Today, Gwyneth Paltrow ended her week-long “Food Stamp Challenge” on Day 4. Writers across the blogosphere (including the Jewish media) have focused their attention on her authenticity or the appropriateness of this ‘poverty tourism.’ Where was the focus on: “We get it. It’s hard. Here’s what we can really do to make an impact.” Where was the simple call to action to actually do something about poverty?
We used to be able to think: ‘What can I do?’ That answer doesn’t fly anymore in the age of the internet. Exponential impact is possible thanks to the disruptive technology used originally to back for-profit product development and business and now being used to fund non-profit projects. I’ve crowdfunded rent money for friends in hard times twice – in under two weeks each time (before I knew what I was doing). I would never have thought of doing that before razoo / tilt / etc. That’s how I got hooked on this field. Meanwhile, I’m helping Jewish anti-poverty organizations team up to create a joint worldwide Giving Day: MillionsforChesed to raise $3M – all or nothing – in 24 hours this May – with a laptop from my dining room. This model (organized with Charidy.com and AJOP from my dining room table) raised $1.36M for Jewish outreach organizations this past February in 24 hours. Our ability to impact these problems is so accessible – how can we turn ‘action’ into the obvious reaction? We master these skills and empower our community with them.
I just finished reading Alexis Ohanian’s book: Without Their Permission. Mr. Ohanian is the co-founder of Reddit.com, Hipmunk, Breadpig… G-d knows what else. He had a chapter entitled “Using the Internet’s Power to Make the World Suck Less.” First: that’s an awesome title. Second: His subsequent line summed it up: “We can use the Internet to leverage human and financial capital –in philanthropy, …. even politics and mass culture– more directly and efficiently than we can anywhere else.” (p.155) And he did. He and thousands of other non-political types took down SOPA & PIPA legislation via the internet in a way unthinkable before.
The tools and accessibility to an audience now available to non-profits is just as vast as those available to the exponential organizations that become billion dollar businesses in two years. It is our RESPONSIBILITY to listen and learn about and master these tools, as they will exponentially improve our reach, impact, and efficiency – as organizations and as individuals. Just slapping up a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo or gofundme won’t cut it – worse – it’ll keep everyone kvetching that these things just don’t work. But, boy are they wrong.
Making “Impact” available to answer our “kvetches” for the community is the job of our non-profits and anyone who cares to DO something. The more often GOOD empowering opportunities proliferate, the more often we can react with action instead of useless kvetching.
I got off the phone today with an organization I have nothing but admiration for in their operations, efficiency, and vision. Their stated goal is to eradicate poverty in their community – not just provide a temporary salve (also a good thing!). They are forward-thinking and looking to do something similar to what one of THE most talked-about and celebrity-backed charities is doing to cultivate active supporters: by developing a crowdfunding platform unique to their organization.
Take a look at what charity: water has done at www.mycharitywater.org: They have created an internal platform that allows inspired folks to set up their own fundraiser – their own style! Not including any other channel of donations, charity: water has raised $36,000,000+ via this platform, signing up 200,000+ members. They did one step beyond what traditional organizational thinking does (solicit donations): they empowered supporters to become peer-to-peer fundraisers – via great online technology.
Note: they still have to pay their white label platform provider, but this way, they keep these supporters in their network, not on another platform.
We are living in fast times of exponential growth and opportunity. To keep pace with our times, we – the non-profit community, MUST provide exponential ways for individuals to impact their world through our channels. According to Prof. Richard Foster (Yale) – today’s S&P 500 companies will have an average lifespan of 15 years. That lifespan was 67 years in 1920. Our old stalwart institutions and methods will not meet today’s zeitgeist. That means our channels must keep pace and even exceed those around us. We can’t sit back and not take risks. We only have what to gain beyond our wildest expectations. And we can do it as individuals with a laptop and an internet connection.
So, blogosphere – please stop harping on Ms. Paltrow and do something yourselves. Promote an anti-poverty crowdfunding campaign and watch it meet its goal. And to all of you non-profits out there: LEARN HOW TO CROWDFUND PROPERLY.
I will be giving a webinar on Project Sinai this month. I’ll post the deets soon.