“DONATE.” This word, and various iterations of it, always seems to find a home on the websites and pamphlets of different charities and nonprofits. Understandably so, however, since these organizations rely heavily on the donations of outsiders to continue pursuing their respective missions. But the commonality of donation-eliciting tactics has, I would argue, desensitized most people to them. In other words, upon seeing something that encourages them to donate, most people will not think much of it (unless, of course, they are deeply interested in or moved by the organization’s cause), simply brushing these efforts off as “just something that charities and nonprofits do.” Yet not all organizations use the same strategies to raise capital, nor do they execute the same general strategies in the same exact way. In other words, these tactics are tailored to fit the particular needs or concerns of the organization. Thus, I propose that these tactics, such as having a donate button on the organization’s website, are not merely normative behavior expected of these types of organizations, but also useful tools that can help give clues about the external factors and forces affecting a particular organization. The usefulness of donation strategies in giving deeper insight into the larger picture can be seen clearly with the Dupont Circle Club, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization in Dupont Circle that aims to provide a safe and welcoming place for people to embark on their addiction recovery journeys. This essay, then, aims to argue that the Dupont Circle Club’s large effort in garnering donations could be in part due to a larger problem: the rising prices in Dupont Circle.
While it does seek to educate people about its mission, the Dupont Circle Club also greatly utilizes its homepage to garner donations. As with any homepage, the Dupont Circle Club homepage aims to provide people with basic information about the organization: the title informs people that the Dupont Circle Club is “Your Local Meeting Place in DC for 12-Step Recovery” and the body of text begins with stating the organization’s mission: “Improve Lives, One Person at a Time.” The homepage even provides visitors with a map of where exactly the Dupont Circle Club is located in Dupont Circle. However, these components that seek to familiarize people with the organization coexist with many other components of the website that seek to encourage people to donate. For example, the Dupont Circle Club has several modules along the sides of the webpage that link people to donation-related pages. More specifically, these modules link people to the organization’s online donation page, AmazonSmile, a website created by Amazon that “will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice,” and the Club’s donation form. Additionally, the Dupont Circle Club bolded the phrases “help us keep the doors open,” “Remember,” “501 (c) 3 non-profit,” and “tax deductible.” “Tax deductible” is particularly eye-catching due to the fact that it is also underlined and italicized. These text-style choices effectively emphasize these words to the visitor, along with the idea that ties them all together: donating. These two tactics, of course, are in addition to the three sub-pages of the “Giving” section of the website’s main menu. As a result of the sheer number of homepage aspects that focus on it, raising money has a very strong presence.
However, from looking at the websites of similar organizations, donation-eliciting efforts having a strong presence on the homepage does not seem to be the norm. For comparison’s sake, let us look at the homepages of the websites for the Phoenix House and the MARR Addiction Treatment Center, two other nonprofit addiction recovery centers. While they share similar features, the homepages for the Phoenix House and the MARR Addiction Treatment Center do not have nearly the same number of links that bring visitors to donation-related pages as the homepage for the Dupont Circle Club, nor is there any text present on their homepages that are dedicated to convincing people why they should donate. As a result, donation activity is not competing with the mission for attention on these two homepages in the same way it is on the Dupont Circle Club homepage. But the fact that two randomly selected organizations with similar structures and missions do not emphasize donating nearly as much as the Dupont Circle Club strongly indicates that the Dupont Circle Club is not following some sort of normative behavior or niche culture; rather it has chosen to have its efforts to bring in donations take on a fairly central role.
One possible reason the Dupont Circle Club’s donation efforts are playing a large role is the rising prices of space in Dupont Circle. Since the early 1990s, rent in Dupont Circle has been rising. This increase in price is particularly noticeable when looking at the fifteen years between 1990 and 2005 because rent doubled, or even tripled, for some locations in Dupont Circle during that time. As a result, numerous stores, many of which helped give Dupont Circle its character, were forced to close, including Schwartz Pharmacy, Janus Theater, and Larimer’s market. But while this price trend perhaps has not been as drastically evident in recent years, it still very much exists. Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services company, states on its blog that, “The Dupont Circle neighborhood is still affected by changes that are being seen across the DC metro region–a shortage of Class B supply due to ownership renovations repositioning has made rents steadily climb.” In other words, businesses and organizations in Dupont Circle are continually being faced with rent that is harder and harder to afford. The Dupont Circle Club, of course, is among this lot. But with a steadily rising rent expense, it is most likely becoming harder for the Dupont Circle Club to cover all of its expenses; funds that were previously enough to get it by are probably no longer sufficient. However, it is equally probable that the organization finds the thought of giving up its location in Dupont Circle for one elsewhere extremely hard since its location has played an integral role in shaping its character and identity. Dupont Circle is built into the very name, and thus fabric, of the organization, and so it does not make much sense for it to be located anywhere else but in Dupont Circle. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that the Dupont Circle Club opted for the only other plausible option it had: trying to increase donations so that it can afford to remain in Dupont Circle. Such a choice would then help explain the stronger presence of donation-eliciting tactics on the Dupont Circle Club’s homepage as compared to similar organization’s homepages.
However, the increasing prices in Dupont Circle are not only affecting businesses; they are affecting people too. Although it is much harder to notice than the effects on businesses with storefronts, the effects of increased prices on people is equally important. But Dupont Circle becoming more and more expensive is not affecting just any and all groups of people; it is particularly affecting members of the LGBTQ+ community, the community for whom the Dupont Circle previously existed, who can no longer afford to live there. While LGBTQ+-identified people being pushed out from a certain DC neighborhood may not seem to have relevance to most of us at the outset, it, in actuality, does. Gentrification is not unique to DC; it is a phenomenon that is affecting cities across the country, and because it is typically a minority group being forced out by the majority group, I believe it merits a moment of our thought. Why is this occurring? How are those being gentrified affected? Should this be addressed? How so? These are the types of questions we should be asking ourselves so that we as a society can make more intentional, informed decisions in the future rather than acting as if all of our actions occur in a vacuum where no such thing as a ripple effect exist.