Last year, The New York Times produced more than 400 articles on the Ebola crisis. There were 50 front-page articles alone. And as we all followed the coverage and wanted to help, we wondered—how can we actually make a difference?

“Being able to respond helps you put yourself in the story,” said Ideal Impact Founder Olivier Kamanda, whose app offers people a new way to think about giving. When you read news you’re passionate about, you share the story, and Ideal Impact will connect you with relevant community service, social impact, and advocacy opportunities.

Oliver sat down with IVY Magazine to discuss some of the trends he’s seeing in giving and why he thinks apps like Ideal Impact are best situated to make a difference for the future of philanthropy.

Reach out to Olivier if:

  • You or someone you know is interested in the Ideal Impact Fellowship.
  • You are working with a social enterprise or non-profit organization on the front-lines of social change that wants to reach more supporters!
  • You want to do a Goruck Challenge. I did my first a couple of years ago, but I’m looking for a small team to go for round 2.

Olivier is an IVY Member (DC). Connect and collaborate with him here.

Ideal Impact

Why do you think there’s this emphasis today on wanting to see the exact impact of your charitable donations?

For better or worse, there’s this new opportunity for non-profit organizations to be transparent. Because of the possibility for transparency, people are skeptical about large, less-transparent organizations using money for disaster relief. They’re more cynical, in a way. That’s why people are following their donations more critically and also why people are looking for more direct ways to engage than to give $20.

We’re at a point now where you no longer need to have a $500 million budget to have an impact. We have a lot of smaller, nimbler organizations that are able to reach places we weren’t able to in the past with much smaller budget. People want to feel engaged in what they’re supporting. The feedback loop is incredibly important in keeping people engaged.

How is Ideal Impact disrupting the current trends in giving?

What we’re trying to do is build a community of folks who think reading the news should be an active experience, not a passive one. We turn news into action for social impact.

Our ultimate goal is even broader—it’s really about using technology to facilitate that community of giving. There’s definitely been a generational shift in terms of how people engage. In the past, giving back was a lower priority based on the premise that life was split into three stages: learn, earn, and return. That’s the traditional model: you spend several years getting educated, several more years earning money, and then later in life, you start giving back.

We realized that the way the average person interacts with the world is so much more attuned to individual values and beliefs. In the past, if I cared about the environment, that meant I was doing a lot of clean-up or raising money. That’s hyper-local. Now, we have the power to touch any issue across the globe in some meaningful way when we see it in the news, whether we’re supporting aid workers in Syria or responding to the Ebola crisis.

Why do you think news stories in particular are a good place to influence giving?

We realized that people read news stories everyday on what they care about, and it inspires some feeling in them. But they don’t know how to act and that causes a disconnect. You think of yourself as a good person, but you read about police brutality or homelessness or children in schools who can’t succeed, and it causes this rift inside you. What are you doing to help these people?

Wherever you read the news, there should be a platform that’s agnostic to the delivery mechanism that gives you a way to engage.

We want to start a really open platform that says there are so many ways to engage—there no reason to think about it just in terms of financials. For example, when last year’s Ebola response was in the headlines, the typical impulse was… where can I donate to provide support for doctors and first-responders? Don’t get me wrong—that’s a great way to engage, but there’s no one right way to engage. And we’re trying to address that.

What kinds of news stories draw people in?

There are tons of Washington Post stories about family homelessness and chronic homelessness, but for most people, what matters more is telling that personal narrative. There was a great story recently about a man who was being charged with vagrancy, and at the some point in his trial, the judge recognized the guy as a classmate from Harvard Law. The story unpacks the man’s life and follows how he went from Harvard Law School to being thrown in jail for vagrancy.

It’s the stories that tease out people’s humanity that are so impactful. It’s much easier to wrap your arms around one person instead of helping 1600 families who are homeless. People identify with individuals. Putting problems on a human scale is incredibly important to getting people to feel that they have an impact.

How does Ideal Impact work?

You download our app on your phone, and then as you’re reading a news article, you share the article it with us. Our app takes that URL and finds the story and searches the database for related opportunities in that city. We don’t actually source the news content—we let you read what you’re most interested in reading. And when that moment of inspiration hits, you share it with us! We help you out.

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