The top 100 included a mix of nonprofits with an operating budget of under $10 million with programs in designated Chase corporate responsibility areas: education, healthcare, housing, the environment, combating hunger, arts and culture, human services and animal welfare. (Very interesting to see the American Cancer Society on the list as its budget - according to a 2005 annual report linked on their Guidestar Profile is well over $10 million)
Several groups who were in the top 100 (before Chase removed the vote tallies), were not on the final list, apparently disqualified. Here's what Stephanie Strom, New York Times reported:
JPMorgan Chase & Company is coming under fire for the way it conducted an online contest to award millions of dollars to 100 charities.
At least three nonprofit groups — Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Marijuana Policy Project and an anti-abortion group, Justice for All— say they believe that Chase disqualified them over concerns about associating its name with their missions.
The groups say that until Chase made changes to the contest, they appeared to be among the top 100 vote-getters.
There was not a public leader board that lists the progress of contest participants and is considered a best practice. It's unclear why Chase did not use a leaderboard, a contest best practice and way to make it transparent. Instead, contest participants had to log in and look at other organization's vote tallies. These were removed in the final days of the contest.
If you look at the contest official rules, in addition to the eligibility criteria, they've added these additional points to control who gets the winning money:
... or organizations otherwise not in alignment with Sponsor's corporate social responsibility guidelines. Additional reasons a Charity may be deemed ineligible include, but are not limited to, the Charity and/or its management being subject to any investigation for fraud, financial misconduct or other criminal activity. Any organization determined to be ineligible at any time will be disqualified. Sponsor retains the right at its sole discretion to determine eligibility and reserves the right to disqualify any Charity for any reason whatsoever.
If they wanted to have some control over who received the money, why not just award the money through tradition methods? Or only allow a pre-selected group of organizations to participate?
Since 2007, when the Case Foundation launched its first America's Giving Challenge, social media-infused online contests to raise money for charities have gained popularity. There have been many remixes of online charity contests since the Giving Challenge, so many that I can't quite remember all of them. These contests are based on:
- Voting: Organizations need to rally their supporters and stakeholders to vote them online and spread the word
- Donors or Dollars: Organizations need to raise money and the organization with the most donors or dollars win.
The pool of applicants is either open to everyone, tiered, or starts
with a group of charities hand-selected by the contest sponsor.
- Closed Pool of Contestants: The contest sponsor hand picks the charities. This is how Target ran its contest and more recently PayPal's FruitCake Challenge.
This way, the contest sponsor's dollars are donated to a known set of
organizations that have been vetted based on corporate values, goals,
or philanthropic strategy.
- Open Pool of Contestants: Some contests have the crowd vote or donate - and the ones with the most votes or donors win.
One thing is for sure, if you're designing a contest, you need to think about how transparent and open you want it to be. Or else you, the sponsor, might as Nathaniel Whittemore says, look like a jerk.