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Give BIG to Humanosphere – or else!

Gun to head
Flickr, Rob Marquardt

We need money to make sure nothing unfortunate happens to your friend Humanosphere. You’d like to see your friend stay healthy, now wouldn’t you?

Tuesday is Seattle’s GiveBIG campaign, a one-day, charitable event in which 1,600 local non-profits compete for your attention – and your money. We’re not actually participating in GiveBIG this year due to being held hostage in a warehouse, but we also need your financial support. Weird pitch, huh? I’ll explain …

But first, see that donation “Support the Fight” button up there on the right? Click it, read our pitch and please support Humanosphere. We don’t want anybody getting hurt, now do we?

Okay, really, why didn’t we sign up with the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG campaign to ask for money? We are not actually in a warehouse with a gun to our head.

Partly, it’s because we’re still new to this whole fund-raising thing and not very good at it. Yeah, yeah, I know the fund-raising experts out there say you’re not supposed to say anything like that because donors want to support ‘winners.’ But we’re journalists here. We can’t help pointing out glitches, even our own. And we are ‘winning’ on the journalism front – as a widely read, highly influential global (one-third of our readers are not in the U.S.) news resource for aid and development issues.

We are, however, struggling a bit financially. We’re in good company, since nearly all media are struggling due to the collapse of the traditional business model based on advertising. But unlike most media, we’re non-commercial and very leanly focused on one area. We also don’t do the objectivity thing. We try to be fair, but nobody’s really objective. Poverty makes us mad.

Humanosphere, a news site based in Seattle devoted to covering the fight against global poverty and inequity, has been a fully-fledged independent 501 c 3 non-profit organization for only about 6 months. We used to be funded by NPR and KPLU but they didn’t make a pledge drive target. Or maybe it was because I could never master that soothing vocal tonality to join the radio team that made us an easy cut? I also never mastered pledge drives, obviously.

GiveBigBut mostly we’re not signed up for GiveBIG because we’re in a uniquely weird position.

As a news organization, we report on many of the non-profits, philanthropies and humanitarian groups participating in GiveBIG. We also report on fund-raising campaigns like GiveBIG, and last year discovered that many in the local humanitarian community have problems with this one-day event.

There’s no question GiveBIG is valuable and well-intentioned. But many complain, mostly off-the-record, that this event just ends up pitting the groups against each other in a frenzied day of pleading rather than building community, and that the big organizations that already have a powerful marketing machine tend to overwhelm the little guys.

Last year, Global Washington’s director Bookda Gheisar was one of the few who acknowledged this publicly.

“I’m concerned that these kind of campaigns don’t really encourage us to come together as much as they make us compete for increasingly scarce dollars,” Gheisar said in 2013.

Some also complain about the high financial transaction fees (2.85 percent or more, depending upon your card) taken out by the banks. That’s nothing the Seattle Foundation or GiveBIG can fix. Of course, the banks could get in on the whole charitable thing and reduce their fees to show support for the good works done by these organizations … ha-ha, just kidding. Pigs will fly.

So that’s why Humanosphere opted not to participate in GiveBIG. It would just be a bit weird to participate in an event that we also feel a responsibility to cover as journalists. Maybe we’ll figure out how to walk this tight rope and sign up next year. Maybe not, but journalism has to come first.

We do encourage you to support the many wonderful organizations listed for GiveBIG at the Seattle Foundation, especially those working on reducing severe poverty and inequity overseas. These groups tend to get short shrift in this campaign, for some reason.

Oh, and if you can spare a few more bucks for hard-nosed, incisive, principled but irreverent journalism, go click on that donation link up there on the right.


Tom Paulson, founder, editor and part-time handy man at Humanosphere


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.