Building a social giving app - advice needed!

post by Xander · 2020-12-28T05:25:36.244Z · EA · GW · 2 comments


  I am exploring building an app that publishes the impact of individuals donations and harnesses the virality of social media to encourage more people to give more to effective charities. 
  Who am I?
  What features would the app have?
  Why might this be a good idea?

I am exploring building an app that publishes the impact of individuals donations and harnesses the virality of social media to encourage more people to give more to effective charities. 


Who am I?

I have some experience starting software businesses, apps and web apps. I have had a mild interest in EA for a number of years, but am not aware of all of the developments in the space. I have started giving more seriously only recently. This is my LinkedIn profile if anyone wants to connect.

What features would the app have?

  1. The app tracks past donations, and projects the amount of money that you will give over your lifetime based on recurring donations.
  2. It calculates the expected impact you have had already and will have over your lifetime, in quantifiable terms depending on the charity that you give to.
  3. There will be a leader board (think Strava) of different people's donations, and this can be viewed in various different ways (e.g. total given, total projected over lifetime to be given, total impact had, total impact projected over lifetime) and across different populations (e.g. amongst a giver's friends, local area, global population. It will also sum donations and impact across populations.
  4. Givers will be nudged regularly (following every gift) to share the fact that they are donating across their social media and other channels.
  5. Sharing on social media can show an excerpt from the leader board to intrigue friends or potential new givers, and instil pride and ownership in those who are already giving.
  6. The app provides content to educate givers on the benefits of giving and how impactful it can be if the right causes are chosen.


Why might this be a good idea?

  1. Encouraging people to feel proud and promote the fact that they are giving may draw in more givers.
  2. Turning giving into a gamified social activity will increase engagement (maintain recurring gifts for longer) and retention (decrease value drift).
  3. Being able to view and quantify current and future donations and impact gives a sense of ownership reminds people how much good they are doing which is good for their own self worth.
  4. Givers feel accountable to their friends to keep making a positive impact.



  1. Are EA considering building any of the above or have they tried to already?
  2. In particular, why does EA not encourage givers to share the fact that they have donated on social media?
  3. Are there any reasons that this app won't work or be useful?


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comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-12-30T02:42:35.474Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Note: When you introduce an idea like this and say "we are building X", it's good to explain who "we" is. The advice people give you may differ based on their perception of how experienced you are, what skills you do/don't have access to, etc.


There are various apps that handle different elements of what you've proposed. Momentum lets people set up recurring donations based on external events; EA Funds allows recurring donations; apps from outside the EA community have a variety of features.

Regarding a few aspects of what you've said here:

There will be a leader board of different people's donations.

Generally, people are reluctant to publicize their donations, with the exception of certain very wealthy philanthropists and a few unusual "normal" donors. I can only think of a few dozen people in EA who publicize their donations, and we're far more interested in doing so than the general population. Reasons this is rare:

  1. Broadcasting one's giving, is generally frowned upon; it reads like bragging to many people (just as it would seem like bragging to talk about how much you spent on a new car).
  2. If someone tries to broadcast their giving, it also may seem like they're giving mostly for attention rather than to help others.

Within EA, I think these reactions are uncommon, but I'd expect them to be quite common outside our (very small) community.

Keep in mind that, despite Strava et al., there aren't (to my knowledge) any popular apps that share amounts given. Even, which is trying to bring a modern social networking mindset to charity, doesn't seem to share amounts (though maybe this is an option they allow?).

The force of social disapproval seems likely to overwhelm most of the benefits people would get from e.g. gamifying their giving or signaling their altruism.

I publicize my own donations very carefully; my personal donation page includes several paragraphs of explanation, and I only post about giving on social media if I have a very good excuse to do so. I think most other people share this mindset.

Why does EA not encourage givers to share the fact that they have donated on social media?

"EA" doesn't really encourage anything; individual organizations and people in the EA community encourage various things. Often, "X not being encouraged" just means that everyone is putting energy into encouraging other things and hasn't gotten around to X.

Some people probably strongly believe in sharing donation info on social media; others probably oppose it. I don't know what the consensus is like, but I've set up an EA poll to get some initial data.

comment by Xander · 2021-01-01T07:36:26.186Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Aaron. This is super helpful. I’ll review those links and have a think. It definitely seems like there is value in creating an environment in which people feel that it’s right and helpful to boast about one's own giving (if not the monetary value, the impact).