Watching Markets Shift – Social Good

Posted on October 28, 2009

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.Margaret Mead

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.

Last week we were at TWTRCON in DC for Frank to take part in a panel called The New Rules for the Real-Time Business. We went a bit early and were able to see Scott Harrison on stage talking about Charity:Water. It was a fascinating preso for me because after it was over, I thought more about it and what a major shift has been happening in the “social good” (or charities) space and how much a part of my mind-share it’s had lately. When I think back through the years of my parent’s and my own experiences with charitable groups, I recall the names of just a few major organizations, maybe some fundraising events like a concert or sales drive and then I think about numbers and charts – pretty uninspiring stuff. When I was a kid I remember just one organization that personalized the experience -  my parents “adopted” a little boy from Ethiopia (as I’m sure many families did) and fed him for less than $1 a day or something like that. We had his picture on our family bulletin board. But I grew up hearing one message that stuck – “we’d give more money but who knows where it’s really going.”

But now I have some new experiences to draw upon. I’ve been to two Twestivals – my first donation went to Charity:Water. My second went to a local charity called Miriam’s Kitchen. I’ve donated to Kiva a few times and watched our friend Sloane blog and tweet about her work in the field as a Kiva Fellow. I’ve seen several of the new generation of organizers speak about their projects and show the results in real-time. Recently, Shiny Heart Ventures even signed up to work with Epic Change on their Tweetsgiving campaign to help school children in Tanzania. We were able to watch the founders interacting real-time with the kids in Tanzania last week via videos posted on Tumblr and Tweets they sent out. The kids even started a dialog with Frank. And now I’ve spoken with other groups whom we may work with in the coming months or years. My point is, in this new world of giving, it’s no longer faceless. It’s no longer another world. It’s no longer throwing money over a wall and hoping someone honest is there to catch and put it to good use.

When it comes to the leaders of these organizations, we can see them at work and follow them online. We’re able to connect and build trust. When it comes to the aid, we can track it online. And the recipients – we can see them and feel a connection. And it’s important because this stuff makes us feel good – and what have we learned? We remember how people make us feel. Charity:Water’s updates from the field make me feel good about my donation and I’m more likely to open my wallet for them in the future. The “TwitterKids” of Tanzania are all over our Thankfulfor blog and how can you say no to those adorable faces? The new social good leaders have realized that they can create their own media, and affect people by bringing it closer and making it real. And not to be outdone by the small organizations, even the Gates Foundation gets it – and have created their own channels to move the needle. Like the others, they’re using the power of gorgeous photographs, video and music – and not only brought it online, but recently brought it to an audience in DC, where people could have a larger-than-life experience to move them emotionally. We were moved by attending and seeing Bill and Melinda Gates deliver the message in person to a filled theater.

I used to give funds to the Red Cross and United Way (pretty much only after a major disaster struck) just because they were large trusted institutions and it was easy. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give to these groups – they’re still great organizations. I’m saying it feels like we have choices now that are more visible and close at hand (via online tools) than ever before. Groups like Causes and Network for Good have been instrumental in bringing many projects and audiences together, and now there are even events like the Nonprofit 2.0 Conference to help more non-profits along. We’re excited about this shift, as a company that wants to do good things & work with causes, and as individuals who want to see major change happen in the world.

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