Thursday, May 08, 2008

Google recommends....

Yesterday (May 7) when I typed "Myanmar relief" into my Google search box I was taken directly to a page that gave me the option of giving to Unicef or DirectRelief. This wasn't a bunch of links, sponsored and otherwise, as it is today. This was a direct link to a Google checkout assisted giving page. Some questions:
  • How many hits did that site get?
  • How many clicks went through to those organizations?
  • How much money was given?
  • How did Google pick those two organizations?

Today (Thursday, May 8) if you type Myanmar relief into the Google box you come to this page. - several sponsored links, lots of news links, lots of giving options. Given the specific horrors of this catastrophe and the political machinations that are going to result in many more horrors than those caused just by the storm surge/cyclone (sound familiar?) it seems as important we learn some things from the past**:
  • How can we mobilize aid and know that it will get where needed?
  • How can generous individuals have faith that their gifts will be put to use?
  • How can we stick around for longer term needs, once the tv/youtube pictures fade away?
  • Can we get and listen to information from aid and disaster specialists on the ground, instead of mediated sources with political agendas?
I noticed in the links on the above page that the two organizations from yesterday, Unicef and DirectRelief, appeared 2nd and 3rd in the right hand column list. (The first link is for globalgiving). Unicef and DirectRelief both use Google Checkout. Some more questions:
  • Does using Google Checkout influence where your organization appears in Google search lists?
  • Does work with on creating opportunities like this? On picking the featured aid partners?
In addition to all the other things I've got going on, I teach a class at Stanford. Yesterday I received an email from a Stanford student in another class on nonprofit governance. She asked me:
  • To whom is currently accountable (shareholders, Google Inc, the public, regulatory bodies, its nonprofit peers)?
  • To whom should be accountable?
  • How transparent is How transparent should it be?
  • How should measure its success?
Until yesterday when I had that search experience, I mostly have been interested in as an example of changing structures for making change. I place it in the same category as The Omidyar Network, B Corporations, L3Cs, social investors, socially responsible investing, mission related/program related investing, and so on. In other words, my interest is in (surprise, surprise) philanthropic capital markets.

Now I have more questions than answers. If you can inform me on any of the questions above, I'd appreciate it. There are at least four different categories of questions here:
  1. Role of Google Checkout and Google's own recommendation power/process
  2. Real time information on fundraising using online systems - can we find out how much money is moving through online giving and where it is going in anything approaching real time - perhaps someone can mashup an online fundraising stock ticker?....(hint hint....)
  3. Disaster relief, political agendas, and the near and longer term need for support - can we learn from hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes of the recent past?
  4. Accountability and transparency issue as they relate to these hybrid sources of social investment.
Insight and comments on any and all are welcome.

**While I was writing this post I received the following information:

An emergency teleconference to brief donors about relief and recovery needs and effective philanthropic strategies in response to the crisis in Myanmar is being organized for Monday, May 12th at 3:00 ET.

Relief NGO, governmental and multilateral leaders on the ground in Myanmar will provide an up-to-date status report from ground zero. And experts in disaster philanthropy will reflect on lessons learned from past disasters as participants consider their own approach to assistance. An updated agenda and list of speakers will be posted as details become available.

Dial in information is below.

Monday, May 12
Call in number: 1-866-228-9900
Passcode: 166406#

For donors unable to join the call, information on how to access a free recording will be available by 6 PM ET on Monday, May 12.

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