Archive for Social Actions

When Embedded Philanthropy Works (Hint: It’s All in the Story-telling)

Lucy Bernholz coined the term “embedded philanthropy” a couple of years ago to describe a growing phenomenon in the consumer marketplace – well, let’s let Lucy tell it:

Embedded giving is the (apparently) increasingly common practice of building a philanthropic gift into another, unrelated, financial transaction. For example, rounding up your phone bill to make a gift to charity. Or using your own grocery bag and donating the nickel that the store gives you to a local homeless shelter. Or using a specific search engine because it donates a small portion of its advertising revenue to charity.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Telecom for Charity, yet another “small percentage of charity” premise promising to divert a portion from the sale of something we’d buy anyway (in this case, telephone service) to charity. These offers suffuse our consumer lives nowadays – and despite the cynic in me, I do believe they represent the desire to “give something back” on the part of the entrepreneurs behind these efforts … in somewhat equal proportion to their just-as-strong desire to leverage the proven consumer interest in causes and “good brands.”

But I also think that the basic (and I might add, seemingly majority) reaction in social sector circles that embedded philanthropy just isn’t worth the effort – or worse, may divert real direct giving by giving people a cheap way to feel like they’ve done something good – misses one crucial point. And it’s a very typical one for those who work in nonprofitland to miss: causes should be using these opportunities to broaden the attention they get.

In other words, even if a lot of embedded philanthropy looks like an attempt to take advantage of nonprofits desperate to raise money by using them to hook into a consumer market hungry for causes, so what? If the cause can latch on to a marketing campaign to garner more attention, it may be worth it. Sure, the money is small – especially for organizations who don’t have exclusive fundraising partnerships with the consumer brands and start-ups plying these waters. And I do not believe the money ultimately raised will ever tilt the philanthropy scales by all that much.

That said, causes need exposure in our saturated consumer-dominated culture.

So the key is in the story-telling – in changing the value of perceived embedded philanthropy from raising tons of money to raising tons of attention (with a few dollars as a bonus). To me, the best of the embedded philanthropy schemes work to educate consumers about important causes – with the small-percentage offer serving as merely the hawker outside the door.  In his post for this series, Sean Stannard-Stockton gets at the root of it:

Maybe embedded giving will prove to increase the amount Americans donate to charity each year by presenting consumers with an option that makes them behaviorally more likely to donate. But for now, I have to say that I see embedded giving as an indicator that Americans have an increasing interest in philanthropy rather than as a driving force of that interest.

And just taking Sean’s observation a step further: if embedded philanthropy can be used to bring more attention to important causes, maybe its rise is more than an indicator – but a potentially important tool in recruiting a higher percentage of consumers to become more active philanthropists in general. Has RED increased attention for the African HIV/AIDS pandemic? Have the ads for Tom’s Shoes increased consumer empathy toward children living in poverty? To me, those are key questions to ask – in addition to counting the dollars raised.

This blog post is part of the Embedded Philanthropy Blog Series, sponsored by Telecom for Charity. The blog series was launched in May 2009 to highlight expert thinking and encourage discussions on the state of embedded philanthropy in today’s economy.

Microphilanthropy: An Explanation

A terrific overview of the emerging microphilanthropy sector by Peter Deitz of Social Actions, from his visit to Google last fall. A few months old, but well worth listening to: “individual fountains pouring out opportunity get involved.”

How Can You ‘Change the Web?’

changethewebGot an idea for how to use a massive database of opportunities to help make the world a better place – a widget, a feed, an application, a new website? Then it’s time to plug into Social Actions’ just-launched Change the Web Challenge for a chance to win part of a $10,000 prize – and quite literally, change the web for the better.

Social Actions, a nonprofit online initiative, has created an open database of 60,000+ actions from 40+ sites – including GlobalGiving, Change.org, DonorsChoose.org, Kiva.org, Nabuur, TakingITGlobal, Idealist.org, and VolunteerMatch.  “Now we want to get these actions out there – onto the websites, blogs and social networks that millions of people visit everyday,” says the organization in a blog post announcing the contest. “Next time inspiration strikes you to make a difference, the opportunities to take action will be but one click away.”

CauseWired Communications is proud to be a media sponsor of Change the Web, so look for continued updates here! [Social Actions’ work  will be familiar to readers of this blog and CauseWired.]

