Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Embedded Giving...2.0

Embedded giving - in which a charitable transaction becomes part of any other financial transaction, such as checking out of the grocery store and making a donation to diabetes care - has gone web 2.0.

Now, SocialVibe lets you, the customer, promote the brands you like and they will donate money to charitable causes of your choice. Here is how it works: Pick a brand you like. Post a widget advertisement from that company (Apple. Adobe, PowerBar) and post it on your blog, Facebook page, whereever. The advertiser offers you (the new advertising hosting mogul) certain perks to pick their brand. You earn points for hosting the ads. These points get turned into dollars and the dollars go to charity. SocialVibe's proof of concept has donated more than $100K to charities so far.

Why be just a consumer when you can be an advertiser also? Why wear a t-shirt with logo when you can cross-promote your favorite brands and your favorite causes? Why give money at the cash register when you can turn your MySpace page into the cash register?

Why, why, why? (I'll be honest, I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this). Certainly adds to the "cross-platform" argument I was making a week or so ago. Also advances the "innovation in social capital" markets observation. Complicates the data discussion - how will we track any of this?

Aw, heck, now I need to come up with a new buzzword...embedded advertising? adgifts? hostedgiving? promogiving? charitable advertising? Forget it, I'm going back to work...


Anonymous said...

Please don't cry! I think you have nailed this pretty well. We are giving people the opportunity to use their online influence to help their charity of choice. And getting brands to spend some of their $300B annual marketing spend to support people and the causes they love is a good thing.

We hope you will follow our progress.

bethp said...

Charitable advertising might be an apt buzzword, and I understand your impulse to cry! Something about that online influence discssion rubs me the wrong way. I suppose charitable advertising already exists, mainly in the form of sponsorships where donors receive ad space or recognition for their support. Perhaps something like embedded advertising, then, would be more appropriate.

But empowering your consumers to advertise for you in the name of charity? Really? Isn't that mroe like swindling? I'm in a moral quandry. . .

Anonymous said...

@firstgiving. So who is swindling who?

It is important to understand how "media" is evolving. Today, many people are spending time building and sharing content in the form of pictures, text, games, etc. People are publishers. Social Networkers are building content that attracts others. The better the content, the more you update it, the more it is distributed the more influence you obtain. There is value to that influence. In traditional publishing this influence translates into advertising dollars (or paying subscribers though this is becoming less of an opportunity). Yet, there is no mechanism to allow social networkers (or bloggers with limited traffic) to help others with their content as traditional advertiser networks can't scale for this audience. Yet, through SocialVibe social networkers have this opportunity. Most importantly, charities are raising money to address the critical issues our communities face.

Lucy Bernholz said...

I think swindling is a loaded term. It implies that someone is being ripped off or duped. In an age and consumer society in which the average 5 year old consumes more media than food (I made that up), I think most folks are pretty savvy about what is advertising. And maybe the hallmark of a new social media enabled age is to give everyone the ability to produce content and advertise it as well as anything else they want to advertise.

My own concern about the embedding phenomenon is to wonder if we can embed something to the point of not seeing or caring about it anymore. And if we do this with charitable giving, do we lose something for ourselves - the one-ness, non-embedded-ness of giving and caring?

I also believe we have to be careful about thinking all of the new tools are bringing new money or new resources to the table. We don't have any good metrics to know that - could be re-allocations, could be one-offs, could be a lot of things, we just don't know yet.

bethp said...

No argument on the facts that social media is evolving, that people are publishers, and that influence=value. True also that social media tools have great power to effect social change as networking and marketing evolves through these outlets.

My concern is more along the lines of Lucy's, and I wonder if this evolution will also change the more traditional role of for-profit-nonprofit partnerships for the better. The fact that businesses often have social objectives and can be socially-minded and invested in their communities is wonderful, but if these objectives are used primarily as adviertising opportunities, it moves us towards what Lucy terms "non-embedded-ness in giving and caring." There is real loss there.

See our discussion on social business v. socially-minded business at

Lucy Bernholz said...

Great exchange - I definitely think the growth in CSR and social enterprise, B corps and L3Cs AND the business-practice, revenue earning nature of nonprofits are headed toward a middle from two ends of a spectrum (sorry that is a terrible sentence!). What will that middle look like? Do we have to lose the ends if the middle grows? Or how will the ends change? What will pure business, pure nonprofit look like in 5, 10 years (if there is a "pure" anything?)

What is gained and what is lost and what is really changing - those are the questions that make this all so interesting. I will definitely check out the conversation on the other blog. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You both make excellent points. I think there are two issues being raised, one regarding the level of people's engagement with charities through an "embedded" platform, and the second regarding businesses achieving social objectives primarily through advertising.

With regard to the first issue, I certainly don't see any of these solutions as zero-sum. The FirstGiving platform is great in allowing people to give time and money to the cause of their choice. Layering on a platform that allows people to use their online influence (which is another asset / resource) to help charities should be additive. My hope is that we can all partner over time to provide a more complete solution. There is also a point around "discovery" - today's kids are online. How do we help them identify and engage with causes. Can we use an "embedded" platform to help them first associate with a charity and help in a way they can (as they don't have disposable income) and then help them engage further through volunteer and monetary donations over time. I hope so.

The second issue is tough to tackle in such limited space. Suffice to say, no one is suggesting that embedded advertising platforms are the "primary" way for businesses to achieve social objectives. However, I will argue such platforms do help shift dollars to charities in need (that otherwise would not have been provided through corporations). Moreover, these new platforms give people a chance to see and debate what companies are doing. As information and practices are becoming increasingly transparent, my belief is that businesses will held more accountable - and my hope is these new platforms will help drive more socially responsible behavior.