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Fundraising 2.0: Choosing The Right Site

Social media may dominate the conversation when it comes to Web 2.0, but there is untapped potential seen by corporations and organizations, who are left asking: how can I use this to raise funds? There are several websites now aiming to combine the powerful networking capability of social media and the fundraising capabilities of independent web sites. These sites enable individuals and organizations to reach their donors directly at little or no cost, giving them an alternative to mailed-in donations of years past. Through online fundraising sites, individuals have the power to not only support their favorite causes, but to spread the word about them virally.

One of the first major players in online fundraising, Globalgiving.com has led the charge in online giving since 2004, gathering “$18 million in funding to more than 1,000 grassroots projects in over 90 countries”. Organizations can post projects to the site such as “Nurture 15 at-risk children for a year” or “Make college an option for 70 Congolese students”. Globalgiving, founded by former World Bank executives, takes a 15% share of every donation to cover the costs of finding projects and credit card processing. They also provide a giving channel for large corporations such as Nike, Ford and HP.

Offering a more personal version of giving online, and with a similarly long track record in online fundraising sector is stayclassy.org. With a simple premise, “What do you care about?”, the site is a platform for groups and individuals to create events and campaigns, manage donor relationships, raise funds, create publicity through social media and track fundraising results. Founded in 2006, stayclassy.org was one of the first personal online fundraising options and had 20,000 members by 2009.

One of the newest online fundraising options is Crowdrise, led and supported by celebrities such as Edward Norton and Will Ferrell, oddly enough. It works like this: you sign up on the site, and start a project. It could be anything, from a personal cause fundraiser, to an event, or a volunteer opportunity. You then use other social media sites like facebook or twitter to gather donations or volunteers, and then spread your cause through your page on Crowdrise to gather supporters that can either donate to your cause or use their own networks to spread the word The site is focused around making philanthropy cool, with the tagline: “If you don’t give back, no one will like you” and a points system that rewards project leaders with gifts like Northface Jackets and Apple laptops.

Sites such as these are only one way the Internet is fundamentally changing personal giving. Stay updated on how other forms of social media are shifing the definition of philanthropy and the nature of fundraising with the Bivings Report’s “Fundraising 2.0” series.

A New Age of Crisis Reporting?: Media, the Oil Spill, and You

As the oil from the BP Gulf coast spill continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico, the attention of the nation seems to focus on it more and more. As one of the worst environmental disasters our country has ever seen, it is garnering huge media attention across platforms and is sure to be one of the biggest news stories of the year.  Now in the age of always-accessible information, people seeking factual, unbiased details from the spill area are left wanting.

The Washington Post reported last week that several major news organizations were being blocked from comprehensive coverage in myriad ways, including restriction of flight access and chaperoning of reporters in newly-restricted areas. Information has also been slowed by comprehensive gag orders written into contracts between BP and employees, including clean-up personnel and local boat owners. In addition, BP is "using paid search to influence public opinion" according to the Huffington Post . Every time a Google search is launched using relevant terms-including "oil spill", "gulf coast" and "BP disaster", the first sponsored link directs to BP's "Gulf of Mexico Response" page, offering corporate-tinged updates.

Although Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the federal government, told ABC News' "This Week" that he produced a written order for the media to be allowed "uninhibited access", the mainstream media is still being blocked in several avenues. This is where you come in.

In the age of citizen journalists and Web 2.0, every-day people are stepping up to the challenge of reporting one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. Using facebook, twitter and brand new social media tools, non-credentialed civilians are keeping tabs on the spill and it's effects. The twitter hashtag "#oilspill" has been trending for weeks, with discussion spurred by pictures and tweets sent from the area affected by the spill. A Facebook group advocating for a boycott of BP has over 400,000 "likes" and user-uploaded photos of protests, affected animals and damaged coastline.

