Online Fundraising Tears of Joy the Private Eye Way.

I used to find the back pages of Private Eye puzzling. Rows of personal ads asking for money to help people “travel” “pay my mums nursing fees” or “finish university”. Why would you bother to send a cheque?

I think I understood them a little better when a year ago I threw a few dollars at Volunteer Evolution because I wanted to trust the idea behind her ambitions and it wasn’t a big deal for me financially.

This all came to mind when Jon Bounds alerted me to I Am Not A Drain on Society. A week ago this anonymous medical student added a donate button and eloquently explained:

This is sheer desperation. I mean it. I’m financially crippled, and unless I manage to magic up some cash at warp speed, there is a distinct chance I may get suspended from medical school.

Earlier today they wrote:

I want to say a huge massive thank you to all of you! Between all of you who have either donated, or sent messages of support, you have all reduced me to tears of joy. Basically, I needed £1000 up front to the university to allow me to register as a 2nd year student and get my loan for this academic year. On top of this £1000 I owed them a further £1600. So courtesy of you wonderfully generous individuals, I have now raised £1700 in donations.

So how does this work? I have some ideas:

In the same ways as the Private Eye personals which appeal to people for whom a donation is small fry and the subject has some personal resonance.
Trust built up over a period of blogging to establish a real relationships.
Good writing and entertainment are rewarded (like Radiohead making money from trying to give away their music, but the again possibly not).
The ease of the mechanism. Push button donations are simpler than going to a post box.

It certainly doesn’t appear to be the blogosphere buzzing. Technorati reckons the blog has barely received any links in the last week and Google blog search was telling the same story. It is interesting that only two people I could find who sympathies are other blogging public servants Walking the Streets, Random acts of reality and The Thin Blue Line.

So what have I missed?