Here you'll find answers to some common questions about Charitocracy.
Signing Up and Donating
Voting and Winning
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 get in touch if you think you may have a way to contribute! We can use all the help we can get. Initially I 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 are just as tax-deductible as donations to any other charity!
I'm leery of providing my credit card info to web sites like Charitocracy. Should I be?
Yes, always... but no moreso at Charitocracy than at other reputable sites. We use Stripe as our credit card processor, a big player in the payments industry, with clients including OpenTable, Blue Apron, Saks 5th Avenue, Under Armour, Adidas, and Best Buy. They have the most stringent level of PCI certification in the payments industry. You can read more about their security infrastructure here
Furthermore, your credit card data never touches Charitocracy's servers. We embed Stripe's credit card form into its own inline frame on our registration form, essentially a web page within a web page. Your credit card info is transmitted over an encrypted connection from your browser to Stripe. Charitocracy only gets the thumbs up that all went well, the amount, and a reference number for the transaction. If hackers manage to breach Charitocracy, they'll be wicked disappointed.
Is there a minimum donation?
Yes, the minimum is $1/month, billed at $12/year. (An optional extra month's worth "tip" can be contributed to help cover transaction costs, web servers, office supplies, etc.) Furthermore, we bill once annually to minimize those transaction costs, which if billed monthly would eat up about one third of the donation!
Is there a non-recurring donation option?
This was a tough call, but we felt like it would be easier for donors, both during sign-up and at anniversaries, if we use a recurring subscription style of payment, whereby your credit card is automatically billed annually. In order to avoid surprises, we'll email you the week before your annual donation is charged and also provide instructions for cancelling. Our intention is to keep things simple and easy, not to hold donors hostage! If recurring donations are a showstopper for you, you can always cancel immediately after signing up. (See next question!)
How do I cancel future donations?
You simply go to My Account (in the menu) and choose Cancel. Then press the Submit button to confirm. Your account will remain fully active with voting rights for the remainder of the year since your last annual donation. And of course you're welcome to reactive your account at any time in the future by visiting My Account > Donation Change, where you can resume your annual donations.
Can I change my annual donation amount?
Yes, with ease! Go to My Account in the menu and choose Donation Change in the submenu. Your current donation amount is shown. Select the new annual amount you'd prefer. If you're lowering your annual donation amount, it will take effect at your next billing anniversary. If you're increasing your donation amount, then there's a good chance you want that to take effect immediately. If you'd rather the increase take effect at your next regular billing anniversary, simply uncheck the checkbox. Then re-enter your credit card info and press Submit.
What happens if my credit card info changes?
No sweat! Go to My Account (in the menu) and choose Credit Card. Enter your new card information and hit Submit. The new card info will be used on your next billing anniversary. But if it doesn't occur to you to keep Charitocracy in the loop (why would it?), that's not the end of the world! If we fail to process your next annual donation, for example because your previous card has expired or was cancelled, you'll get a friendly email from us as well as from our payment processor, Stripe
, giving you the heads up and suggesting you update your card info as described here.
If my recurring donations fail to process, what happens?
Smithers, release the hounds!
Seriously, this is not a problem. Chances are you've just got a new credit card, no big deal! You'll get up to 4 reminder emails, suggesting you update your credit card info. (See previous question!) But then we give up. We don't send collections agencies after you, or guys with baseball bats. Just one last snarky email about your account losing its voting privileges, along with instructions to resume your annual donations any time in the future.
Why am I seeing $0 or $1 pending charges in my credit card's recent activity?
If you've spent any time watching your credit card's pending transactions, then you'll be familiar with otherwise unexpected temporary charges that appear there, and then disappear again usually after a couple days. For example, when you slide your card at a gas station, you'll often see a temporary charge for $50 or $100 to ensure that after you fill your tank, the actual transaction will go through successfully.
Our payment processor, Stripe
, uses a pre-authorization like this to validate your card details before you submit a transaction. The amount will be $0 or $1 depending on the type of card, but the charge is immediately reversed by Stripe and should disappear from your recent activity within a few days, just like other pre-authorizations you may be accustomed to seeing. With that said, do let us know if you ever see unexpected charges from Stripe/Charitocracy show up on your credit card statement (not just pending recent activity)!
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, I'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, I'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, I'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, so that each donated monthly dollar 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 get in touch!
Why are nominations limited to the first week of each month?
For one thing, this gives a newly nominated cause a week or two to gain some attention before votes start counting. (At the end of week 2 each month, the choices are narrowed down to the Top 10.) By the same token, this gives donors a chance to familiarize themselves with all newly nominated causes so they can make informed decisions.
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 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 of the over 1 million 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations in the IRS's "Pub 78" database 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.
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.
Could a 501(c)(3) nomination be rejected?
When nominating, you search Charitocracy's copy of the IRS's "Pub 78" 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're 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 email us'); ?> 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.
After the 2 week mark each month, voting eligibility will be reduced to the Top 10 causes with the most votes. (The same tie-breaker rules apply as for the final selection. See a couple questions down about that.) Similarly, after the 3 week mark, only the Top 3 causes can receive votes. Votes for any other causes will remain intact, but will not be considered when selecting the final cause. So you are encouraged to revote for one of the causes that made the cut during each round!
Your vote 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 over 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, first we'll use the number of voters contributing partial votes as a tie-breaker, and if they're still tied, next we'll favor the one with fewer previous wins, and if they're still
tied, we'll consider the number of likes. Failing all that if there's still a tie, then whichever cause was nominated first will win. (It's impossible for there to be a tie on that final criterion!)
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 tip jar (general expense fund) if you have a moral objection to the month's winning cause. Until any formal mechanism for this is introduced, please reach out to us 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!
I'm your mother. Can you add a maximus super vote rule whereby every 3rd vote automatically goes to the cause your mother supports?
No. Sorry, MA. But great question!
Does Charitocracy have an app?
We barely have a web site! But we've designed the service with a potential future mobile app in mind, yes. 😉