Friday, December 11, 2009

Unbundling embedded giving

(Photo by z287marc, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Just today I learned of the newest riff on embedded giving - call it "unbundled." Here are the two examples, brought to my attention by two different reporters.

BRAC USA introduces What I Did Not Buy which allows you to enter in the price of some thing you might have bought (shoes, music, clothing, a sports car) and find out what the same amount of money, donated to BRAC, would pay for. It's clever, though the little text boxes next to the heartwarming pictures of "what it would buy" are very web1.0 for such a 2010 concept site.

The second example comes from AmeriCares and is - playfully - called Send Your Mother In Law To Darfur. Same basic concept as What I Did Not Buy, with a snarkier name but more boring website. It is one big web form.

What I like about these sites is their clarity of purpose*: they are very clearly fundraising sites for the two organizations, BRAC USA and AmeriCares. The shopping references are schtick - they are not trying to hide anything, fool anyone, or slip a gift into a pair of socks or add it onto your bar bill. Its a donation, clear and simple. And worth it.

On Twitter earlier today I referred to this evolution in Hollywood-ese, as follows:
Love Child of "Buy Less Crap" + "Redefine Christmas" = What I Did Not Buy"
For those who haven't been drowning in this discussion for as long as I have, Buy Less Crap was an Anti-RED campaign website from a year or so back, pointing out to folks that buying is not the same as giving. Redefine Christmas was an ad campaign funded by a foundation in Connecticut that encouraged people to focus on the non-materialistic elements of the season. It is now a website collaboration between JustGive and Changing the Present where you can ask for a charitable gift instead of a necktie or ugly sweater.

These new sites play on our market-driven cultural assumptions that link shopping to giving and then ask you to "unbundle" them. They are in some ways an antidote to embedded giving. In their explicit reminders of the "one pocket" from which most of us do our shopping/giving/saving/investing they also provide a retail view of the same concepts driving Impact Investing and the social capital markets - the message is this, "I've got one small pile of cash, I want to use to further my values, I can do that in how I shop, what I give, and how I invest."

*I was about to call this clarity of purpose "honesty" when I realize they are playing similar games with the "donor illusion" concept that Kiva, Heifer International, etc are dealing with. They don't claim your $50 will go to a particular kid or cow, however, they make it very clear they are dealing in dollar amount equivalents. At least it is clear to me, but then I also knew how Kiva worked....

Related note - please read the discussion (and follow up and comments) on @Bill_easterly's blog about the RED Campaign. FINALLY, some research and real discussion of the complicated relationships between concepts such as sustainable social enterprises, transparency, and accountability.


Anonymous said...

i think these are much more honest and very clever. my mom really thinks she bought a lady a goat last christmas.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Here is a NY Times Story on this site: