While I was offline today enjoying Mother's Day and the beautiful weather (as much as I could with seasonal allergies), Target launched its version of an online contest.
It's called Bullseye Gives, a special Facebook page inviting folks to decide how they should allocate $3 million among ten large institutional charities, including:
Parent Teacher Association
The Salvation Army
American Red Cross
National Parks Foundation
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Kids In Need
The HandsOn Network/Points of Light Institute
Funding will be allocated based on the percentage of votes each organization receives.
I went over to cast my vote for the Red Cross, they had 2% of the votes which means that they would receive $74,000 or 2% of the total. You can vote once per day, so I'll probably come back and vote for the other organizations where I have relationships with their social media strategists. (I voted for the Red Cross in honor my colleague Wendy Harman)
Ever since the first online competition launched in December 2006 by Network for Good and Yahoo (ahem, I came in first for my charity, the Sharing Foundation), online contests have been a popular way for corporations, Web 2.0 companies, and even foundations to give away money. We've seen a number of reiterations, from those that allow anyone nonprofit to enter to those that are for a select group of participants.
Today's New York Times article by Stephanie Strom describes some of the most recent online contests, including the Case Foundation’s Giving Challenge, a contest conducted through Causes on Facebook, Network for Good, Global Giving and Parade Magazine in 2007.
The design of the Giving Challenge was such that any organization, even small grassroots organizations, could enter and even win. (I know from first hand experience) The design of the challenge leveled the playing field because the winners were based on the number of unique donors and any nonprofit could enter.
There have been many remixes of online contests since the Giving Challenge, so many that I can't quite remember all of them. Some that come to mind include:
- Razoo March Madness which offered $10,000 in prizes for the organizations that got the most donors. Razzo by the way has been early pioneer in the online contest, having launched an early contest on Facebook shortly after it opened up to those older than colleges and again in October, 2007.
- Charity SmackDown had teams of celebrities paired with corporate sponsors to raise money for nine different charities. This contest was based on the total amount raised. Stand Up for Cancer and Corbin Bleu were the winning team. Scott Henderson was one of the organizers (along with Chris Noble). Scott will be leading a workshop at the Cause Marketing Forum later this month and I will be sharing a fabulous interview with him about his learnings from this event and the Pledge to End Hunger.
Some contests don't requires donations to win, but votes. Take for example, the IdeaBlob that gives organizations (and individuals) the opportunity to present an idea and get votes. There are several sprints and the winner gets $10,000. (EpicChange was a winner in last week's sprint)
There have also been online contests on Facebook that are sponsored by a corporation and the winning nonprofit simply has to get their supporters to join the group. The Red Cross won $50,000 last December and prior to that the Humane Society of the US won $50,000 from MicroSoft.
The Target contest model uses the "let's vote and divide up the pie" method amongst a smaller group of handpicked contestants. This same model was used last fall by Tripadvisor to divde up a $1 million pot between 5 large charities.
Winning an online fundraising contest requires a particular strategy. Last fall, Allison Fine and I did a research study on the America's Giving Challenge based on interviews and surveys of participants. The lessons learned will be useful to organizations competing in future online contests.
I'm of two minds about online contests. On the one hand, I think competition is healthy and pushes us to take a few risks, innovate and explore these new tools, particularly if the potential reward $ is big. On the other hand, online contests remind of an experience I had in Hawaii feeding fish and makes about the drawbacks like cause fatigue, transactional vs relational, and promoting scarcity thinking.
What's your take on online contests? Entering one this year?