ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 11:15am
posted by
Kayla L. McKinney,
Project Specialist
ASU Lodestar Center

Reality: I think your cause is awesome. In fact, I think your cause is fantastic. You want to help the homeless? Me too! Rescue dogs? Me too! Make sure everyone has access to clean water? I’m on board! 

Other reality: I don’t have the time or money for your cause.

One more reality: I still want to help.


I know a lot of people who understand my plight. I’m a grad student, after all! And being a grad student means I’ve got more than a few limitations, economically speaking. So, how do you, as a nonprofit organization, get me to help you?

Jump head-first into the world of microgiving.

Microgiving is when a person donates small, seemingly insignificant amounts of money to a cause or a nonprofit. And it’s exploding in popularity, especially with our increasingly digital lifestyles. Many microgiving websites make it outrageously simple to donate, and with mobile giving on the rise, we can definitely expect an increase in the number of smaller donations.

I had a chance to chat with Leo Ramirez, President, CEO, and Co-Founder of MiniDonations, and he summed it up excellently: “When compounded, small donations of one's time, talent, and treasure can profoundly impact our world. Not only are these gifts more accessible — regardless of age or income — they're habit-forming: transforming a small giver today into a major donor tomorrow.”

In other words, it’s worth your time to get into the microgiving spirit. And there are lots of ways to approach it. What makes microgiving so neat is how creative some of the organizations have gotten with it. Below are a few of my favorite microgiving options — some your organization can use, some you can be inspired by, and some you can donate to yourself. So, go ahead - think small!

For your organization


Got a birthday coming up? Ask your friends to donate to your very own fundraiser! Crowdrise is a personal fundraising site where you can ask for monetary support on just about anything. It leverages the power of the people, turning volunteers into fundraisers. It takes only minutes to get going on the site, and there are several different options to get potential donors interested, including contests. Trust me, you don’t need another tie or a DVD. So, set up a birthday fund to give right back to your wonderful cause! (And your friends will appreciate not having to worry about what size t-shirt you wear.)


Remember those bank advertisements that explained how each time you made a purchase, they’d round it up to the nearest dollar and put it into savings? What if potential donors could do that for your organization? MiniDonations partners nonprofits with businesses to do just that. Each time a donor makes a purchase at a participating business, the rounded-up change goes to the nonprofit of his or her choice. While MiniDonations is a newer kid on the scene, they’re quickly adding new businesses into the mix. Donors also get special giving pages, so they can show off which causes and nonprofits are most important to them. (Click here to check out Leo’s profile.) Finally, all those loose pennies and nickels can make a big difference.




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For inspiration


It wouldn’t be a post about microgiving without a shoutout to Kickstarter. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s a place for start-ups, artists, and local organizations to promote specific projects in order to receive funding. Giving is tiered — depending on how much a person donates, he or she will receive something in return. The bigger the donation, the bigger the reward.


Kickstarter is a major player because of how it operates. As a donor, I can easily share the project with my friends via social media, I can receive updates from the project creator, and I can track the overall success of the project I’ve helped fund. These are tactics you can use when your organization needs to leverage more donors. Choose specific projects, and make a webpage that tells everyone how the project is going. Kickstarter works best through story-telling, so find a way to make your project’s story personal and meaningful to each and every donor, no matter the size of his or her contribution. Your fans will love it, and they’ll be sure to keep coming back for more of the philanthropic warm-n-fuzzies.


For those days when you’re feeling give-y


Have an iPhone? Download Snooze. The app, which is owned by LetGive, lets you donate a quarter to an affiliated nonprofit each time you ask for a few more minutes of shut eye. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free to download? Finally, there’s a good reason to sleep in!

Want to give something other than cash? Try, a microvolunteering website where you can fill out a profile with all of your talents and choose your favorite causes. Once you do that, you get a list of "challenges" to choose from, which are basically just needs that nonprofits have. For example, I entered "social media" and "blogging" on my profile, and paired me with a challenge from an organization asking for bloggers to write about diversity. Microvolunteering is a fantastic way to offer your skills to needy nonprofits without having to be at a certain place at a certain time.


