Another One Percent Problem To Solve

08/10/2016 01:15 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2017

Only one percent of official aid goes directly to the global south -- the people and communities in Africa, Latin America and developing Asia that need aid the most. Only one percent. The rest goes through intermediary organizations whose role is to address administrative and political issues with respect to distribution of aid.

In his recent article about this inequity, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, the secretary-general of Civicus, asked "how prepared [are] donors and others are to disrupt the current development model; how prepared [are] we all are to smash the charitable industrial complex" so that nonprofits and NGOs in the global south can begin to directly receive donations, aid and support to drive sustainable development?

The solution might seem simple, but it's true: the Internet. The greatest disruptive force since, well, ever.

Today, the Internet connects more than 3 billion users and will someday connect everyone on the planet. One of the most significant impacts of the Internet is to disintermediate just about anything. Ask brick and mortar businesses about that. Ask the music industry. Why should donations and NGOs be any different? The Internet has created new distribution channels for nearly every product or service one can think of, so why wouldn't funding to the global south also be ripe for disruption?

The Internet can help address this one percent problem by doing what it does best: creating one-to-one connections and facilitating information sharing. In many cases, the Internet already connects NGOs directly to donors and supporters, and allows those NGOs to present their missions with content that addresses the important issues of trust and measurable impact. But not all NGOs have the resources to develop an online presence that does this. They don't have the budget to create a robust website or a deep bench of staffers to manage digital marketing campaigns.

NGOs need low-cost online resources that allow them to reaffirm their credibility, collect donations, and tell stories through content directly to donors themselves. With these resources, NGOs can create alternative funding free from intermediary overhead and become sustainable over time.

This is especially important to NGOs targeting the millennial donor base which, in the U.S. alone, represents 25 percent of the population and more than $200 billion in annual buying power. Forty-two percent of millennials reported that they give to "whatever inspires me at the moment" and more than 70 percent of them give through a website.

With these giving trends in mind, the Internet community can help level the playing field so NGOs can create an effective online presence that helps them reach this audience. Likewise, NGOs can better leverage the easy-to-use and low-cost tools that currently exist.

For example, emerging technologies like crowdfunding websites, user forums, reputation rankings and social media platforms have already started leading the charge, helping nonprofits establish transparency and raise funds. The new .ngo domain was created exclusively for nonprofits so Internet users know that they are engaging with genuine, validated NGOs by looking at their website address alone. Organizations like TechSoup, NonProfit Tech for Good and the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network are purpose-built to empower NGOs with online resources that help them grow. Now, it's time for other Internet technologies to get on board - make easy-to-use content creation tools and provide NGOs with much needed marketing resources.

According to Blackbaud's 2015 Charitable Giving Report, overall giving was up 1.6 percent in 2015, compared to the online giving increase of 9.2 percent. So to respond to Mr. Sriskandarajah's question, some of the tools necessary to smash the charitable industrial complex are already here - they can be found on the Internet. It's up to online technology providers to make them better, and NGOs to put them into practice.