Thursday, October 29, 2009

Match Day - Still Time To Donate

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Foundation for putting forth $300,000 in 50% matching funds for Pittsburgh-area non-profits yesterday. They helped raise $900,000 for non-profits like the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Pittsburgh City Theater, and the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. In an email to its fans, the City Theater alone announced that they received nearly $21,000. This onslaught of donations all happened in a frenzied 23 minutes.

On top of that money, the Pittsburgh Foundation also offered to match up to $100,000 in direct donations to the library. As of 6PM yesterday, they had only allocated $77,000 of that money (for a total donation to the library of at least $231,000.) In good news, the donation period isn't over yet. You have until 12PM EST today Thursday October 29 to donate to the library through Pittsburgh Gives.

Unfortunately, the technological backbone hasn't been so strong. Even though the online company was charging a fee of 4.75% per donation (or a whopping $62,000 in one day - about 3 times as much as was donated to the City Theater), they let down the charities and frustrated the folks who were trying to donate. Working with computers, I understand that there are unforeseen circumstances here, but when you are taking so much cream off the top, you better be well-prepared for an overload of visitors.
From the Pittsburgh Gives website, "Credit card donations do incur a 4.75% processing fee by the credit card processor, Network for Good. For example, a gift of $100 will net the charity $95.25."
"Network for Good" has some explaining to do. And they could start explaining by donating some of that fee to the libraries. They have until 12PM today.

3 comments: said...

My name is Katya Andresen, I am the COO of Network for Good. We processed the donations for the Match Day campaign in partnership with GuideStar, who hosted the website and online interface.
First off, I wanted to say thank you for promoting the Match Day campaign and for inviting us to respond. I'm happy to provide some background on Network for Good, which is the nonprofit organization I represent here, and our donation processing. But before I do that, I want to first apologize for any difficulty people had in participating in the match for any reason -- and for any concerns over fees. We feel terrible for any frustration that generous people or worthy charities felt. We want giving to be a positive experience, just as you rightfully do too. Regarding difficulty donating, we understand that there were problems with the website which is something beyond our role in Match Day, though we did take calls from donors and did our best to answer questions about the online systems. In terms of explaining our fees, the way our giving system works is that all donations through our system are made to the Network for Good Donor Advised fund. Network for Good re-grants the donation funds to the recipient charity(ies), retaining 4.75% to pay banks, credit card companies and other administrative costs like state registrations for online fundraising, real-time reporting for the charities on their donatioins, disbursement of funds and customer service for donors and nonprofits. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance has scrutinized our finances and given us its seal of approval. Network for Good does not profit from the 4.75% grant. Unfortunately as a nonprofit ourselves, we cannot sustain the technology and operations behind high volume donation processing and sending up to 10,000 checks a month to worthy nonprofits without the grant to cover the costs we incur. This isn't just the case with us - any nonprofit organization accepting credit card donations has these types of costs, which come out of donations. I hope this clarifies the 4.75% - most of which is passed on to credit card companies and banks. We keep this grant as low as possible, because our mission is to help nonprofits get more resources for their missions online - and we want them to be successful in that. One way we do that is processing donations. Another is we provide free training to tens of thousands of charities to help them with online fundraising and outreach at We host free weekly teleconferences on a wide range of topics which in turn help charities with their fundraising. We hope this better explains Network for Good, and we welcome any additional feedback or suggestions. We are always open to comments - good or bad - and genuinely appreciate your expressing your concerns so we could start a conversation with you. Thank you again for supporting Match Day and being an advocate for donors and charities.

Jami Broom said...

As someone who does both grant writing and fundraising for nonprofits, and promotes Network for Good's services to area nonprofits at The Foundation Center, I thought I'd chime in.

Network for Good isn't the problem -- they have to charge a fee for services that they provide, and these fees are comparable to other services providers. Otherwise, nonprofits would have to pay credit card processing fees themselves and go through headaches to be able to accept credit cards on their websites.

The problem lies in how the Pittsburgh Foundation set up this whole "day of giving". First of all, holding one day for every nonprofit in the region to collect donations in order to qualify for a matching gifts is an unreasonable method to promote charitable giving. The larger nonprofits have been sending out notifications for weeks to all of their members to donate on this "day of giving". Because of all the publicity, all the matching money was dried up within 23 minutes (with the exception of the Carnegie Library, which was being held open for a specific amount).

Of course all the matching money disappeared quickly -- if you were giving to an organization, wouldn't you want your money to be doubled? This left several (and mostly the smaller nonprofits who need it the most) out of the loop, because their members might not be so tech savvy, and weren't waiting at 10:00 to go online and donate.

The second problem with this is that Guidestar already provides this service -- anyone can already go to and donate to all nonprofits who have the proper tax ID code -- nonprofits don't even have to do a thing. However, for Pittsburgh Gives, the Pittsburgh Foundation required nonprofits to jump through hoops in order to qualify, requesting 3 years of audits and financial documents, stating on their website that nonprofits could expect to spend 6 or so hours on their online application, a lengthy process I went through myself. All of this to get people to give to organizations who were already going to give to these organizations anyway. The donors were mostly being told by the nonprofits they are already associated with to give donations on this day. I would be curious to know how many NEW donors each of these nonprofits received due to the "day of giving"???

The third problem is that several times I logged into the website, and found it difficult to use -- the search didn't work correctly for one. Organizations were difficult to find.

Currently if you perform a search for an organization and it is not found, you will be taken to a page with a search bar on the left hand side. Try searching for any keyword in the search bar, and you will get 0 results. The website is not working correctly -- I found several bugs in it as I went through the application process.

Not only that, but the nonprofit I represent was not included in the day of giving because I did not get all of the materials for the application in on time, even though I completed everything over a week before Match Day.

Perhaps all of these kinks will be worked out in the future, but I still wonder about the costs versus the benefits of this "day of giving" -- Is the cost of the technology and staff time involved more than what it would have cost for the Pittsburgh Foundation to simply pump that money back into the community, without making nonprofits jump through hoops for it? Did it actually create more donations, or would people have been giving to these nonprofits regardless?

Foundations love to ask about outcomes -- Well, Pittsburgh Foundation -- what were the goals of this program and the expected outcomes? How do those outcomes impact the Pittsburgh community as a whole?

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that the 4.75% goes to banks. They need the money what with all the storage room they must need for bailout funds.
Maybe the Pittsburgh Police could chip in by selling a sonic cannon or two to fund the libraries. Just a thought.