Note: I've had this blog post in a draft for about a week and was reminded about it when I saw this post over at the NTEN blog asking Is Facebook A Bust or Is Obama's Model the Future?
The title of this blog post is taken from an article posted over at Slate mostly talking about the Facebook component of the recent America's Giving Challenge, posing the question, "Can social networks and virtual communities revolutionize charitable giving?" After an analysis of the amounts and totals raised by the winners in Causes, the writer asserts:
The amounts involved show that Case understands these endeavors are more social experiment than nonprofit sweepstakes. Sure, prizes of $50,000 matter for the winning organizations, as do the overall dollars raised (Idea League brought in $62,000, and Love Without Boundaries $94,000). But the denominations of the donations remain small, and it's not clear that one-off contests will lead to more. Any fund-raising professional knows that most nonprofit organizations secure the bulk of their money from a relatively small number of large contributions, either from wealthy individuals or institutional sources. Those gifts demand personal cultivation, and an online nudge doesn't usually do it.
The article goes on to quote Jean Case
"Philanthropy shouldn't be defined as a bunch of rich people writing checks," she told the New York Times. "Small amounts of money given by large numbers of individuals can be combined to do great things." Barack Obama's success at raising money online from thousands of small donors is the hoped-for model, though nonprofits recognize that political fund raising is different in some ways.
I have agree with Case about small dollar amounts given by large numbers of individuals. But, it not necessarily anything new.
I took the photo above in a Lowell, MA in a Cambodian grocery store when my kids and I were raising money for our America's Giving Challenge (unfortunately, not many of our friends there had either credit cards or email addresses - so they couldn't participate). The photo is a fundraiser for a local Budhist Temple which is trying to raise $100,000 for a building project (a large amount for that community) and money is coming from many small donations. This is a very common fundraising approach in immigrant communities, neighborhoods, and churches - where many people may contribute small amounts to help others.
The charity that I was raising money for built its preschool building with $35,000 in quarters raised from school children in schools throughout Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.
Over at the NTEN blog, the question is raised:
So I wanted to open this discussion up to the NTEN community: will this "social experiment" of many-to-many and social networking campaigning prove a bust, or can the Obama model be replicated by other organizations?
The America's Giving Challenge campaign that I just finished was my fifth person to person fundraising campaign using social media. I have raised over $100,000 for the Sharing Foundation (not counting any prize money) with and without contests. I have to say that I've had a good percentage of were repeat donors - people who donated to more than one cause. This is because I believe that it is important that the wired fundraiser serve as a bridge between the cause and the donors, building relationships, and asking again.