Are there moral issues with donating through a platform (such as a donor-advised fund) that does not share name and contact info with charities?

by Liface1 min read28th Jan 20201 comment

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I'm doing a giving project this year where I'm donating 10% of my salary to ten different effective charities, and encouraging my friends and family to join.

I recently had dinner with a friend that works in development for a non-profit ballet company. I explained the project to her, and noted that I was planning on using a platform, Sublime Fund, to organize my donations, make sure that one charge would come off my card each month instead of ten, and most importantly to me, so that I wouldn't receive 10 different phone calls, emails, or 10+ pieces of physical mail from each organization I give to.

As I said the last part, she was horrified. She explained her position:

  • Not having access to recurring donor names and contact information gives staff no idea if those donations are likely to continue, which hinders financial forecasting
  • Staff do not get the opportunity to be able to thank their donors personally. It feels robotic to simply receive a check in the mail each month from a nameless organization.

I then responded with:

  • I don't want complication in my life. Physical mail, phone solicitations, and email lists create complication. I don't need a personal touch or a thank you to feel good about my giving. Having the option to obscure my personal information makes me more likely to give.
  • Working in development at a ballet company seems quite different than working in development at an effective altruism-backed charity. It seems like the latter would care less about receiving anonymous donations, as their main focus is on carrying out their work, not thanking donors.

I'm about to publish month one of my pledge and, before I encourage my network to donate using Sublime Fund, I wanted to check in and see what the consensus is on this: should I note that this may be a moral issue in each post, and that those who care could donate to each charity directly?

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Good question.

My intuition is that it depends on how large the donations are.

I do some [volunteer] work with EA NZ, forwarding donations from New Zealanders to EA charities. Some of those charities have asked us to share the contact info of particularly large donors with them. (We check with the donors before doing so).

I'm not entirely sure what the charities' rationale for wanting the info is, but I get the impression that it's a combination of the factors your friend raised. They have specifically mentioned wanting to thank major donors. Being able to contact those donors in the future may also help them fill funding gaps if there's a shortfall or a time-sensitive project (though that's just my speculation).

Based on that, I'd say it isn't as much of an issue for smaller amounts. And even for larger donations, I suspect the money is still more important than the donor information.

So, if the convenience of using a platform makes it more likely for you to donate/keep donating, I'd conclude that it's probably worth it.

As for what to put in your post, I'm not sure-- are there obvious downsides to sharing the pros/cons of each option? Do you think the extra layer of decision-making is likely to put people off donating altogether?