If you attended the Center's Spring Forum earlier this year, you might remember keynote speaker Charles Best, Founder and CEO of His site allows you to give small amounts to local schools in order to fund specific projects. You can browse through the many projects by subject, location, or need. What makes so special is the follow up. Each classroom teacher sends updates about their project and writes special thank you notes for your support. One more example of how important it is to remember that, no matter how small the donation, each and every donor is important. (Psst! Take a look at all the wonderful Arizona projects that need your help!)


What are your favorite ways to microgive? I’d love to hear about them!

Kayla is a Project Specialist at the ASU Lodestar Center, and you can catch her regularly updating the Center's social media accounts and managing this blog. In addition, she's currently working on her master's degree from Arizona State University in English Rhetoric & Composition, with a focus on social media. Feel free to stop by her Twitter page to give her a big Texas-style, "Howdy."

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Kayla, I really liked learning much more about "microgiving" and all these various options, including the free "snooze" application. My favorite line of your blog: "So, go ahead - think small!" Very clever, and it speaks to the phenomenon that EVERYONE can be a philanthropist and EVERYONE's contribution matters/adds up.

Great examples of how Nonprofits are being Entrepreneurial with giving and how multiple actions put together can lead to big change. I think it is very important to meet people were they are at in their ability to give. My hope is that this can act as an starting point for giving. I would like to know how we transition these individuals into longer term giving as their ability to give grows.

Laura - Thank you! I've never been able to give very much, but it's important to me to contribute the little amount that I have. And it's so insanely easy to do these days. There's one nonprofit (Plan USA) that I give to each and every month, without even thinking about it. (Thanks, automatic payments!)

Shawn - I'd love to know the same thing! Looks like we need a fundraising pro to respond via the blog and give us some tips. Wrangle me up some YNPNers! :)

I also want to mention that I saw I comment on Facebook that suggested I include Kiva. I can hardly believe I left that one out! Kiva is AMAZING.

Wow! Thank you for this new information about Microgiving! I am involved in many fundraising events to benefit Cardiac Care, but it is hard to get students to donate when they spend all there money on Schooling! Taking advantage of the sites you have mentioned, like Crowdrise and MiniDonations, will take the amounts we raise to a whole other level! Yay, I am so excited to get started. I was never a fan of loose change anyway! It's so heavy! Thanks Again and Keep Posting :D

I am a giver, but sometimes i feel over whelmed of the needs. This will help narrow it down.
These are creative ideas we need for these time. Just a little will add up even pocket change. Great job! Thinking outside the box:)

I love this blog! I am actually giving a speech in my class this Tuesday about donating. I love to donate even if it is just a dollar or even some spare change. I think any amount can make a difference in someone's life. I know what it's like to not really have that much money, especially being a college student and living on my own, but I always think to myself that there are people out there who really have it bad so I have no room to be selfish. I don't have much, but when I have something that can be given away to make someone's life that much better, I give it away. I love that feeling of knowing I made a difference in someone's life no matter how small the amount of clothes or food I gave or how much money I donated. :)


Wow. You and the microgiving organizations have truly inspired me to think small to reach a big goal. Each option you listed was unique in its own way and I think that giving a little can make a huge difference if everyone participates in some capacity. I think I will try the micro volunteering first. I'm a bit of a philanthropist so that seems like a good place to start as college leaves me with less extra cash than needed.

Chris Frazier

I thought it was great examples of Microgiving, because people like me who wanted to be a part of a non-profit organization, but didn't know how to..all the examples listed should be implemented to the community so that there aren't any people who are like me who are looking for more discrete ways to help out and get involve. Everyone should know a life changing opportunity a small donation could give to those that are in need. - Saebom An

This is a fantastic example of the power of the collective. I think American society pays too much attention to individualism (we were founded on the desire for unwavering liberty, after all) while overlooking the benefit of the collective. Micro-giving can thrive in a society that values the "collective," and as you state:

“When compounded, small donations of one's time, talent, and treasure can profoundly impact our world."


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