In addition, people looking for ways to document and share news of the spill have a brand new avenue-the mobile application OilReporter . Developed by CrisisCommons with Intridea and Appcelerator, OilReporter allows for mobile mapping, photo-documentation and real-time reporting of injured wildlife, oil-stricken beaches and wetlands. It even has a sliding scale with which the user can report exactly how much oil is in each location, and the ability to cross-check your location and information with the Federal Government, State Government, and Google Crisis Response data sources. With this new tool, normal people can report on the spill as it affects their lives directly, and share information with people all over the world concerned with the ramifications.

Do you really digg your town?

Some people really dig their town, and Manor, TX is trying to tap into this passion through its crowdscouring site Manor Labs.  The site has many social media features from sites like Digg.  It seems fitting that its CIO Dustin Haisler, who is 23, spearheads this effort; perhaps this is what you get when you give a millennial authority.  He is doing something bold.  Check out the May 2010 Government Technology profile of his efforts titled "City 2.0."

Like Digg, Manor Labs enables people to vote up or down each idea, and the more popular an idea is, the more likely that the town will take action on it if it is reasonable and feasible to do so.  Participants are also given "Innobucks" that they earn by contributing to the site.  They can cash them in at the site’s store for privileges like the opportunity to serve as a honorary mayor for the day (complete with lunch and dinner with the mayor and city manager), a ride with the police chief in his car for an entire shift, and — my favorite — the opportunity for the town to officially name a week after the person through proclamation. It is important to give participants incentives — even if it is an ego boost like getting a week named after you, which comes at very little cost to the town.  Further, I wonder how many boys between between the ages of 3 and 10 years old who are begging their parents for a ride in a police car…  Very clever.

There’s little need to touch upon peddling and purchasing influence since the spirit of the effort is to encourage improving the town for everyone. ;)  Another advantage to this type of crowdsourcing is that it is done in a venue that promotes transparency.

As I have noted before, there are participation inequality issues.  Not everyone has the ability (whether access or competency) nor the desire to participate in such an effort. What happens when the digitally savvy and excited over represent themselves?  That was the case when the Utah State Legislature passed a school voucher bill back in 2007; many pundits attributed some of the success to a discussion about the bill on the Politicopia wiki set up specifically discuss political issues in Utah.  After the bill’s passage, the bill was killed by a voter referendum.  Thus, even though people get excited about an idea online, it does not mean that most of the other affected people agree with the direction of the discussion.

However, it is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Organizations that use social media to gather opinions and feedback from their constituents must acknowledge that their entire constituency likely does not use one channel of communication and participation.  Thus, they must take such feedback and participation in context and solicit feedback through other means to involve a more diverse group of stakeholders.  If Manor, TX does this, it likely will avoid what happened to the Utah State Legislature. 

Reclaim your Facebook Privacy

Matt Pizzimenti is concerned about how Facebook’s privacy policies and settings have evolved over the last little bit; that is why he started the ReclaimPrivacy project.  He has created an application that people can easily use after they login into their Facebook account. 

The application scans their privacy settings and provides alerts about several settings that one can use to hide various aspects of their account from anyone’s view.  One of the things that I particularly like about this application is that it provides instant links to the place where a person can adjust their settings to ensure that their information is only shared with those with whom they desire. 

Pizzimenti links to several recent articles that explain that Facebook’s recent actions have aggravated privacy advocates.  One thing that has irked them is that in some cases new settings have default values that allow the site to share account holders’ information with the public. Pizzimenti’s application will help individuals better understand all of the privacy vulnerabilities that they face.  It appears that it will flag any setting that is set to share information with Everyone (versus "Only Me" or only friends).  However, the application does not change anyone’s settings; it simply alerts them to vulnerabilities.  I think that this is an excellent idea since some people may want to have some information publicly available as this facilitates people finding them.

Regardless of how one feels about Facebook’s actions towards privacy, it is a good idea to continually examine one’s account settings on a social networking site.

