I was glad to see that the New York Times picked up on the final stages of the America’s Giving Challenge. The contest is over, and the cause I’ve been flogging/blogging appears to have (unofficially) emerged victorious. It’s pretty exciting, no doubt, that the Sharing Foundation is likely to receive a decent sum of money as a result of the contest — both directly from the donations generated, and from the $50,000 prize money for the top four organizations.
What’s also interesting is who did well in this contest and who did not. The New York Times article reported that smaller groups feared that they would be at a disadvatage to larger, international groups with big Facebook presences that already had lots of “friends.”
But Amnesty International had a hell of a time getting their online friends to donate during this contest. And tiny, new, unknown groups — NOT run by hip, trendy young college students –did really well.
“Everyone is still trying to work out how you organize these things and how you move these people offline into our traditional work,” said Brian Glasscock, a 16-year-old volunteer who is responsible for online organizing at Amnesty International.
It makes you want to speculate about the strength of the ties that exist between a cause and its “friends” when those friends can’t be mobiled to make a bunch of well-timed $10 gifts.
More than that, though, I think it points to the difference between “organizations” trying to mobilize online supporters, and people trying to mobilize other people.
I’d have to look more into how other the campaigns were run, but I know from watching Beth Kanter at work over the last month or so that, when she was mobilizing for donations:
- She was asking as Beth Kanter, not as an organization.
- She was emailing, twittering, and appealing to people she knew, or at least who knew her — as a person.
Would any of us have blogged this campaign, retweeted, or done much of anything if it had been An Entity, Inc. that had been doing the asking?
I doubt it.
Wasn’t it partly the fact that a person was doing the asking, a person who had already established trust and recognition on a number of vectors was making the appeal.
Wasn’t it also because it wasn’t entirely about the cause, as it was to show the world (or the readers of Parade Magazine, at least) that the social networking shadowlands — about which such astonishing, sensationalistic, fear-mongering, alarmist crap is written — is actually populated by passionate, articulate people who support each other and who work to advance the common good?