you're at the right place when it's time to share.

Call to Action

If you're on Facebook or Twitter, I hope you'll share your voting activity with friends and family each time. (If you're on both, please share to both!) You don't have to write anything extra in your posts, so it takes literally 2 buttons clicks. It may take some time, but when your people see your engagement with Charitocracy and the great causes you're supporting, they're bound to get curious and get tangled in our web of love and generosity.

And no better time to test it than right now. Get on there and vote!

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Happy News gives us a Happy Birthday

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The Happy News

September brought with it another Charitocracy birthday! We've been online, spreading your dolla dolla bill to worthy causes, for 3 years now!! Whether you've been with us the whole time, or just joined us recently, THANK YOU. It's your birthday. And we have some happy news to share.

Or better put, The Happy News has us to share! Thanks to donor Ealish Wilson, Jessica and I have been nominated as Everyday Heroes! Aww, shucks. ☺️

Benj Lipchak and Jessica Sands as Everyday Heroes

Big thanks also to Emily Coxhead for publishing Ealish's kind words in her extraordinary newspaper, and for making Charitocracy's birthday extra happy this year. ❤️

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Search and Ye Shall Find

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Benj drags Charitocracy into the early 1990s with search

I have some big news.


Are you sure you're ready for this? Maybe you should sit down.

Charitocracy (OMG OMG OMG) has joined the millions of other web sites on the Internet... to offer site-wide search functionality!


Simply type in one or more keywords, which are just fancy names for things you want to search for, and Charitocracy will return all matching nominee voting pages, blog posts, comments, etc. All in a fraction of a second*!

So visit any page, click that little magnifying glass in the top-right corner of the menu, or hiding at the end of the menu if you're on a phone, and search your heart out! American Heart Association will be returned, among others.

* AOL customers may be looking at a fraction of a minute here.

There's got to be a better way to search that groovy charity

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It’s scary how much we’ve raised for charity!

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Money Kills by WhiteEyedFrog

Including the check we wrote this month for September's winner, Youth Pride Inc., we've awarded over $30,000 in grants to our monthly winners at Charitocracy. And we have over $10,000 more raised already for the next 12 monthly winners.

While we still need to crack the code on how to grow this thing into the future, it's nice to look back at how far we've come. I've included an October 31 snapshot of our Winners page. You can see it for yourself here.

Winning Cause Month Pot Votes Voters Nominator
Youth Pride Inc. 2018-09 $1753 18.7 20 melissa745
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2018-08 $1391 26.5 27 amrizzo01
RAICES 2018-07 $1375 26.83 28 TdotWING
Together We Rise 2018-06 $1237 25 27 SuZQ
Sky's the Limit Fund 2018-05 $1114 34.67 38 obxlisa
Outer Banks SPCA 2018-04 $1103 27.34 29 bjstager
National Public Radio 2018-03 $1073 30 31 Maurice
Innocence Project 2018-02 $1072 26 27 cperg814
mikeroweWORKS Foundation 2018-01 $1478 31 33 emily0153
International Justice Mission 2017-12 $1520 27 28 Alistair and Rebecca
ALS Guardian Angels 2017-11 $1540 30 30 Maggie
UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund @ HF 2017-10 $1465 35.5 37 TdotWING
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at GHCF 2017-09 $2571 48.39 51 brun064
Special Olympics 2017-08 $1281 30.34 32 obxsunny
American Civil Liberties Union 2017-07 $1241 24.75 27 TdotWING
Planned Parenthood 2017-06 $1225 28.24 30 Bethany
It Gets Better Project 2017-05 $1222 30.4 32 Stephanie
Comfort Cases 2017-04 $1242 29.5 31 OBXHubands
Children's Hospital Medical Center 2017-03 $1218 29.34 33 Maurice
Southern Poverty Law Center 2017-02 $1171 38.83 41 damianf
Feline Hope Animal Shelter 2017-01 $752 34.75 36 obxlisa
Girls on the Run 2016-12 $731 28 29 Elinora
Kids in Need Foundation 2016-11 $524 23 26 SeattleStrong
Fisher House Foundation 2016-10 $539 28.5 32 Sue Wilkerson
The NEA Foundation 2016-09 $500 26.29 31 sherylwthorp
Total Distributed $30,338

Happy Halloween! And don't forget to get those votes in before midnight!!

