Network for Good recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and they created this iconographic to help illustrate some of the changes in online giving that have happened during the past decade.
Zynga, the heavy hitter in the social gaming space, announced a new cause-promotion last week for one of their new games, CastleVille. While Zynga should be commended for making efforts to support causes through its marketing, they’ve fallen short of integrating charity into the promotion as well as they could have.
Here’s how the promo works: visit the CastleVille page on Facebook and “Like” the game. Then, select one of three non-profits to whom you’d like to designate a donation from Zynga. If CastleVille reaches 5 million “Likes”, then Zynga will donate $100,000 to these causes. The non-profit with the most votes will receive $40,000, while the other two each receive $30,000.
Again, it’s great that Zynga has decided to integrate charitable support into the promotion of a new game. But they could have done a much better job on making the integration with causes more meaningful. Here are three ways they could have turned a single into a home run:
1. Integrate with the product: Three causes are presented for voting: clean water (via water.org), disaster relief (via Direct Relief International), and Education (via Save the Children). Try to find any relationship with the game, which is about exploring a medieval world with your friends, and you won’t find much of a connection. Not that there has to be an overt link (is there even such a think as a medieval-based non-profit?), but some attempt to connect the two would have made the causes much more relevant. For example, are there characters in the game that Zynga could have associated with each non-profit? Even a loose connection would have been better than nothing at all; instead, the causes feel tacked on to the promotion, without much thought.
2. Provide context: You might have expected that Zynga would have provided some further background information about the three non-profits they’ve presented. But there’s almost nothing to provide any context around these causes. For clean water, for example, all users see is a generic water icon, which turns into a water.org logo when the moused over. Users don’t need a complicated set of information to read through, but some additional background would have added some real meaning. How about a picture of the people who are being helped? Or maybe a tidbit of information about where in the world the money is being used? Taking a page from Donorschoose.org or GlobalGiving.org would have made the causes much more real.
3. Allow users to step it up: Liking content on Facebook is a sure-fire way to allow users to show their support of something. Great. But what if someone really wants to see that $100,000 get donated? Short of spamming their friends to Like the CastleVille page, there’s not much else a cause-advocate can do. So how about allowing users to buy more Likes buy pre-purchasing virtual items in CastleVille? Or give fans a CastleVille character to use as their Facebook profile pic to drive further awareness? At the very least, Zynga could have offered users the chance to donate to those charities directly, by providing links to each non-profit’s site right on the Facebook page.
Will Zynga’s latest cause campaign obtain the 5 million Likes they’re striving for? It’s too early to say, but at the time of this writing (about a week into the promo), there were about 300,000 fans. What do you think? What are some ways Zynga could have done a better job of integrating with causes?
I’ve recommended this TEDx talk to at least 10 people over the past few weeks, so I can’t help but post it here. If you’ve ever thought about what “social giving” might mean, but struggled to understand or explain it, Taylor Conroy does a great job of illustrating the concept in his talk “How to Build a School in 3 Hours”. He outlines 5 “must-haves” to truly make giving social:
- Group mentality
- Tangible outcome
- Personal connection
Watch his talk and you’ll hear how he was able to raise money for a school in three hours, just by texting a few of his friends. What’s most interesting are the reasons his friends choose to give – not because it was to a 4-start charity, not because they personally understood the underlying causes of poverty – but simply because a group of friends committed to participating together.
Taylor’s points are right on, and I will continue to recommend his talk. However, I can’t help but wonder – what happens they next time his friends receive a text asking them to raise money for a school? What happens the third time? The fourth time? Not to sound cynical, but my guess is that engagement would decline with each cycle, unless there was a deeper reward than merely being recognized by one’s friends.
Using social pressure is a powerful way of getting people to give in the first place, but I don’t think it keeps them there. Ultimately, the giving experience needs to be captivating in and of itself for donors to give long-term. One way to do this is to show donors the good they’ve accomplished and the people who’s lives they’ve affected. Through that, donors will be better able to see why its important they give in the first place, and will stay better engaged as a result. But that sounds like a great topic to discuss further in a later post. What are your thoughts?
Do you use Twitter? There are close to 200 million people who do. It’s no Facebook, but the size and utility of the platform is pretty powerful. So how does this relate to causes?
Let’s talk about TwitChange. TwitChange is just as much of a concept as it is an organization; it uses Twitter to connect people’s desires to interact with celebrities as a means of supporting causes. The idea is this: most Twitter users want as many people to “see” them on Twitter. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have an influential, widely-followed user (like a celebrity) mention, follow, or “retweet” one’s tweets.
Playing on this idea, TwitChange partners with dozens of celebrities who are willing to mention, follow, or retweet whatever Twitter user is willing to pay the most for the priviledge. For example, if I wanted @justinbieber (who has 7MM+ followers) to mention me on Twitter (and thus guaranteeing that legions of preteens would see my Twitter name), I would head to eBay and attempt to win Mr. Bieber’s TwitChange auction. The proceeds of each celebrity’s winning bid are then sent to the cause featured in the current promotion.
Does the idea of people paying to have celebrities interact with them on Twitter sound a bit silly? Yes. But the first TwitChange auction raised over $500,000 for a special needs children’s center in Haiti. And the most recent promotion brought in $135,000 to provide financial and morale support to members of the U.S. military. Not bad!
