Fellow Since 2008
betterplace gemeinnützige Stiftungs-GmbH
This profile was prepared when Till Behnke was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Rather than build another online philanthropy platform, Till has developed a transparent, self-regulating online market place, betterplace.org, for small donors and small COs that is unique because of its structural architecture, which he calls the “web of trust.” Till combines the rating systems based on “wisdom of the crowd” principles from sites like eBay or Amazon with the social networking techniques of sites like Linked-in. betterplace allows COs to gain visibility when they successfully rally the support of beneficiaries, friends, and donors, who can in turn recommend the an organization via mouse-click and comments. Like Linked-in, reviews are visible for any user and include the reviewer’s proximity to the CO and—unique to betterplace—what his or her relationship is to the organization: Be it donor, beneficiary, end user, competitor, or simply friend. This information allows users to interpret the ratings and comments in a new light. Thus, on betterplace.org, a “web of trust” and relationships visibly emerge that is radically transparent. Any user may decide whether she trusts the reviewers, which reviews she trusts most (e.g. that of end users or donors), and can thus make more confident choices about where to invest her money. In doing this, Till not only enables thousands of small donors to become more strategic investors, he also increases the volume of donations while encouraging accountability, and lastly, he helps hidden social champions among the citizen sector to emerge: They can now actively make their voice heard in the investment market without being eclipsed by ineffective, but better-known welfare institutions. To gain traffic and generate momentum, Till builds networks with institutions that can leverage his work: For example, companies pay a fee for referring their workforce to betterplace and for using rounding-down salary schemes to foster employees’ giving. Thus earning income, Till guarantees private users that 100 percent of the money donated through betterplace reach the target organizations, regardless of whether the sum is €5 or €500. In this way, Till systematically removes further barriers that thus far prevented small donors from strategic giving.