Playing for Good

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I’ve been waiting a year and a half to write this post. For the past eighteen months, our team at Sojo Studios has been working on WeTopia, a social game on Facebook that allows players to support some of the world’s best charities through game play. Today we announce the “preview” version of WeTopia, which is now available worldwide. What exactly is WeTopia? Our How It Works video explains it best:

I’m extremely proud of what our team has accomplished with this title, and humbled to be part of such a dedicated and talented group of people. I’m also thankful to our many non-profit partners, who have made it possible for the charitable concept behind WeTopia to exist at all.

We have many exciting things in store for WeTopia, so stop reading this blog and start playing today! And be sure to invite your friends.

Thanking by Giving

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My dad once said that the best way to feel like you have enough money is to give some of it away. It sounds counterintuitive, but the act of giving something away does make you feel that you already have sufficient supply of it. While I’m thankful that I was taught to have this attitude, I’m mostly thankful that I am able to give at all. There are a few billion people who can’t make that claim, and it’s only by sheer luck that I ended up on the other side of the coin. The ability to give, even just a small amount, is something we should all be grateful for – it puts in perspective how fortunate we truly are!

Happy Thanksgiving.

When Daily Deals and Causes Combine

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This blog is all about finding innovative (and easy) ways for people to engage in philanthropy. Here’s a no-brainer – daily deals site Living Social has started to offer cause-related deals, in which your donation is doubled by a corporate sponsor. The current offering is for Marine Toys for Tots:

Today, we’re offering an opportunity to express our gratitude for all we have by helping those who have less. Donate $5 to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and Toys”R”UsHasbro, and other corporate partners will donate $5 worth of toys for a $10 total contribution up to $1 million.

It’s a great start, and an offering I hope Living Social will continue to pursue. Next time around, here are a few suggestions to make these cause-related deals even more compelling:

  • Offer users a choice. Marine Toys for Tots may not appeal to everyone, so why not take a note from PinkDingo and at least give donors a choice of a few charities?
  • Don’t exclude retail. SocialGoodies understands this. Why not set aside some of the savings from a traditional retail daily deal to causes?
  • Give some reward. Give buyers of cause-related deals some credit for their donations, like early access to deals, or a special “thank-you” from the charity. Something to make your cause offering more compelling than other ways to give.
  • Make them easy to find. If you don’t have the email offer, finding a cause-related deal on Living Social’s site is a bit of a chore. Look hard enough and you’ll find it under “Families”. Shouldn’t there be a dedicated section for these?
The exciting thing about cause-related daily deals is that they start to blur the line between pure philanthropy and pure retail. If companies find that they can better attract and engage customers by adding a cause-element to their retail offerings, we should start to see even more innovation in this space. Offers like this from Living Social are (hopefully) just the tip of the iceberg.

What do you think about cause-related deals? How else can they be improved, and who has the best offerings?

3 Things to Try for National Philanthropy Day

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Today is National Philanthropy Day, an event established by the Association of Fundraising Professionals:

National Philanthropy Day®, November 15, is the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy—and those people active in the philanthropic community—have made to our lives, our communities and our world.

What makes philanthropy so special is that no one is required to give of themselves. There are no national laws or regulations which mandate that you must volunteer or get involved. Philanthropy is so powerful and inspiring precisely because it is voluntary—that through the goodness of our hearts, through our need to connect, through our desire to see a better world, we come together to improve the quality of life for all people.

If knowing that such a day exists encourages you to be a bit more philanthropic, here are three things to try:

  1. Experiment. Pick an online cause-related website to try out, and see how that experience affects your engagement. Doesn’t matter which one – Kiva, DonorsChoose, Razoo, and Causes.com are all great places to start. Use one of these tools to stay connected with a cause you care about.
  2. Micro-give. You’ll be surprised at how much a small amount set aside each day to charity can add up to. Pick a dozen causes and each give them $5, to see which one does the best of job of keep you involved with their programs. Pick your favorite and give them $5/month, for a year.
  3. Try volunteering. Try it just once. Ask a friend to join you. You don’t have to commit a great deal of time, but just the act of thinking and supporting others will go a long way. You might even find that you get just as much out of it as the people you’re helping! Find an opportunity at DoSomething.org.
Want some more ways? Look here and here. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

 

Ask or Engage?

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I’m starting to realize how important personal relevancy is when charities ask for money. I believe that a donation appeal from a brand that hasn’t made itself relevant to donors would have to be 10x as effective as an appeal from an engaged brand, in order to have the same result.

Case in point: I received two solicitation letters in the mail this week – both of them mediocre. One was from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS); the other from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

The letter from the LLS had a nickel taped to it (what?) and some cheesy Christmas-themed return address labels. I’m not sure what the tactic was, but I think that the money and labels were supposed to make me feel obligated to help the LLS in return. Maybe that’s some tried-and-true tactic in the direct-mail world, but to me it just felt manipulative.

The letter from the ATC wasn’t much better. It relied mainly on a four-page, single-spaced letter; who has team to read that? And despite the fact that the Appalachian Trail is one of the most beautiful parts of the East Coast, the appeal was surprisingly lacking of photos. That’s like dating a supermodel but only telling your friends how your girlfriend is a really safe driver. Kind of missing some key points.

So what did I do with each letter? I threw the one from the in Leukemia & Lymphoma Society the trash and put the nickel they sent me in the change bowl. Meanwhile, I wrote the Appalachian Trail Conservancy a nice fat check. Why such different treatment? It all comes down to relevancy.

I’ve hiked every foot of the 2175-mile Appalachian Trail, so I have plenty of personal interest in keeping it protected for future hikers. I’ve even visited the headquarters of the ATC, and I know first hand how important their efforts are. And while I’m sure the LLS does great work, I know no one whose been affected by those diseases, so I don’t have nearly the same connection.

The ATC could have sent me a cardboard postcard asking me for money, and the LLS could have delivered as glossy, well-produced report (free of money and address labels) and my actions wouldn’t have been much different. So I don’t think that these organizations are even looking at this the right way. Instead of coming up with fancy ways to mail me junk I don’t want or won’t read, these organizations need to focus their efforts on getting people engaged with their work – well before the solicitation letters go out. Anything else is probably just wasted effort.

What do you think? Should charities go straight for the ask, or should they focus on engaging people with their brands and their programs first?