Can YouTube, Amazon and iTunes do more to help charities?

28 Jun 2010 Voices

Gareth Jones wonders if charities could be working with the web giants to raise money as well as fighting against them.

Gareth Jones wonders if charities could be working with the web giants to raise money as well as fighting against them.

A regular feature in my inbox are press releases detailing the launches of new websites which aim to raise money for charities, but a couple of high profile examples have caught my eye recently.

They are See the Difference, which is essentially a version of YouTube designed to allow charities to showcase their work and take donations, and (FSM), a music download site offering charities half the profit of every sale.

Now, hopefully both will be successful enough to make a tidy sum for the charities involved, but I can’t help feeling their impact is going to be limited when trying to compete with giants such as YouTube and iTunes.

I guess See the Difference is useful as it is categorised by charities’ aims and allows donations on each video’s page, but it is going to difficult to draw casual users away from their natural territory of YouTube without a massive marketing push (and I’ve not noticed one yet).

Likewise, FSM will no doubt pick up some users who are keen to make a financial contribution to charities, but it is facing a mammoth struggle in trying to compete with the likes of iTunes.

Indeed, iTunes enjoys a significant competitive advantage over all the other download sites due to the fact that the iTunes store is embedded in the iTunes player, making it much simpler to save files to the library.

Learning from the precendents

An interesting case study is Everyclick, whose selling point is to offer an alternative to searching with Google while raising money for charity with every click of a link.

Everyclick has raised £1.25m in the five years since its launch, a not inconsiderable amount and worth the effort, but it has not really penetrated the public consciousness, and certainly not become the de facto alternative to Google that we all hoped (well I did anyway).

My question, then, is while there is absolutely a niche for charities to have their own versions of popular sites, in order to reach the big audiences should they be doing more to work with the giants?

I believe a very instructive example in this respect is to look at eBay, which at the end of 2008 added the option to donate a small amount to charity when every user is completing payment for an item.

Surely this model could be replicated by iTunes, allowing users to add small amount, say 10p per track, to every download? Could Amazon offer a donation facility with every purchase?

In the case of YouTube, could they have an embedded donation option like See the Difference under charitable videos, rather than relying on users clicking an advertising link to make a contribution?

And is there anything charities could do to persuade them to take on such ideas, or would it fall on deaf ears?

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