A month or so back I was asked to participate in the Bloggers Challenge to raise funds for DonorsChoose. Abiding by my own ethics (as well as those emerging in the blog-world), I opted not to do this. Because I write about philanthropy and nonprofits and technology I don't want to opt in to raise funds for some and not for all. But I will bring the whole thing to your attention, as it is an example of the kind of fundraising and use of technology for giving going on all around organized philanthropy - and rarely - if ever- touching foundations.
First - DonorsChoose (DC) lets individual donors and individual classroom teachers connect to make certain charitable projects happen. Teachers post their wish lists, donors pick the ones they want to fund, donorschoose vets and handles funds transfers, teachers report back, donors go away happey (and - hopefully) donors come back.
Here is how the bloggers challenge works: DC reached out to bloggers with several challenges. Bloggers who encouraged, cajoled, begged, arm-twisted, or otherwise convinced their readers to make charitable donations through DC would be entered into one of several competitions and those who were most successful would be duly rewarded. There is a Google Award for the blogger who sparks the most donations (dollar value); the Yahoo! Award, which includes lunch with CEO Jerry Yang as a prize, for the blogger who gets the most donors involved, the Six Apart Award for the blogger whose activism unleashes help that reaches the greatest number of students, and the Federated Media Award for the "most creative incentive" offered by a blogger.
By my count, as of October 9, there were 102 blogs that had launched challenges to their readers. These include the blogs of several candidates for President (Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and Jon Stewart/Steven Colbert!?), many tech writers and venture capitalists (Scobleizer, TechCrunch, Fred Wilson), a variety of science and math education supporters (Thus Spake Zuska, Evolgen), several local school supporters (El Paso, San Francisco) and at least one bellydancer.
According to the Leaderboard and my very rough counting, the 100+ blogs have raised well north of $150,000 from somewhere around 1200 individual donors and the dollars will reach classrooms serving at least 20,000 public school children. The leading blog -Tomato Nation - has raised $75000 in ten days. And the challenges continue until October 31, 2007.
At least one foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation, is participating - having just made a $30,000 grant to DonorsChoose to reach out to RI teachers.
Why should you care? Regardless of what you think of the DonorsChoose model of giving, the fund development strategy here is worth looking at:
- The Bloggers Challenge shows how big and fast peer-to-peer fundraising (the oldest model we know) can grow with a push from the Internet;
- The media attention of something like this is worth it, even if the money is one-time gifts and none of the donors ever return to DC - which is pretty unlikely;
- DonorsChoose is doing very little to raise these funds - they've outsourced their fundraising to bloggers;
- Its new (I think). It takes the ChipIn/DonateNow/Widget/Facebook fundraisers and accelerates them.