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Guest Post – Social Actions Round-up No. 22

Note: The online social activism sector is growing all the time, and sharing information and ideas is crucial to continuing that growth – and the very impact on society. We’re happy to carry the excellent Social Actions Round-up of links and resources here at CauseWired, created by the prolific and plugged-in team of Joe Solomon, Christine Egger and Peter Deitz. Enjoy it – and pass it along!

Online giving markets and other websites that facilitate online action hit the ground running in 2009. Below is our latest weekly round-up of news and recent discoveries.

News Roundup

SocialEdge is welcoming applications for the annual Global Social Benefit Incubator Competition.

RisingVoices is welcoming applications for its annual new media outreach micro-grants of $5k.

Nabuur is accepting applications for volunteer online project managers.

TakingItGlobal launches a personal fundraising campaign to support its work in 2009.

Kiva prepares to launch an open API for its micro-lending platform.

PolicyPitch is a December 2008 Ideablob finalist.

DreamBank publishes its favorite tips for a succesful and happy 2009.

Stephen Colbert joins the board of directors of DonorsChoose.org.

Convio is asking nonprofits for their 2009 technology resolutions.

Gina Bianchini of Ning shares her company’s three month roadmap.

Leslie Poston shares on Mashable a guest blog post called, Give Back With Social MicroFunding in 2009.

Rachel Cunliffe shares on Mashable a guest blog post called, 10 Ways Twitter Will Change Blog Design in 2009.

Firstgiving shares three online fundraising resolutions.

ModestNeeds invites the newly unemployed to apply for bridge grants.

mySociety gest a new design.

JD Lasica posts a comprehensive list of social media conferences in 2009.

Beth Kanter reports on her succesful social media birthday fundraiser on behalf of the Sharing Foundation.

Kimberly Bock writes about protecting consumer rights by becoming a citizen blogger.

Sean Stannard Stockton shares on Paul Brest’s blog a guest blog post called, What’s The Evidence For Evidence-based Theories of Change?.

Christine Prefontaine writes about the importance of investing in a community facilitator.

SFGate.com writes about how giving can change your mind for the better.

Paul Lamb shares on mySociety his thoughts on the value of creating a social credit card (from 2006).
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Guest Post – Social Actions Round-up No. 20

Note: The online social activism sector is growing all the time, and sharing information and ideas is crucial to continuing that growth – and the very impact on society. We’re happy to carry the excellent Social Actions Round-up of links and resources here at CauseWired, created by the prolific and plugged-in team of Joe Solomon, Christine Egger and Peter Deitz. Enjoy it – and pass it along!

Each week, Social Actions community members post links and news about online social activism – This round-up is a summary of the links that surfaced in the last 7 days. You can share links and news for future Social Actions rounds-ups in the Peer-to-Peer Social Change FriendFeed Room. Check out past roundups here. You can also tag your delicious bookmarks with “p2pchange” or include “#p2pchange” in your tweets – we’ll scoop them up and review them for future Social Actions Roundups.

Social Actions roundups are syndicated on CauseGlobal, CauseWired, ContributeMedia, NetSquared, and TakePart.

Upcoming Events

Tom Watson hosted an online chat at Philanthropy.com on the subject of, “Using Online Tools for Activism.” [The transcript is up!]

TakingItGlobal hosted a launch party in Toronto (Tues, Dec 16) for the launch of its version 6.

George McCully spoke at the Ethos Roundtable in Harvard Square (Tues, Dec 16) on the subject of, “Philanthropy Reconsidered in the Internet Age.”

ChristmasFuture launched (Tues, Dec 16) its first TweetsmasFuture campaign.

Kiva will host (Wed, Dec 17) its first community conference call for lenders. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post – Social Actions Roundup #19: Time to vote in USAID’s first open source challenge!

Note: The online social activism sector is growing all the time, and sharing information and ideas is crucial to continuing that growth – and the very impact on society. We’re happy to carry the excellent Social Actions Round-up of links and resources here at CauseWired, created by the prolific and plugged-in team of Joe Solomon, Christine Egger and Peter Deitz. Enjoy it – and pass it along!


Photo by MyJon

This week’s roundup draws attention to two contests that illustrate the impact social media technologies are having on not just private and nonprofit initiatives, but public spending as well.

USAID’s first-ever open source challenge – the 2008 USAID Development 2.0 Challenge hosted by Netsquared – is ready for your vote. Today through December 12, vote for up to five of your favorite projects from over 100 entries, all of which use mobile technologies for social good.

The recently-completed Apps for Democracy challenge resulted in 47 apps that made use of Washington DC’s government data catalog. As we covered in Roundup #16, this contest delivered a 4,000% ROI for its organizers. This week, Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs reports on lessons learned and the buzz this contest has generated for creating more open source challenges for government agencies.

And speaking of government, President-elect Obama’s transition team announced this week that the Change.gov website now falls under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: Social Actions Roundup #17

Note: The online social activism sector is growing all the time, and sharing information and ideas is crucial to continuing that growth – and the very impact on society. We’re happy to carry the excellent Social Actions Round-up of links and resources here at CauseWired, created by the prolific and plugged-in Joe Solomon. Enjoy it – and pass it along!

Despite the holiday schedule, we witnessed an explosion of reports, articles and presentations over the last seven days on how the online philanthropic landscape is shifting. In this round up, you’ll find links to material from The Hewlett Foundation, The MacAurther Foundation, The Mozilla Foundation, MSNBC, Cone Inc, Beth Kanter, Tom Watson, TechCrunch, and more.

We start the round-up with links to two break-through online fundraising campaigns: EpicChange’s TweetsGiving initiative (which raised over $10,000 in 48 hours from 336 contributors) and the British Humanist Association’s fundraising page on JustGiving (which raised over £100,000 in 7 days from 6,680 contributors).

News Roundup for Week of Nov 24-30, 2008

EpicChange launches TweetsGiving and raises $10,000 in 48 hours on Twitter.

JustGiving reports on the lessons learnt from the highly succesful Atheist Bus fundraiser.

DonorsChoose.org starts tweeting classroom projects that are nearly funded.

Tom Watson writes about DonorsChoose.org’s experiment with affiliate marketing.

About.com’s Nonprofit portal reflects on how and why people donors give online.

Beth Kanter reports about Change.org’s Ideas for Change in America project and teaching your kids to be philanthropic.

TechCrunch posts SEC letter that explains the government’s reason for shutting down peer-to-peer lending site Prosper.

Better x Design reminds people to apply for a $1,500 grant from their Seed Fund.

Mark Surman of The Mozilla Foundation posts slides from his upcoming presentation, “A city that thinks like the web.”

Joe Solomon posts slides from his presentation, “Firefox Extensions for Social Change.”

The Hewlett Foundation released its report, “The Nonprofit Marketplace: Bridging the Information Gap in Philanth….” (read Christine Egger’s response)

The MacArthur Foundation released its findings from the Digial Youth Project.

MSNBC posted (yet another) report on what nonprofits can learn from Obama’s use of social media.

Vodophone Americas Foundation announced a $600,000 Wireless Innovation Challenge.

Cone, Inc released a report celebrating 25 years of cause marketing.

Recent Discoveries

The Atlantic’s think again blog

Urbantastic city guides to nonprofits in Vancouver and Victoria

Nonprofit 2.0 vlog

Video: Mark Kingwell and Malcolm Gladwell debate social change, and…

American Express 2007 Charitable Gift Survey

Frerieke van Bree’s reflections on implementing technology programs…

The Robin Hood Foundation’s approach to measuring impact

AGoodCause — shopping for a better world

The Fair Deal blog

CGAP — advancing financial access for the world’s poor

The MicroFinance Gateway

10Beyond — email stamps for nonprofits

Creating a Semantic Web for Philanthropy, by Tom Munnecke (2001)

eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit

Social Actions News

We announced 9 Goals for 2009.

Joe Solomon is hosting a conference call on 12/3 about Change the Web 2009.

Peter Deitz posted the Open Actions Update #2: Towards a Voting API.

The Social Actions team is developing a p2p fundraising campaign (launching 12/1/08)

What is the Social Actions Round Up?

Each week, Social Actions community members post links and news about online social activism – This round-up is a summary of the links that surfaced in the last 7 days. You can share links and news for future Social Actions rounds ups in the Peer-to-Peer Social Change FriendFeed Room. Check out past roundups here. You can also tag your delicious bookmarks with “p2pchange” or include “#p2pchange” in your tweets – we’ll scoop them up and review them for future Social Actions Roundups.

Social Actions roundups are syndicated on CauseWired, TakePart, and NetSquared.