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This New Site Helps You Discover The Best Lesser-Known Nonprofits

Dollar a Day couldn’t be more simple: Sign up and automatically give $1 to a new group every day, so smaller organizations can have a day in the spotlight.

This New Site Helps You Discover The Best Lesser-Known Nonprofits
[Photos: Flickr user 401(K)]

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., but a tiny fraction tend to get the most donations; the top 50 nonprofits raised $30 billion last year from individual donors. In part, that’s because the giants, like the Salvation Army or Feeding America, are the organizations most people have heard of. But a new site launched today by Kickstarter co-founder Perry Chen aims to help donors discover some of the smaller–and sometimes more innovative–nonprofits they might otherwise have missed.

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“Most people have the nonprofits that they know–the things that you might have known over the years, the things your friends or family might be involved with, or the bigger ones you might hear about on the news or when there’s kind of an event,” Chen says. “But I think it’s not as easy as it can be for people to discover nonprofits that are new to them. We were trying to come up with a solution for that.”

Every day, the Dollar a Day website features one new nonprofit, with a photo and brief description, and everyone who’s signed up automatically gives that nonprofit $1. Unlike typical crowdfunding, the donor doesn’t have to actually do anything other than sign up for the ongoing program. The Dollar a Day team does all of the research to vet the best nonprofits, in categories ranging from education and health to the environment, and then picks those delivering the best results.

“It’s really a lot about simplicity,” Chen explains. “We were thinking about the original question and trying to say, what is the simplest way we can solve this problem from the perspective of what we’re making? What can be small and have a really big impact? We wanted to make something easy for people to understand and that people could quickly engage with.”

Chen was inspired by his own experience at Kickstarter. “We’ve seen the ability for a large group of people to come together to make up a greater whole,” he says. “I don’t think that’s just in dollars, but it can be in energy and momentum. The fact is that every 3,000 people who sign up for a year, that’s over a million dollars for charity.”

The site hopes to engage people who might want to give but don’t have time to do their own research. “I think that there’s a lot of good intention that exists, but sometimes there’s just a gap between good intention and further action,” Chen says. “Hopefully that’s the gap we can help bridge by connecting people to nonprofits that they might be wowed by. And they can kind of take it from there.”

Over time, the team hopes that donors will be inspired to get more involved with particular nonprofits as volunteers or advocates. And those who don’t want to sign up for the $30 monthly donation can choose to just get the site’s short daily emails instead. “The hope is just to be a gateway for people to learn about great nonprofits,” Chen says.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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