Occupy Sydney, Day 5, "THE NEW GLOBAL CURRENCY IS LOVE" by Newtown grafitti

Money Kills by WhiteEyedFrog (at the top of post) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Occupy Sydney, Day 5, "THE NEW GLOBAL CURRENCY IS LOVE" by Newtown grafitti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Thirteen is the Luckiest Number

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Twelve is the new Thirteen

I have ended the tyranny. Since Charitocracy day one, September 1, 2016, there has been an automatic 8.3% "tax" or "tip" to cover Charitocracy's overhead. A 13th month of contribution, essentially. We've used those funds to cover credit card fees, nationwide solicitation registration, web site hosting, software licenses, insurance, advertising, postage, inkjet ink, etc. But those days of mandatory tipping are over! $12 is the new minimum donation, with 100% going to winning charities.

Why now, Benj? Why ever?

I've been trying to put myself into the shoes of strangers. [Not literally, because if you're familiar with my feet, you know they probably wouldn't fit.] These strangers hear about Charitocracy from a friend, or see an ad on Facebook, or see me rocking a Charitocracy sweat jacket, running shirt, or coffee mug. They visit our web site, and then NOTHING happens.

One of my theories is this: they see a $13 donation where $12 goes to 12 charities. They think: scam alert! Charitocracy is skimming a buck off each $13 donor, and probably using it to charter flights to the Caribbean.

Not a bad theory. 59 cents of that $1 goes straight to credit card fees, but the remaining 41 cents would add up fast. Almost fast enough to cover our other expenses it turns out. But luckily we have donors whose employers match, or even double-match, their donations. So we've found ourselves plenty of breathing room for paying the bills while sending 100% of web site donations (and Facebook donations) into the monthly award pots for the winning charities. Still no Caribbean vacations, so clearly we have some kinks yet to sort out.

We appreciate each and every mandatoryincluded tip we've received from our early adopters during our 1st two years. You've paid for our setup costs to get up and running, and we're ever grateful. But from now on, these tips are entirely optional! You can go to My Account > Donation Change to switch to a non-tipping annual donation at any time. And new signups will not have this tip selected by default. It's an opt-in for all new donations. Maybe everyone will still choose to donate a "baker's dozen" 13 months worth every year, but this could be one less red flag for new donors who don't know us personally like many of you do.

In Other News

  • We had a larger than usual monthly pot of $1753 for September winner Youth Pride Inc! That's thanks to $2 matches per new social media Like/Follow, as well as matches for each new/upgraded donation. Well done!
  • We're continuing this promotion, so keep on inviting friends to join us or at least like our various social media accounts! Potential $8 in the October pot for follows: $2 each for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And then if one joins at the $12/year level, that's an additional $24 we'll match!
  • Despite the busy month, huge gain in likes (over 800 now on Facebook), and big pot, we had fewer voters in September than usual. Combine that with a swing of only 2.5 votes between 3rd place and 1st, your vote would certainly have an impact in selecting the winner. Get out the vote!
  • Just a few more hours to sweeten the pot for Youth Pride Inc. or to nominate a new cause for October. Looking forward to another great month!

I mean, really it's your choice. But $13? Still the best donation.

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Hello Terrible Twos and Huge Matching Funds

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Every Like and new donation gets matching funds!

Okay, so you've heard we just turned two, right? Key word: "We." This is us. Together we made it this far. Two years, 24 monthly winners later, we've distributed nearly $30,000! WE.

Growth report: 😭

I don't want to sugarcoat the growth situation. We gained some and lost some over the past 12 months, and ended up right where we were last September. Our generous donors opened their pockets wider, in some cases dramatically and overwhelmingly wider. But the donor count is just above 200 like it was on our first anniversary. I have yet to crack the code on how to turn advertising $ into new donors. Not for lack of trying!

