Inspiration and Background

The overall monetary value of all US donations to charity has been increasing steadily, totalling over 373.25 billion US dollars in 2015 which was 4% higher in inflation-adjusted dollars from that of 2014. Of those donations, made up of contributions by foundations, individuals, and corporations-- individuals made up 71% of that 373.25 billion US dollars [1]. _ Individuals are the major donors for US charities _.

Of donations made to these charities, however, there are a couple problems we have identified with the donor/charity system that can be addressed (each named with a two-word descriptor):

  1. Donation inefficiency: a fraction of each donated dollar actually goes to its intended use-- this inefficiency is often caused by charities budgeting for marketing campaigns [2]
  2. Confusing instructions: the US tax code is long, confusing, and likely changing--more real now than ever
  3. Donation Gap: average individual online giving ($210) is LESS THAN HALF that of average overall giving ($435) [1]

So, we decided to tackle these problems with Charity One, a web application that simplifies the users donating experience and customizes philanthropy to their preferences. Based on what we've created, we believe our app can:

  1. Reduce donation inefficiency by marketing for charities directly to user preferences
  2. Reduce confusing instructions by displaying only relevant information to the user
  3. Close the donation gap by providing a tool for donations, raising average individual online giving

What it does and specifications

Our web application has several features:

  1. A Login Page so users see their own information securely
  2. An Accounts Display so users can see their finances
  3. A "Charity account," an additional checking account for earmarked donation money
  4. An Analytics and Insights page that uses the user's spending habits to predict and recommend potential philanthropic opportunities. It also sets up strong visuals for the users to observe their own spending.
  5. A "Rules" page that toggles several of the following features: a self-imposed tax that sends a ratio of future spending to the "Charity account" so that money is earmarked for donation later, a form to log both monetary and non-monetary donations, and several fields that the user can fill to personalize their experience.
  6. A "Charity Awards" page that showcases the user's philanthropic accomplishments: total monetary donations, a table of all of their tax-deductible donations built as a filing tool for the users taxes, tips for future tax-deductible donations while still following the US tax code, and more.

How We built it

Our front end was built using React.js and our back end was constructed using the Django RestAPI framework.

Challenges We ran into

Setting up the Django REST back end and React.js front end cost us a full night and half a day. We are completely new to setting up a server and database, but we're glad we got it to work! We couldn't implement all of the functionality we wished to put in, but given that we're new to this, it's not a bad start.

Accomplishments that We're proud of

In a list:

  1. We are proud of how well we populated the database with useful charity information that predictively suggests over 20 different ways that the user can contribute and would be interested in donating. This does more than the curated list of charities found in GiveWell, which we used to populate our 20 listed available charities.
  2. We are proud of the clean UI and web page!
  3. We are _ quite _ proud of our backend functionality that automatically earmarks funds after specifically tagged transactions are logged in the Capital One API-- functionally allowing the user to tax themselves and make themselves accountable for donations.
  4. We are most proud that we finished and are about to present our team's first hackathon product!

What We learned

A lot. Servers and databases are a mess for noobies.

What's next for Charity One: tailoring philanthropy to the individual

We plan for the following:

  1. Making a more intuitive developer interface to modify the curated list of charities, change the intuitive list of simplified IRS tax code rules, and more.
  2. Storage of receipts and photos of proof-of-donation that can be viewed in the case of an IRS audit
  3. Use a combination of research in behavioral economics and psychology to further motivate user donations
  4. Provide the service of being able to log donations and display those donations so it's easier for the user to file their tax-deductible donations-- the information is all in one place.
  5. Connect our service to other financial institutions for users with other preferred banks (but why do that? Capital One is the best!!)

Works Cited


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