Restricted gifts are a unique topic in our business. Imagine buying a tank of gasoline and saying that you want your profits only to go towards green energy research, or buying a T-shirt and insisting that your portion of profits only go towards subsidized medical coverage for the employees. In non profits restricted gifts work just like that and they can be very effective.
In the realm of the one man philanthropy there is an opportunity to direct donations towards a single cause or program. A very recent example of this is MalariaEngage.org that requests $10 donations and then affords donors the option to fund seven projects recommended by Tanzania's National Institute for Medical Research. Once those have been funded, MalariaEngage.org will look to support new projects across developing countries.
In creating an inexpensive platform MalariaEngage.org can send the sum of its donations to support research. Other organizations are not so lucky, in that they have developed numerous patient support, advocacy, education, and outreach programs that really do help people but require staff to organize and run. It is not unfathomable that organizations could build micro campaigns around restricted donations to mission critical services. Matching donors to what they are passionate about almost always results in better connection and affinity with the organization, and really makes donors feel like they can see their impact on specific programs. This innate need to feel like you are making a difference is what drove the entrepreneurial philanthropists to create their own activities in the first place.