Once the Huffington Post shared an open letter from 2,605 returned Peace Corps volunteers discussing the “future of our country,” the news was filled with stories about Peace Corps volunteers and other aid workers. Their experiences have helped communities throughout the world while building character and skills among the volunteers themselves.
However, there’s another story in which the Peace Corps is involved that may have greater impact than people think. It is now involved in a dispute with DonorSee, a crowdfunding site that lets people donate directly to aid relief projects around the globe.
The dispute is pointing to a potential shift in how aid relief is funded and projects are completed. This is especially timely as the United States continues to shift from one leader to another. Here’s how crowdfunding could indeed next disrupt aid relief:
It’s Already a Disruptor
If you haven’t recognized that crowdfunding is already a disruptor of multiple industries, it’s probably time. Platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter have changed the way startups fund products and people fund projects.
Filmmakers Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli used Kickstarter to fund their film Frame by Frame, which examined photojournalism in Afghanistan. Bombach’s and Scarpelli’s funding goal was originally $40,000, but they more than doubled that amount.
Crowdfunding has also become an acceptable, even expected, part of business planning for everyone from veterans starting businesses to booster clubs raising money for school athletics. Even college graduates are using it to pay back their student loans, and families are raising funds for medical bills or adoptions.
It’s Already Happening
When Arizona State University student Clarice Bayne decided to join the Peace Corps, she was in the midst of her undergraduate studies. Learning online, Bayne began pursuing a degree in Sustainability. During her sophomore year, she chose to join the Peace Corps to enrich her educational experience.
Once she made the decision, Bayne started a GoFundMe account to exchange her own artwork for donations. Bayne then headed to the Dominican Republic for a nine-day Peace Corps alternative Spring Break Study Abroad.
Bayne’s experience points to this growing trend, which has found the Peace Corps itself at odds with disruptors. Virginia-based entrepreneur and former aid worker Gret Glyer is leading the disruption charge.
His platform DonorSee, is the challenger to the Peace Corps’s traditional donation model. Based on his own experiences working in Malawi, Glyer returned to the States wanting to change how air workers and projects received their funds.
When a volunteer raises funds for a Peace Corps project, the money must be raised via Peace Corps’s own donation platform. This allows the government agency to account for all monies passing through its doors and to its projects because it must.
Glyer started DonorSee as a direct response to agencies like the Peace Corps, where money can be, but isn’t always, tied up in overhead costs and bureaucracy. The Peace Corps has now banned its volunteers from using DonorSee and other online forums.
After the ban, DonorSee and its supports created a petition on Change.org and even suggested a partnership with the 55-year-old aid organization. The petition has yet to be delivered, and the partnership was rejected.
In this changing world, the Peace Corps and other aid relief organizations may regret limiting volunteers’ funding to their own mechanisms. It could turn out to be as simple as a wasted opportunity, or it could turn aid relief on its head, as volunteers create their own funds, projects, even organizations.