We received significant major donations this year, along with employer matches, which the donors earmarked for attracting new donors. Experimental advertising has come out of these funds, and we'll continue learning the art and improving those efforts. But we saw some success last year incentivizing new signups and social media follows by releasing matching funds into the pot. So we'll try that again this year, using this same new donor attraction earmarked money. Without further ado...

Announcing return of $1 Likes

We just crossed the 600 Like mark yesterday. 615 at the time we went to press with this blog post. Each and every cumulative new like will get a dollar of matching funds tossed in the current monthly pot. So if you invite 100 friends to Like Charitocracy's Facebook page (instructions in this blog post), and 30 of them actually listen to you for once and do it, that's $30 extra for September's winner! Nice and simple. Additional Twitter or Instagram followers get the same treatment. We're at 60 and 116 followers on those platforms, respectively. This can add up really quickly, and we have plenty of matching funds to back it up. The goal is to get more folks tuned into Charitocracy so that we can over time convince some of them to pony up $13 and join us for real!

Also return of $1:$1 matching funds for donation increases

If any one you were on the fence about increasing your annual donation (or to switch to one of our new monthly plans), let me help pull you down and drag you to your wallet. If you decide, for example, to bump up to $5 per month, we'll throw an extra $5 per month, for a whole year, into the pot. Nudge, nudge. That fence is a lonely place. Added bonus, this doubling will be counted in your Giving Tree as a matching donation, as if it came from your employer. (If your employer also matches it, that of course gets counted, too.) You may not be too familiar with your Giving Tree, but read on to the Leaderboard section...

New this year: $2:$1 matches for new donors!

Every new donor's initial donation, whether $13 or $390, will get tripled out of the matching funds. I have a feeling incentivizing new donors in this way will cost less than acquiring them through advertising. And this money will go to winning charities instead of social media companies, another big win in my book! So be aware of this incentive when talking to friends about Charitocracy or inviting them over email.

Leaderboard coming...

All of my work trying to crack the social media advertising nut has deprived me of my true love: coding up new features and ways to streamline and push the envelope with Charitocracy. But one of these months I'll crank out the leaderboard where we can recognize extraordinary efforts by donors to grow Charitocracy. Not just in terms of their own donations, since many of us prefer to keep those private. But by recognizing donors' Giving Tree growth, which includes new donors they invite (or gift) into Charitocracy, we could bring a healthy competitive aspect to Charitocracy.

I'm thinking categories like these:

  • Biggest Giving Tree
  • Fastest Growing Giving Tree
  • Most New Donor Recruits
  • Most Generous Individual Donor (opt-in)

Your ideas are always welcomed, and may I say even critical to our success! So please reply to this blog post, to our social media accounts, or directly on our site.

And your Like gets a dollar... And your Like gets a dollar...

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Stop the presses!

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Wait, no, don't stop! Keep that press cranking!

The first Charitocracy article ever, printed in actual ink no less, appears in the new issue of North Beach Sun. This is a quarterly magazine for locals and tourists in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where we live. We made it into the summer edition, their most widely read of the year for a beach magazine, I have to imagine?

On any given Friday on the Outer Banks, you can stroll into Waveriders Coffee, Deli & Pub in Nags Head to find local Benj Lipchak tucked away near the corner of the cafe, sitting in what he refers to as "the comfy chair" -- a cushiony throne complete with beige upholstery and two oversized arm rests that can double as small desks. Amidst coffee enthusiasts and nine-to-fivers on their lunch breaks, the young entrepreneur works tirelessly on his graduate school project turned passion: Charitocracy.

We were honored to have an editor of the local First Flight High School's Nighthawk News tell our story for North Beach Sun. Arabella Saunders expertly captures who we are and what we're all about. And Kati Wilkins's photo puts us right in our natural habitat. Waveriders is where Charitocracy makes its giant leaps of forward progress each Friday.

