A killer app (application) is a piece of software that is so fantastic that it drives uptake of the hardware needed to run the software. For many people email was the killer app that drove regular computer use in the 90’s.
So what’s the killer app for engaged philanthropy?
What is the activity that will drive uptake of the “operating system” of engaged philanthropy? Email was a killer app because it was hugely useful and it got people to log onto their computer multiple times a day. It spurred the need for a home computer (or more than one once a family of four all had their own email accounts) for purely personal use. Email was a killer app because by itself it made people want and need a computer. But the real impact of email wasn’t just that it let people communicate easily. It also got them on the computer where they quickly picked up all sorts of other activities that they never would have bought a computer for on their own.
In my recent post about Kiva.org, I called the organization a “gateway drug to social investing”. My point is that Kiva.org is hooking people who do not participate in engaged philanthropy. But once exposed to microfinance, Kiva users suddenly become much easier to convert to other social investing activities. Kiva or more generally, well designed microfinance, may be emerging as a killer app.
So my question today is what program, activity or entity has the potential to be a killer app that drives a larger uptake of engaged philanthropy?
Here’s one idea.
Donor advised funds: With the minimum to open a donor advised fund falling to just $5,000, many, many Americans now have the ability to financially structure their philanthropy. Just like the emergence of IRAs and 401ks in the early 1980’s drove the explosion of individual investors in the stock market, DAFs have the potential to do something similar for philanthropy. But it seems to me that for DAFs to become a killer app, someone needs to launched a better designed DAF that provides a more tangible “story” that connects donors to grantees much the way Kiva’s “journals” connect lenders and borrowers.
How else might DAFs be redesigned so that they become a killer app for philanthropy? What other ideas do you have for potential killer apps?