Affiliated Donors, Targeted Fundraising

More than a decade ago, when I first began to consider how great causes might be integrated into the wildly-expanding but still new commercial Internet, the big dream among marketers was contextualization. Surf “content” about, say, the New York Mets and you’d be offered “advertising” to buy tickets or gear. It was all very new then – but now we take it all for granted. Heck, simply be a 46-year-old male on Facebook and you’ll be offered all sorts of products aimed at middle-aged men; Google’s dominance is almost entirely about (occasionally appropriate) contextual messages in search.

Except for a few big fish, a Web publisher’s relationship with Google is that of affiliate to potential revenue source – you put in the code, generate traffic, and Google (along with many other services you might choose) serves marketing messages and assigns a micro-payment to you for each click. This is a fairly mature model, and affiliate relationships now exist for almost any product on the web – indeed, buy a copy of CauseWired by clicking on the box on the upper right of this page, and I’ll benefit with a few bob through my Amazon affiliate status.

But what about causes? Contextualization is one thing: Social Action is doing  great job providing “actionable” opportunities for social good from more than 30 platforms linked to a Website’s content. But what about the money? Affiliate relationships in the CauseWired sector – where site owners are rewarded for bringing donors to the cause – are almost non-existent. Until now.

DonorsChoose is experimenting with a new affiliate model that aims to both place opportunities for directly supporting public school teachers and children in context – and provide the economic motivation for publishers to do so.

Earlier in the year, it began offering a program on CommissionJunction, a database of affiliate offers – the offer is for a 4% cash commission or a 10% giving credit that can be used by site owners to make classroom donations. It’s important to note that either way, the commission is paid from a separate marketing budget and as a percentage of direct giving accounts; “It’s important for people to know that 100 percent of their donation is going where they think it’s going, said Best.

After a few months of kicking the tires – the “Kitty Hawk phase” according to founder/CEO Charles Best – DonorsChoose is launching a major partership with its first big partner, the nonprofit parent involvement and research site, GreatSchools.

Using the DonorsChoose API, GreatSchools will regionally target giving opportunities to its community of parents and education professionals, building the DonorsChoose classroom projects right into the GreatSchools design. “Thanks to the breadth of classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org,” says Best, “GreatSchools.net will be able to present its national online parent community with needs from public schools in the same city or state. Many thousands of students from low-income families stand to benefit from this partnership.”

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