Frequently Asked Questions

Here you’ll find answers to some common questions about Charitocracy. If you have a question not answered here, please feel free to ask us via Facebook, Twitter, singing telegram, or send us an !

About Charitocracy

Signing Up and Donating

Nominations

Voting and Winning

Technology

About Charitocracy


What does Charitocracy mean?

It’s the intersection of charity and democracy: the power of the people, each donating a relatively small amount, to decide how best to spend the collective sum. Instead of one vote per dollar, it’s one vote per person; every donor has an equal voice. If you’re fortunate enough to have more dollars to donate, then putting more in the pot will certainly have greater impact. But you can’t "buy" the pot to steer it in your preferred direction. Not only does every dollar matter, but so does every voice helping decide how to spend it all!

Then we also love how it rhymes with meritocracy! Hopefully the best ideas on how to spend the donations will take the form of nominated causes that receive the most comments and positive attention, giving them the most prominence in the discussion forums, and ultimately the most votes! Charitocracy is essentially a meritocracy for charitable causes.


Does Charitocracy have any religious or political affiliations?

None whatsoever! The people behind Charitocracy (officers, board members, volunteers) of course have their own various personal affiliations, but we’ll exclude ourselves from nominating and voting. We’ll participate in the discussion only as moderators, keeping discourse civilized and respectful, signal-to-noise ratio high, and attitudes well-adjusted. We have no agenda other than to encourage more donors to give more money to more good causes. You all are in charge of deciding what causes those are!


Can I volunteer?

Yes, please if you think you may have a way to contribute! We can use all the help we can get. Initially we can imagine a small squad of volunteer moderators keeping the charitable cause discussion forums running smoothly. If you’re a tech wizard with free time on your hands, we could probably harness your abilities to accelerate our engineering schedule, too. Eventually we could benefit from social media experts, SEO experts, etc. And to get meta for a moment, once we’ve grown enough you could even volunteer to coordinate… volunteers!


How do I get a Charitocracy T-shirt or bumper sticker?

We’ll try to set up something where you’re welcome to order yourself Charitocracy logo items from a 3rd-party (like CafePress) to help spread the word, but we don’t want to offer merchandise directly ourselves because it will distract from our mission. We want your dollars going to charitable causes, not T-shirt companies! But we agree if we all had T-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, and mugs, word would get out faster, and the monthly pot would grow faster, increasing our collective impact. So if there’s demand for schwag, we’ll help meet it!


Signing Up and Donating


Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, donations to Charitocracy are tax-deductible to the extent provided by applicable law. Please consult an accountant, tax preparer, IRS publication, know-it-all cousin, and/or Magic 8-Ball. But yes. We are a 501(c)(3) public charity, and donations to us should be just as tax-deductible as donations to any other charity!


Is there a minimum donation?

Yes, the minimum is $1/month, billed at $13/year. (No, we here at Charitocracy are not bakers! That extra $1 is to cover transaction costs, web servers, office supplies, etc. so the rest can go intact into the monthly pots.) Furthermore, we bill once annually to minimize those transaction costs, which if billed monthly would eat up about one third of the donation before ever reaching the pot!


Why should I give to Charitocracy instead of directly to my favorite charity?

No, not instead! If you already give to your favorite charities, you should certainly continue, and maybe up the ante each year as your personal finances allow. The aim of Charitocracy is to get more people donating more money to more good causes than they already do (if at all). We want to make it fun, educational, social, and super convenient.

If there’s any instead involved, we’d like donors to give via Charitocracy instead of (or in addition to) spending time and money on frivolous forms of entertainment. For example, if donors spend nearly as much time nominating, discussing, and voting for causes on Charitocracy as they do setting up their fantasy football lineup each autumn week, we’d call that a win! If the winners of Charitocracy received a fraction of the attention that winners of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars receive around the water cooler the next morning, we’d call that a win! But do continue to support your favorite charities, and then go a step further and introduce others to them by nominating and being a cheerleader for them on Charitocracy!


Can I mail in a donation (nomination, vote, etc.)?

When accompanied by a giant-size cardboard check with lots of zeroes, we’ll mail you back an iPad all set up for you to click the Donate button yourself! But seriously, Charitocracy makes heavy use of IT in order to have as little human overhead as possible, maximizing the percentage of each donated dollar that gets into the hands of the winning causes. Handling transactions via snail mail would put a damper on our efficiency! At the same time we strive to be inclusive, so if you have a special situation we might accommodate, do !


Nominations


Can I nominate a political campaign?

No, only organizations with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status may be nominated. Political campaigns and other organizations with political purposes do not qualify. At the same time Charitocracy, as a 501(c)(3) itself, is forbidden from participating in the political process. (We do believe we can safely encourage everyone to get out there and do your civic duty, just not influence your vote!)


Can I nominate a religious cause?

Yes, any 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is eligible to be nominated, and religious causes are well-represented in this group. According to Giving USA 2015 via Charity Navigator, nearly one third of all 2014 charitable donations in USA were to religious organizations. Bottom line: if the IRS has determined a cause to be a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization in good standing, that’s good enough for Charitocracy!


Can I nominate an individual with a medical hardship?

