Thursday, November 15, 2007 Addictive, Yes, But Does it Actually do Good?

Have you ever seen one of those comedic routines in which a character receives a series of individual pieces of information and with each one, the character's expression turns alternately from sad to happy and back again? Well, that is exactly what just happened to me as I read a series of differing sources of information reporting on the legitimacy of one of my favorite, fun charity sites: is a site that tests your vocabulary and for every right answer, ten grains of rice are donated to the UN's World Food Program. The test is "smart" and adjusts the level of difficulty to fit your vocabulary. Needless to say, I'm not the only one out there who finds the site completely addictive.

I first became alarmed when I read in Philanthropy2173 to "beware: embedded giving is not always what it seems" with regards to sites like But the main point made in that blog post seemed to be that the money made on was actually from ads and not really from the "clicks" of the participant. Well, so what? I felt relieved.

But then, I read a post on Read/Write Web that said that the way the advertisers check to see who is visiting them and buying their goods from is by using Linksynergy cookies. As the blogger points out, "I have no problem with cookies myself, I like them, in fact - but a quick look around the web indicates that many people find Linksynergy cookies distressing." Oh. I was back to frowning again.

But then I scrolled through the comments and discovered that someone had actually contacted the WFP to check on the legitimacy of freerice because he had wanted to start a Facebook group devoted to it! WFP wrote back to say that freerice was indeed legit, and in fact, just recently published on their website an article about how pleased they are with the results. Whew. Guess I can go back to testing my vocabulary, I mean, donating rice online.

However, to get back to the initial cautionary blog post on Philanthropy 2173, another questionable website is also mentioned in it: Unfortunately, careful looking reveals that Lucy is dead on about this one. iGive is a shop-to-give site that allows you to select

"your favorite cause" as the recipient of funds donated by merchants when you make purchases. Most of the causes run along the line of "my trip to Hawaii," or "Mama needs a new pair of shoes." The site explicitly states "Any cause in the U.S. or Canada qualifies - and 501(c)3 nonprofit status is not required."

Hmm. This doesn't necessarily mean that the site isn't doing what it says by donating proceeds to the indicated causes, but it does raise the question of whether real 501(c)3 organizations really want to be affiliated with a site that will give money to any (non-vetted) cause... For those of you museums currently using iGive, what do you think? Does the fact that just about anyone can establish themselves as "a cause" on this site bother you? Will you continue to use this site, or look into other options?

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