Thanks to Amelia Boldaji, editor of North Beach Sun, for running into me months ago at Waveriders, being curious enough to ask about Charitocracy, and make this story happen. She also encourages me to drink beer after a certain hour. You can probably imagine my violent protests.

@ Waveriders, Benj far left: the young entrepreneur

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Show me yours, I’ll show you mine

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Don't be all private like this guy. Show your face @ Charitocracy!

Was that a clickbait enough headline for a blog post about privacy at Charitocracy?

I want to highlight three things in this blog post:

  1. Your privacy settings: what they mean, and how to adjust them.
  2. The activity log: where it is and what it looks like.
  3. Call to action: loosen your privacy settings and make friends to bring the activity log to life!

Your privacy settings

Especially in today's climate of social media data privacy concerns, I want to be clear that Charitocracy respects your privacy. We don't sell it or give it away. We don't use your data in any weird or unexpected way. And finally, we don't ask for more than we need to make the web site kick ass.

If you go to My Account > Settings > Privacy, you'll see this:

Share these portions of my data with...

There are 5 categories of data:

  • Donation amounts: dollars contributed
  • Voting history: causes that have received your votes
  • Rough location: zip code as used by donor map (if supplied)
  • Friends & Giving Tree: friends list, and who invited whom to join
  • Activity log: history of donating, voting, friending, etc., with details filtered out according to your other settings above

And there are 3 privacy settings for each category:

  • Public: anyone and everyone can see it
  • Friends: only your friends on Charitocracy can see it (default)
  • No one: not even your friends can see it

By default, all categories of data are visible only to friends. And by default, you have no friends on Charitocracy. So you start with a clean slate of no data visible to others. (But what fun is that?! I have more to say on this topic in the next sections.)

Note on Friends & Giving Tree data: privacy settings for both sides of each connection are respected. So if you make your friends list public, it doesn't mean all your friends will be revealed. Only if their privacy settings are sufficiently open will others be able to see them on your friends list. So no need to worry about outing someone who may want to remain private. They're still in full control of their own data.

The activity log

On the dashboard you can see everything happening on Charitocracy. Every vote, every donation made, every profile picture updated, etc. But which details you see depends on the privacy settings of the donor who took the action (and any other donors involved in the action for things like friend or invitation acceptances).

Activity log

This is what the activity log might look like to a random user right now. Plenty going on all the time, but who's doing it?! Notice a couple early adopters have loosened their privacy settings so we can see their activity and their vote recipients. Wouldn't it be great if more of these activities had names and faces associated with them?

A call to action

After all that talk about how private your data is, now we'd like you to loosen the drawstrings and let the cat out of the bag. If you love something, set it free! Change some/all of your privacy settings to Public!

Here are reasons to make your data public:

  • Donation amounts: When others see your dollar amounts, big or small, they're more likely to give more (or more often) themselves! For once, try to be less modest.
  • Voting history: How better to hype your favorite cause than to show everyone your support for it?! And remember, this isn't a government election. There are no bad choices on the ballot to be ashamed of! Just a variety of 501(c)(3) nonprofits competing for your vote.
  • Rough location: This is just a fun way to see how far-flung (or not) other donors are. We're only talking about zip codes, or even states or countries. Street addresses aren't accepted even if you want everyone to know!
  • Friends & Giving Tree: This helps discover more friends on Charitocracy and encourages bringing more friends into Charitocracy, and in turn growing the monthly pot for our winners!
  • Activity log: This is the way to get your name and face on the activity log when you do stuff, even if you've redacted some/all of the details above. The less anonymous, the more fun and vibrant for everyone!

If some bits make you panicky and others don't, only make public what you're comfortable with. And if you don't want to share everything/anything even with friends, you can change settings to share with no one, and then feel more comfortable making friends on Charitocracy with hasty abandon. That's another way to improve the activity log: make more friends so you can at least see their stuff (still subject to "no one" privacy settings) and vice versa.

Here's looking forward to activity logs full of friendly faces and full-fledged facts and figures!

If you love something, set it free.

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