Some day we’d like to expand the scope of Charitocracy to include informal, grass roots causes. That was our original vision, but the IRS has some strict rules about making monetary distributions to the benefit of individuals. (They’re safeguards against fraud and abuse, so it makes a lot of sense, but still we’d love to be able to support individuals with hardships.) If the individual were under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3), such as a hospital or clinic or other non-profit giving care or financial support to the individual, then that organization could be nominated. Furthermore, nominations could be qualified with specific programs/participants, so the winning cause could be written a check earmarked to relieve an individual’s financial burden, ultimately at the discretion of the receiving organization. Whether donors would champion such narrow, targeted causes over broad, nationally recognized ones remains to be seen. We’re curious how this will play out!


Can I nominate a foreign aid charity?

If the charity is a 501(c)(3) according to the IRS, then yes! Many such charities are multinationals bringing aid to foreign countries. Think along the lines of Red Cross, UNICEF, and Doctors Without Borders. Multinational charities frequently have fundraising and often administrative operations in USA. Some day Charitocracy may grow beyond strictly American non-profits, but until then we’ll use the IRS’s 501(c)(3) criteria.


Can I nominate Charitocracy?

Ah, tricky! When you go to nominate a cause, Charitocracy Corporation will show up in the search of 501(c)(3) causes. But instead of getting a Nominate button, you’ll get a message basically saying "Thanks, but to keep things fair and beyond reproach, Charitocracy cannot be nominated."


Are there any non-profit causes not eligible for nomination?

Other than Charitocracy, any current 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as determined by the IRS is eligible for nomination. If a cause has never sought and achieved this status, or if it has lost this status by failing to stay current with its IRS filings, then it will not be eligible for nomination on Charitocracy.


If Jon Snow really knows nothing, can he still nominate a cause?

Jon Snow, the fictional character from Game of Thrones, does not possess the requisite credit card with which to make donations. Only donors can nominate causes!


Could a 501(c)(3) nomination be rejected?

When nominating, you search Charitocracy’s copy of the IRS’s database of eligible 501(c)(3) causes, updated monthly. If your desired cause shows up as a search result alongside a Nominate button, then you can nominate it immediately with no fear of rejection! (If the cause is Charitocracy itself, or any previously nominated cause, then the Nominate button will not appear.) However, if the IRS later revokes an already nominated cause’s 501(c)(3) status, it will no longer be able to receive votes on Charitocracy until its status is later restored as reflected in the IRS’s database.


Can Charitocracy nominate a cause?

No, Charitocracy will not nominate or vote for charities. We’ll provide the medium for others to nominate, discuss, and vote on charities, but we’ll avoid influencing the decisions ourselves. (We’ll be busy enough keeping the system running smoothly, increasing participation, and working on new ways to make giving more fun and convenient for donors!)


I belong to one of the nominated causes and would like to join its discussion forum. Is there a way to do that without donating?

Yes! Just from an email address associated with your cause and we’ll set you up with a free account and access to your cause’s forum. We’re honored to have your voice included in the discussion!


Voting and Winning


Is there a deadline for voting and what happens if I miss it?

You can cast and recast your vote as much as you like during the month. At 11:59:59pm Eastern (New York) Time on the last day of the month, your vote is “locked in” and counted. If you hadn’t yet voted, then there’s no harm done; the outcome is essentially no different than if you had voted for the winning cause. We encourage you to vote and make your voice heard, but if you prefer to simply donate and happily accept the most popular cause each month without getting involved, that’s okay, too.

After midnight, it now being the first day of the next month, recasting your vote will count toward the new month’s charity selection. If you had previously voted for the winning cause, that vote will be reset since the cause will not be eligible to win again until the same month next year. Otherwise, you’re welcome to leave your current vote alone. It will remain as-is and apply to all future months’ votes until either:

  • a cause you voted for wins, and your vote is reset (to nothing until you set it again),
  • a cause you voted for loses its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and your vote is reset (to nothing until you set it again), or
  • you actively change your vote to something else.

How many times can the same charity win?

Once per year, though with almost a million eligible 501(c)(3) non-profits out there, we anticipate repeat winners will be rare! When a cause wins, all votes for it are reset and immediately available for donors to vote elsewhere. Votes cannot again be cast for the winning cause until 11 months later, effectively permitting at most annual wins for any given cause.


What happens in the event of a tie?

In the unlikely event that two or more causes receive the same highest number of votes, that month’s pot will be split evenly between the winning causes. If splitting the pot would require sub-penny amounts, we’ll either take a penny or leave a penny at the nearest convenience store’s take a penny, leave a penny tray, depending on our mood that day.


Do you get to exempt yourself in any given month if you truly in good conscience cannot support the winning charity?

Let’s brainstorm a fair way to handle this important case. If you look at democracies, when you don’t get your way in an election, you still pay your taxes, and they often get spent on things you don’t agree with. At least at Charitocracy you participate by choice. On one extreme you could always cancel if you don’t like where your dollars are going… On the other extreme, whereby you could withhold your dollar each month your preferred causes don’t win, the point of the collective donation pool would fall right apart.

Maybe an acceptable compromise will be to offer a sort of conscientious objector escape valve, where you can have your dollar divert to the Charitocracy general expense fund if you have a morale objection to the month’s winning cause. Until any formal mechanism for this is introduced, please ASAP if you find yourself in this situation and would like to prevent your monthly donation from being included in the check to a particular winning organization. We respect your conscience and will honor your request. Just try to reach us in the first week of the next month: before we’ve sent out the check!


Technology


Does Charitocracy have an app?

We barely even have a web site yet! But we’ve designed the service with a future mobile app in mind, yes. 😉