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Lars Hasselblad Torres

Hi Beth - it is interesting to read your response to AGC; I've seen at least a dozen of these pop up over the last six months, and I can tell you they've worn me kind of thin. Somewhere else, this got me musing about whether this kind of "micro-giving" is going to last as an funding infrastructure. Right now, I think I'm hearing a "no," and here are a few high-level observations that set it up for demise:

1 - The process privileges the donor. They set the agenda and tone of the campaign. Its the NPOs responsibility to "plug in," or "get on board" as it were. Its old school top-down mindset wrapped in new Web2.0 clothes.

2 - The process naturally favors big networks. Because they tend to turn on recruitment and voting schemes, these efforts favor groups that can activate an existing network large enough to "flash recruit" others to "get involved."

3 - The half-life of interest is short. Seriously, how many calls can an NPO (or any entity for that matter) put out to scramble its base for a modest sum? Pretty soon, they are going to wonder why they're not more busy grant-writing. Network fatigue?

4 - ROI is too small. Campaigns don't run themselves; to succeed in one of these things, competitors have to dedicate time, energy, and creativity to making effective appeals to members to get involved - and more importantly, stay involved - if the campaign is to succeed. Why not ask 1000 people for $10 each instead? If the need is specific, a Web2.0 strategy in this direction is probably just as effective...

5 - There's rarely any follow-up. So if you're actually interested in how the campaign goes down, who won and why, and how the money was used, you're not likely to hear about it, nor are the people who participated. In general, these things seem to go down like a cry in the dark.

6 - And this might be controversial, but having a big network isn't the same as doing great work. Such competitions don't necessarily help the "best" activities "bubble up." It certainly helps the "loudest," the "biggest," and even the "slickest..."

With these weaknesses, or some combination of them, I get to wondering about what the possible benefits of participating in such campaigns might be. The best is to choose one or two a year that promise to get some good visibility and get the NPO or activity associated with some big name. Then, you may or may not have a few reasons to:

- Generate a press release (aim: get your story out there)
- Communicate with your network (aim: make at least two specific asks)
- Expand your network (aim: convince more people what you do is important ie its NOT about the campaign)

Anyway, I look forward to learning more about why donors might be choosing this route over, say, a lottery or their own internal process. I liked the Omidyar Network's short-lived strategy of cultivating its own social network and enabling the community to identify the activities it valued etc. Too bad it was short-lived: there was a lot to learn from this "engaged, networked" foundation approach.

If anyone has data to point to different conclusions from these, I'd love to hear them. Cheers,


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