Give the real money first

There’s alot of really admirable charity activity in Second Life; builds and events and auctions and awareness-raising and all.

In the back of my mind there’s always a worry, though, about the actual fund-raising that SL charitable activities do. With a handful of exceptions, the amount of real-world money raised in SL tends to be on the small side of middling, in RL terms.

I know that for myself, I feel pretty generous if I give 1000L to some charity donation box, whereas I’d feel sort of cheap giving US$5 in real life. But 1000L is of course less than US$5, so it’s sort of silly. And if giving 1000L inworld makes me feel subconsciously like I’ve Done That, so I never get around to giving say US$25 in real life, that’s not a net gain.

SL donation tends to be extremely convenient, of course, and if that leads to people who would normally not bother to give anything at all giving a few hundred or thousand Linden dollars, that’s great. But for people who want to, can afford to, and can remember to give real money, I think it’s a good idea to do that first. And if you (we) then dive into the SL activities, the Red Cross benefit sales, benefit concerts, and all the other things happening in and around SL, that’s terrific; every additional bit is that much more good done.

But I would recommend at least considering giving the real money first…

10 Responses

  1. I’m participating in a study on SL, and at the last meeting, we discussed fundraising and charity events. I was asked if I felt that people felt like they could give more in SL than they could to charities in the physical world. Truthfully, I think that someone may think “I can’t spare $10 today, I have to buy gas/milk/dinner,” but they think nothing of purchasing $5000L worth of charity items.

    Personally, I prefer to give my money in the physical world if I am able, but SL does make it much much easier – provided I know that the money is actually going where they say it is. :) Of course, in the physical world, you don’t always know where your donation really ends up either.

  2. Interesting! For me, 5000L sounds like more than $10 (and in this case it actually is!). But I’ll certainly grant that there may be people for whom it’s the other way around.

    Knowing that the money is actually going where it’s supposed to be is another good point. I wouldn’t cast aspersions on anyone in particular, but in general I’m more confident that something I contribute via the ICCR or MSF website is going to actually be used for good than something that I pay to a prim in SL. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some prims where I would be quite confident, but as a general rule the trail of evidence is just longer and less certain…

  3. The other thing people forget is that giving in SL is diluted because Linden and Paypal take fees for exchanging funds. Your money goes much farther if you give outside Second Life.

    I do not know how to put a value on building awareness and community via shared concern expressed through in-world activities. I do think there is value in that but SL community building does not really benefit RFL or the people suffering in various places of the world due to natural disasters.

    • Even giving in RL, it’s likely that Visa, or the bank, or *some* third party has figured out a way to siphon some money from the transaction. I don’t actually know how it compares, but I suspect you’re right in suggesting that typically more will be siphoned from a SL donation, just because there are more steps involved.

      I’m significantly less skeptical than you are :) about the benefits of community and awareness building to the various causes involved. If the media had not reported on the Haiti disaster, the aid would not have flooded in to nearly the same extent. And if someone is in a group of friends many of whom are running or attending charitable events and talking about causes, I have to think that that person is more likely to pitch in themselves, whether in SL or RL. But I am always an optimist. :)

  4. I have been thinking on this as well, plurked on it. I think that I agree with you – if you can, give with real-world currency, whatever that maybe. I’m frustrated that the credit card companies are siphoning off so much in the way of fees. I know that is how they make their money and I know that they have waived fees for SOME charities. But those are not the charities to which *I* donate, because THOSE charities are NOT donating 100% to Haiti -those charities are still siphoning off THEIR admin fees. Sigh.

    But let’s be real – if I have to take time to write and mail a check – I’ll never donate. And that’s why I think that perhaps the donations in SL are also a good thing. Just as I use my CC to donate to the relief effort of my choice, other people use SL whereas they might not have donated at all.

    Are the SL collectors honest? Are they sending on the money they receive? I hope so. I suspect most are. I am sure some somewhere are not. I also gather it’s harder than most people realize to actually get those L$ to the relief efforts.

    I think, therefore, that it’s best to give real currency via the traditional real world methods. But it’s better to give in SL than to not give at all.

    • Agree completely! Giving in SL is certainly better than not giving at all. And given how convenient it is, I’m sure there are people who do exactly that.

  5. I do think in-world events build community and help the causes they support. I think there is a bit of self congratulatory good deed doer spirit that is for us, which is what I meant. Its not a bad thing. It is just not entirely about the charity either.

    My personal charity is Doctors Without Borders and I give via the web. The work they do is vital in Haiti and elsewhere, even when there is no disaster and no press.

    • Yeah, I like MSF also, and they’re who we gave ‘specially to because of Haiti. The question of how much and to whom to give regularly (lots of smaller donations v a few larger ones, social v humanitarian v political causes, etc, etc) is always sort of in flux and undecided in our house…

  6. I’ve been mulling this one over as we, ( Southern Tier HealthLink), have had 3 fundraisers in SL so far. The event organizers donate huge amounts of time in booking talent, setting up venues, advertising, and managing the event. Those contributions of hours usually exceed the value of the funds raised.

    However, there is also the value of shared experience, education and community during these events which to my mind equal raising awareness. Someone at our recent event stated she was also going to donate in RL as the info she got at the event inspired her. Another wondered in chat if they needed volunteers.

    As far as the conversion of the lindens raised inworld, I just pay out of my RL funds and leave the lindens inworld. I would be buying lindens anyways, some may not have that option.

    Our recent event raised over 1200.00 USD for Doctors without Borders, and during the event I made the first donation and posted the receipt on the stage (removing my address of course).

    Overall, we had a great LONG day of awesome music and there was a great deal of public chat about the situation in Haiti.

  7. Thanks for the report from the front lines of actual SL fundraising, Pan! :) I think this is the way SL can be most effective: not just raising Linden dollars, but also building awareness and interest that lead to RL actions and RL donations. Not that 1200.00 USD is anything to sneer at…

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