TwitChange mastermind Shaun King is a genius for coming up with such an innovate way to raise money for causes. I wish there were more thinkers and doers like him. Like the idea of TwitChange? The least you can do is follow @TwitChange and @ShaunKing on Twitter. And if you want a boost in your Twitter influence (and have a thing for celebrities), keep an eye on TwitChange for the next promotion and see if you can end up a winning bidder!
You’ve probably already heard, but Twitter and Google have teamed up over the past few days to support the Egyptian people and thwart President Mubarak and his government’s attempts to crack down on the protests. These two tech giants worked together to build a “speak to tweet” service that allows users to call in Tweets from their mobile phones. Perfect for when an oppressive ruler tries to stop an uprising by shutting off internet access across the country. Google describes the service as such:
Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.
We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.
We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.
The fact that two US-based companies would build such this tool to share with the people of Egypt is marvelous. While this technological feat is impressive and important, what’s really astounding is the willingness of individuals to stand up for what they believe is right, especially in the face of violence.
It’s important to keep in mind that the protests in Egypt would have happened regardless of whether or not Google and Twitter’s service was available. The uprising began several days ago, and no one was waiting around for a couple of tech behemoths to help protesters talk to each other.
Why does this matter?
In our tech-saturated culture, it’s easy to turn first to technology to solve the world’s problems, whether they be eliminating hunger in Bangladesh or helping a soccer mom cut down on greenhouse gas emissions as she totes her kids around town. Trust me, as someone who’s close to a borderline tech nerd, I’m guilt of this myself. But technology will never be a stand-alone solution; instead, it can only serve to augment the will and actions of individuals themselves.
Thankfully the Egyptian people now have a powerful tool at their disposal to help their voices be heard. But let’s not forget that real power starts with the indefatigable inhuman will to turn desires into action, not from gadgets.
When Spanish cartographers created the Padrón Real in the early 1500s, they constructed one of the most accurate and far-reaching maps of the day. Despite its crudeness in comparison to modern maps, the document played an enormous role in allowing Spain to explore the New World. A few hundred years ago, the term crowdsourcing obviously didn’t exist, but it still took place: maps at the time were constructed from the knowledge of hundreds of explorers and assimilated over decades.
Fortunately, the speed at which crowdsourcing takes place today is just a touch faster than sending information via sailboat allows, and we have some pretty powerful mapping tools as a result. Since we already have a pretty good handle on where dry land ends and the sea begins, new maps add value by layering data sets on top of physical spaces. The fancy word for this is GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
What does this mean for development work? Better and more up-to-date information about what is happening and where. Take a look first at the Haiti Aid Map, which plots development projects over a Google Map of Haiti to illustrate where work is being done, whom it is being done by, and what type of project is involved:
The concept is great – the user can quickly drill down into project types, organizations, and locations to find just what he is looking for. But there is a major shortcoming: projects done by local NGOs (who play a massive and important role of restoring the country) seem to be omitted entirely. Furthermore, since the site doesn’t allow users to publish directly to the site itself, I assume there is some curation taking place before content is placed online. This may limit the ability of the site to scale to other countries and to post real-time information.
To see a better example of a platform that does take advantage of crowdsourcing, take a look at Ushahidi, who “…built [their] platform as a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web.” On the surface, the mapping mechanism looks the similar to Haiti Aid Map, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find a multitude of layers, filters, and reports that allow you to slice and dice the data in myriad ways. Uploading reports right through the site only takes a couple of clicks. Whereas Haiti Aid Map is built around what happened, Ushahidi is built on what is happening. Big difference.
Finally, let’s take a look what a big-name GIS firm can put together. ESRI, an Australian-based company, created a tool for assessing disaster relief (not longer-term development work) starting with the recent floods in Australia. ESRI’s map does a better job of crowdsourcing, too; in fact, they actually partnered with Ushahidi on this project. A more in-depth post at O’Reilly Radar provides the full background.
As mobile technology becomes more accessible to the rural poor, platforms like this will play an increasingly meaningful role in promoting collaboration and efficiency during times of disaster relief and during multi-year development efforts. I’m hoping to see further investment in this area (as I discussed further last Wednesday). Using mobile and social tools to build connections among disparate, remote locations in undeveloped regions of the world is a powerful mechanism indeed.
I always enjoy reading Beth Kanter’s blog because it does a good job of reminding me how important connectivity and building networks is. The relationships we’ve built in Haiti came to fruition largely because of references our existing contacts have provided. New contacts beget further introductions, and the effect multiplies upon itself. To illustrate this concept, LinkedIn introduced a mapping tool that helps users visualize the extent and structure of their own networks (at least those whom you know through LinkedIn’s platform). Here’s mine:
Pretty powerful, huh? LinkedIn tells me I can connect to about 60,000 people through those I know directly, and about 4 million more through those connections. Yikes! Now – think about what that network might look like for someone who lives in a country or community without access to social media and the internet. A lack of connectivity would put these people at a huge disadvantage in being able to leverage the knowledge and resources of others. So why isn’t more being invested here, especially in places where it’s needed most?
Furthermore, I’ve been reading more and more that while effective development work must incorporate feedback from local people who are being served, it’s not always solicited. The project we worked on in Bonneau, Haiti was a good learning experience to see how this is done well, but as AidWatch points outs, it’s not always focused on, even in big-budget, high-level initiatives like the Millennium Villages project. But what better way to incorporate local community feedback by providing access to social media tools throughout the project?
Fortunately, more attention is being paid to this trend, as evidenced by this interview with the Praekelt Foundation on the Rising Pyramid blog. And don’t forget to watch this great video by Shawn Ahmed, who will be talking about this concept further at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: