After seeing a recent article in The New York Times posted a number of times on Facebook in Twitter, I decided to give it a look. “Be It Resolved” by John Tierney offers a brief literature review on research related to the success of keeping a New Year’s resolution, or many resolutions, as the case may be, though willpower.
To my surprise, there were some interesting nuggets of philanthropy and technology noted in the article that implicated motivation in ways that I never would have considered.
Late in the article after a somewhat awkward story about the ability of a wealthy hedge fund manager to meet his fitness goals (read: a strange point - unrelated to research - that the ultra-wealthy can hire people to manage their willpower for them), Tierney mentioned a website, stikcK.com, which allows you to set a goal and put money behind it. Basically, if you fail to keep your resolution or meet your goal, they money will be sent to “a friend, a charity, or an anti-charity.” The example of an anti-charity given in the article was that donation from “a Democrat could be the George W. Bush library. (The Clinton library is available for Republicans.)”
I presume that if you meet the goal in your resolution, you keep you money. It’s not clear if you can still donate it to charity – or anti-charity – when you’re successful. If you can donate it to a charity if you're successful (or if they just give the money back to you directly to donate on your own), then this could be a wonderful way to fundraise through activity goals, with practical use beyond just resolutions, like one-time races.
This is the first time I’ve really thought about an “anti-charity” concept, much less as a motivational tactic to pursue goals and resolutions. Of course, most of us prefer to give to “good” charities based on good intentions. I guess it might provide a new level of motivation to think that “bad” charities would benefit by our failures. But I could also see that it makes the whole goal-setting/resolution process more painful (“D’oh! I failed and my anti-charity succeeds at my expense!”).
The other philanthropy-related site listed in the article is striiv.com, but this one is focused primarily on losing weight. The site is an exercise monitor that makes donation to charity based on how active you are. The site says:
“At Striiv, we believe helping others is core to improving yourself. That’s why we’ve created a walkathon in every Striiv device that counts your steps and gives based on your movement. At no cost to you, Striiv and corporate partners donate on your behalf. Just walk, earn, and plug into your PC to donate. Its (sic) that simple. You have the choice of 3 charities - providing clean water to families in South America, polio vaccines, and help save the rainforest. The more you walk the more you give.”
I’ve run a few marathons and swam the Alcatraz Channel for various charities, so I can certainly support the idea of coupling philanthropic activism with physical activity. But I’m a little concerned that the charitable beneficiaries are not well explained online – it seems that you can’t even find their names or learn about how and where they give (beyond general parameters like “Bolivia, Tanzania, and India”).
It’s also a bit of a bump in the road to see that in order to participate in their approach, you have to buy a $99 device that tracks your activity. That’s not exactly cheap, considering most pedometers and phone applications cost much less. The software seems to be a large part of the sell, but it seems there is also an essential online component.
Also, it looks like you don’t actually donate your own money directly, since “At no cost to you, Striiv and corporate partners donate on your behalf.” But how much do they donate? The site seems like an interesting concept, but there are lots of questions I have about the effectiveness of their approach, based on activity and philanthropy.
Let me know if you find any sites that offer the same “walk/run/bike-a-thon” concept online through setting and achieving goals, with easy, secure, linked ways to donate the money. All the better if you can select the charity of your choice, as it would be quite convenient to document my activity activism and philanthropy over time. There needs to be a philanthropy diary online - anyone?
As for my resolutions? “Give more” is not one of them – I already made my philanthropic budget in 2011 and most of the beneficiaries are to places where I serve on the board of directors. So I don’t plan to turn to either of these sites for direction or motivation. But it’s great to see that charities, anti-charities, and technologies are using philanthropy to advance resolutions, or maybe it’s the other way around; using resolutions to advance philanthropy.
Good luck on those resolutions, friends!