October 14, 2009

Bloggers: Please come through again for DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose: open source philanthropy from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

Social Media Challenge is a leading example of micro-giving

JD LasicaWhen you think of organizations and nonprofits that have made effective use of Web 2.0 technologies to raise funds for a cause, DonorsChoose.org should be near the top of a very short list.

And October is once again the month when bloggers step up to the plate for the Social Media Challenge, now in its third year. Last year, bloggers big and small raised $270,000 to provide 65,000 students with the resources needed to learn. This year, Twitter has joined the fray.

At Socialbrite, we’d like to call on our readers to support students in public school classrooms in low-income areas. The cool part? You get to decide which projects to support — and you’ll be able to hear directly from the students who received your donation.

Please make a donation on the Socialbrite Giving Page. Some of the donations will have twice the impact because of a matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

And, of course, you can always create your own Giving Page.

Meantime, if you’re not familiar with DonorsChoose, the idea is a simple one: It’s a site where public school teachers could post what materials they were lacking in the classroom. Requests stay up for five months or until they’re fully funded.

Interview with founder Charles Best

I recently buttonholed founder and CEO Charles Best to get a first-hand account of the groundbreaking charity and its model for funding public school projects around the country. Charles thought up the site during a lunch conversation with colleagues at a public high school in the Bronx where he was a social studies teacher for five years, and his students volunteered to help start the organization. They hope individuals will contribute around $17 million this year for books, field trips, art supplies and technology needed by classrooms in low-income areas.

Watch, embed or download the 6-minute video on Vimeo
Watch the video in H.264 on Ourmedia

Some highlights from our chat:

• During the 2007 Blogger Challenge, he said, “we saw that a handful of bloggers who wouldn’t appear on the Technorati top 100 list and don’ have huge readerships were actually capable of raising the most money from their readers because they have a personal relationship with their followers.”

• With micro-giving, “someone with $10 or $25 to give can be a philanthropist. and get the same kind of accountability and vivid feedback that bill gates gets when he gives $1 million,” he said.

• The main reason it works is that you get to see how your donation was spent, you get photos from the classroom, and you get a personal reply from the teacher or students.

• There are 12,000 to 14,000 classroom project requests on the site at a time. About two-thirds get fully funded before they hit their expiration date.

• DonorsChoose is a great target for companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programs. “Companies have a new ability to empower their customers to be philanthropists, to open source their philanthropy and let their customers or employees participate as grant makers,” he said.

• Long term, DonorsChoose wants raise $100 million a year for public classrooms this way.

October 12, 2009

The Extraordinaries: Building the ‘micro-volunteering’ movement

JD LasicaAt Net Tuesday last month and the recent gathering of social change organizations at Chronicle Books, both in San Francisco, participants heard from Jacob Colker, co-founder and CEO of The Extraordinaries about their ambitious effort to kick-start a “micro-volunteering” movement of people who help worthwhile causes in their spare time through the use of their mobile devices.

Who knew that “the power of spare energy” held such potential?

I continue to be impressed by the breadth of projects being supported by The Extraordinaries — whose name, co-founder Ben Rigby told me at NetSquared, is a bit tongue in cheek but also points out that each of us is capable of contributing to the greater good in extraordinary ways. Last month Time magazine, in a listing of New Ways to Make a Difference, cited the Extraordinaries as a prime example of using new technologies to advance the social good, “from using your smartphone to view and label photos (to help digitize museum archives) to snapping a picture of a local park (to help build a map of places where kids can play).”

It’s simple to participate: Download the free “The Extraordinaries” application to your iPhone (or to a similar smart phone) or use a Web browser to peruse the list of micro-volunteer opportunities. Follow them on Twitter at @extraordinaries. Sundeep, a principal in the organization, taught an online class about micro-volunteering last week on eduFire; look for others in the near future. Continue reading