As many of you have pointed out to me, there is an easy way to help starving children. It’s called The Hunger Site.

Visit, click, and — at no cost to you — 2-1/2 cups of rice are provided for a hungry child.

I first wrote about the hunger site this summer. I was a bit dismissive, in part because you had the sense you were ferrying a turkey dinner out to some poor kid, when in fact, as I discovered, you were contributing 3 cents to a UN hunger program. Three cents (now a nickel) is not a big deal.

I also noted, back in July, that as well-intentioned as it seemed to be, if 10 million people clicked each day, the guy behind the site would pocket $25 million a year for his trouble. (These were not the numbers I used, but this is how the numbers worked out, based on his 14% commission.) So one could even construe it as a somewhat cynical way to make a fortune.

Since then, the site has done a great job of providing full disclosure — and its founder, John Breen, of Indianapolis, has renounced the 14% commission. The site is now run for free. John says he even absorbs the cost of the server.

What’s more, John is is so modest, his name and face appear nowhere on the site. As best I can tell, he’s not even doing this for the glory (at least not in this life).

So what’s wrong with the Hunger Site? If anything, only this:

At a nickel a day, after a full year of relentless clicking, you have given $18.25. (Well, you haven’t given anything, but the sponsors have, as a result of your clicking.)

The upside: $18.25 has been contributed. Rice has been provided. And it’s made you feel good to help.

The downside: perhaps not doing the math, you may actually feel that, having clicked, you’ve “done your bit.” (If you earn minimum wage or are nine years old, you have!). Hunger site devotees may feel, when asked to contribute to one good cause or another, including hunger causes, that, heck, they’ve been religious about helping the hungry every day all year — they’ve even turned other people on to this great site — and that’s enough. They “gave at the office,” as the line used to go.

But c’mon. It’s a nickel.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go click. If it takes you 3 seconds, you are “earning” $60 an hour for the cause. If it takes you half a minute to pull up the site, glance at the ads, click, think about your good deed, and get back to what you were doing — $6 an hour.

Either way, a nickel.

“What is that nickel really worth?” John Breen muses. “If you live in an industrialized country, it is barely worth picking up off the ground. If you live in India and are watching your child die in front of you from hunger, that nickel — which buys two cups and a half of food at the Hunger Site — is worth everything in the world.”

Beyond that, John seems, from our limited e-correspondence, to be such a bright, modest, thoroughly well-intentioned man that he may find ways to leverage the good will.

  • Perhaps he will link to the several new sites, like helping.org, that make it easy to give lots more than a nickel. Helping.org, which recently received a rave from the Wall Street Journal‘s estimable Walt Mossberg, is a nonprofit set up by the AOL Foundation. It helps you donate money — or volunteer. Check it out.
  • Or if clickles ever materialize, as I’ve long been hoping they will, perhaps The Hunger Site will make it easy to double-click — once for the sponsor’s nickel and once, say, to kick in your own 25 cents or half dollar.

In the meantime, though, a nickel is still just a nickel, and your time must be worth something, so don’t spend too much of it thinking what a wonderful thing you’ve done by clicking on the Hunger Site.

 

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