2010 Politics Online: Top Ten Known Unknowns

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

With the sheer quantity and overall quality of information presented at this weeks 2010 Politics Online Conference, choosing just 10, or even 20 or 30 of the most insightful or unique comments is no easy task. Although Mr. Rumsfeld was obviously not referring to social media, and his comment here was widely criticized, keeping in mind exactly what you know, what you don’t know, and what you might never know are important principles to keep in mind when designing or managing a social media campaign.

For anyone who could not attend or might have missed a few sessions, all of the panels on track D were covered by CSPAN and are available here. Keynote addresses in the main ballroom were broadcast live via Usteam.Tv and are available on the Politics2010 channel.

Top Ten Known Unknowns

10. One panel predicted that Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Google Buzz will not be here next year. I have written previously about the multitude of location based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla and how I doubt that they all will survive.  Is Social Media a zero-sum game? Will the pie keep expanding as access to broadband expands and new users come online?

9. "It doesn't matter how many people you have as fans on Facebook. You only need the right 5." While it is easy to focus on the sheer number of followers and fans one might have on Facebook or Twitter, as this blog has pointed out before, quality always trumps quantity.  Finding those key fans or linchpins is the key. Broadly speaking, there is a certain intangible benefit to social media that is not always easy to identify. What will the new measures of success be?

8. Nic Adler gave an excellent presentation on his experience using social media to help save his nightclub, the legendary Roxy on Sunset Strip. Rather than ignoring or antagonizing his competition, Nick worked with competing venues like The Viper Room to reinvigorate the music scene, even going so far as to organize Tweet-crawls where he would actually encourage his customers to visit other businesses! Will social media make business and society more equitable? 

7. During the Bush administration, a single blog post by an independent blogger was ultimately responsible for pushing the administration to redesign the White House’s website. Another panelist remarked that compared to corporate customer service, the level of customer service people expect from government organizations is unattainable. While technology is certainly streamlining many interactions citizens have with government agencies, how willing should we be to outsource government functions?

6. Given the already explosive growth of the mobile internet, what does the future have in store for augmented reality applications? If you had an application for your phone that showed exactly what your local government has done or not done- potholes fixed, how much that bridge cost would you use it?  How about an application that pointed out a problem? In Washington DC you can report potholes via email or Twitter.

5. “Email is the hub around which Facebook, Twitter and other social media revolve.” – Colin Delaney. Email is still king. Businesses and organizations should focus on having a strong email program before branching out into social media. When and if this will change is still a matter of some debate.

4. “Social Media is nothing less than the reinvigoration of American democracy." -Rod Martin, Founder of Paypal. What exactly this reinvigorated democracy will look like, and whether or not it will improve government services and perceptions of government is tough to say. Considering that a small minority of Twitter users are responsible for a majority of the content, many have noted that the internet and social media tend to amply the loudest and most extreme viewpoints.

3. Microsoft’s Campaign Ready Suite. Despite a rocky demo that was plagued by an overtaxed WIFI system, Microsoft’s TownHall is something to watch. As a veteran of several campaigns, I can attest to the reluctance of some candidates and consultants to embrace new tools. One aspect of their program that was largely overlooked was the fact that it is open source. Does this represent a shift in Microsoft’s approach to designing software?

2. “Very likely to see independent Presidential candidate in 2012 that will make Ross Perot look like a joke.” – Joe Trippi. As we get closer to the midterm elections in November, many candidates are facing primary challenges from candidates whose campaigns would not have been possible without the internet. Will social media lead to a multi-party system?

1. The biggest threat to the future of the internet is filtering or censoring by governments, otherwise known as 'vulcanization'. Although pretty much everyone agrees that actions taken by China and Iran to censor content and limit access are egregious afford to freedom of speech, there was a surprising amount of disagreement among panelists about the potential fallout from the FCC’s recent attempt to force Comcast to stop managing its customers bandwidth on the per-per service Bit Torrent. Are regulations preventing ISPs from prioritizing internet traffic an unnecessary intrusion or necessary reform?