What can you do with 5 bucks?

Fearless Riders

There are lots of things you can do with a fiver. I’d really like you to consider donating a fiver (one day’s coffee, a bus ride, a sandwich) to support research to fight Diabetes.

I’m doing my part by riding in the Seattle Tour de Cure on May 12. I would really appreciate it if you could chip in $5 to help. The last several years I’ve raised over $3,000 for this cause, and I’d like to make the number higher.

Please go here and donate what you can today.

(Update 2: Now above $2,000! as of 5/1/12 – how high can we go?)

(Update: I’ve exceeded my original $1500 goal as of 4/26/12 – can you help boost me above $2k?)

Hating pledge drives, and how to make fundraising efforts more flexible

I hate pledge drives. The thought of being contacted to give money to an organization, even one that I normally support, makes me uneasy. But I am happy to raise money for organizations I support and like the idea of competing against others towards a goal. To maximize their ability to raise money, organizations should use Micro-giving campaigns to supplant and eventually replace traditional pledge drives.

A successful micro-giving campaign should do the following: provide a limited time for action; allow me to set a reasonable goal that I can match; and give me a means to share my progress with others and link our goals toward a larger “big goal”. I think Tim Ferriss’s Tweet to Beat campaign is an excellent prototype for a product that companies like Convio could produce to allow existing organizations to take their campaigns and turbo-charge them through social media.

Tweet to Beat is interesting as an idea because it allows individuals to align themselves with the goals of an organization and to offer personalized “challenge grants”. I imagine that pledge drives don’t use these tools all that often for regular donors today because of the difficulty in administering the program. I’d be happy to give an extra $10 or $20 to an organization if I knew that my marginal $10 or $20 made a big difference in the number of donors that my organization of choice was able to attract. Offering this recognition for “helper donors” is a big key to the journey from a hated pledge drive call to an engaged donor base of people who not only care about a cause or an organization but are also able to easily and quickly provide support to that cause or organization.

Convio already offers a version of this service — currently used for events like the Tour De Cure bicycle fundraiser — but I wonder whether they’ve considered expanding it for events like a local public television fundraising drive. Or even if Convio has considered making this service available (perhaps through Twitter, perhaps through Facebook) so that any 501c(3) organization could have better tools to take advantage of the reach of social media.

Pledge drives exist today for organizations like Public Radio and other 501c(3) organizations because they are an effective means of engaging potential donors (or perhaps just making them feel guilty enough to give money to get someone off of the phone). These organizations are missing new potential donors who today might ignore email appeals from someone they don’t know but would be open to appeals from their friends to support causes those friends believe in and support. In the process, organizations can gain new tools for engagement and reach donor bases that are negative or do not respond to traditional fundraisers.

Bringing the lessons of social media to the real world, part 1: volunteerism

Friends have recently sent me a number of parodies of social media, among them that YouTube video suggesting how silly FB would be in real life and Flutter, the 26 character microblog parody. The fact that these trends are being parodied suggests that social media and lifeblogging is now mainstream, and that social media has crossed the chasm and moved to main street. But what do we do with this knowledge? How can we take the lessons of social media and apply them to the real world, while not over-reaching in each? I think that volunteerism is an area where social media cross-over into the real world can be particularly effective.

Local volunteerism is a prime candidate to use the lessons of social media to its advantage. The American Diabetes Association sponsors a Tour De Cure cycling and fundraising event in many cities around the US annually (shameless plug: I’m planning to ride in the Seattle version on May 16th). The Tour de Cure works because it uses selling techniques and an easy-to-understand cause to rally riders who raise money.

ADA’s event could be even more effective, however, if the 600 riders in the Seattle event each used the power of social media to raise awareness of the event and the cause. Encouraging friends in other cities to “donate” their status and using Twitter and other tools to remind cautious givers that there other ways to participate in raising diabetes awareness than simply riding in the event or contributing funds. Care should be taken, however, to avoid oversaturation. Just as the “short-attention-span-theater” crowd tires of ever-updating status messages, people can be easily overwhelmed with “support my cause” requests.

The ADA uses software from Convio to support the Tour de Cure ride. Interestingly, although Convio is promoting a Facebook strategy, the ADA isn’t using this facet of the software. Why might that be? Ease of use challenges, limited integration with existing technology, or that old bugaboo of “you must upgrade for the new feature” might be some of the reasons. The specific reasons aren’t that important — the point is that a major client is not taking advantage of the functionality — and volunteers who want to help the cause are missing out on an easy way to raise awareness among their friends.

Why should the ADA care about social media like Twitter and Facebook? Using “lifestreams” to communicate about causes or activities is now mainstream, rather than a fringe geek activity. Using these tools can increase engagement, precisely as Convio suggests in their post linked above, but more importantly can raise awareness for an important cause. I can let people know through my blog or my status messages that I am participating in the Tour de Cure event, but this message will be more effective if some of the people who casually monitor (or ignore) my status messages allow this cause to enter into their consideration set. Raising the profile of the ADA and making more people aware of the mission of the event and the organization should be the ultimate goal. Transforming some of the everyday social media messages people send can be a strong driver for that work.

[postscript – check out Allison Fine’s Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age for more ideas on this topic]

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