Charity CHAMPs – get involved with microphilanthropy now!

Not inspired? Join a community of action! by sylvng

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that Charity CHAMPS’ mission is to encourage microphilanthropy (I’m almost sounding like a broken record with this line, but hey, a mission should be communicated, right?). As our great team of volunteer graphic artists are working on the beta site, we’ve been brainstorming the micro-actions we want to focus on encouraging. So far our thoughts have revolved around very concrete things: micro-donations, micro-lending, click-to-donate, etc. But there’s a whole slew of actions that aren’t as concrete, such as educating yourself on an issue, or joining a community of activists. These actions don’t bring a direct charitable return, but are arguably just as important as concrete ones. Most importantly, it’s these actions that get you to give more of yourself to the community; it’s through consuming media, participating in chats, and reading blogs and Twitter feeds that you get INSPIRED.

There are a lot of communities out there that gather people around specific causes so that discussions, knowledge sharing, and mutual support can happen. Some examples:

  • WiserEarth: online community that gathers people around specific issues like global warming and poverty.  You can create and join groups, and gain visibility for the work that you’re doing. And of course, you can network and share ideas with others of similar interests.
  • Cagora: an “alternative to search engines and social networks”, where you get to create content and profit from it as any web author would on their own site through ads. What’s different about Cagora is that you can put the money towards your causes, the main point of the site being to pursue your hobbies and interests while doing good. The content created by individuals become “interest worlds” where passer-bys can land to find products, information, and services on a particular subject.
  • Amazee: “empowers individuals and organizations to initiate and promote their ideas and plans in projects, to find like-minded people and raise funds”; tools supplied by the website to help a project succeed include polls, calendars, and event planning modules. All the content created around a project can easily be published to an iPhone or Facebook using Amazee’s interface.
  • Ammado: a community that brings together nonprofits and people who care. Upload photos and videos, support your favourite non-profits through donations, and help spread the word on the causes you care about.

That’s just a few that I’ve been to, and there are a lot more. Like real world communities each online community has a different flavour and have different demographics of people in it. I would suggest that you shop around and see which ones you like the most. And the next time you feel blah about your day-to-day activities, just log-on! When you see all the good going on you’re bound to feel bubbly, and hopefully it will get you jumping into some new exciting project.

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Mayor Miller, Don Tapscott, and revolutionizing government with social media by sylvng

What do Toronto’s Mayor Miller and Don Tapscott have in common? As it turns out, both are Twitter fans. For Don Tapscott, I’m obviously not surprised. For Mayor Miller, however, I would not have guessed that he won a competition against CityTV to get more Twitter followers. Then again, I have never been one to follow politics (or politicians) very closely.

I was at the Volunteer Toronto screening of Us Now yesterday night,and I enjoyed the documentary a lot. Volunteer Toronto will be making Us Now available for download later so you should definitely watch it. In line with Don Tapscott’s ideas around how corporations and production must change with the coming net generation, the documentary takes a look at how government must also change. One could make an analogy here – democracy as it exists today is like broadcast TV (we vote every few years and in between that time politicians broadcast to us), and just as TV is now giving way to two-way interactions through the Internet, government needs to change so that people are active participants at a more fundamental level.

Needless to say, I was very happy to hear the mayor Miller announce that the City of Toronto is making some of it’s data available to the public in the fall of 2009.  The mayor mentioned that will launch later this year, and will allow Torontonians to access several facets of public data, such as TTC vehicle locations (using GPS). This is in line with the mayor’s vision of turning Toronto into a leader of modern cities; Chicago opened its data to the public a while back. Once the data is available the city could benefit from a wide range of applications developed by local citizens (I don’t know what will happen when the data reveals that the TTC can be horribly off-schedule – just my personal opinion here – but at least there won’t be any more arguments regarding exactly how reliable TTC service is and we can let the data do the talking).

As for Don Tapscott’s remarks at the event, I’ve heard him speak and read enough of his books that nothing was new for me, but it was good to hear his thoughts on Us Now; his opinion is that the movie raises more questions than it answers. At this early stage where governments are just starting to grapple with what social media means for campaigning (think Obama) and policy making, I don’t think anybody can profess to have the answers. But it’s great to know people are thinking about what the right questions are to ask.

And just why am I writing about this topic on a blog about microphilanthropy? Getting involved with government may not be viewed as charitable, but once the city data is available, who knows? Maybe somebody will use the TTC data and partner with local charities to help disabled persons move around town, or deliver meals to the elderly better. That’s my hope, anyway, in which case maybe Charity CHAMPS can support some of those efforts.

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Another arugment for microphilanthropy: social media allows us to see patterns by sylvng

A while back I wrote a post about why microphilanthropy works; small actions can be transformational, and small actions have been made mainstream through social media. Today, from Net Change Week’s website, I discovered a video of Ric Young giving a talk about social innovation. Ric is a member of Ecotrust Canada’s board of directors and President of E.Y.E, a Toronto-based agency specializing in strategies that promote social change. In the talk, Ric mentions the value of social media beyond just being a tactical tool for mobilizing social change: social media allows us to see the patterns of how people move and affect each other.

As a business intelligence freak, I couldn’t agree more. There are hundreds of theories out there on mob mentality, on how social movements start, on network effects and how people relate to each other – essentially on how change takes place. Take The Tipping Point, for example. And for once, we are in a world where all of these effects can be monitored and measured digitally, thanks to social networks. If Second Life has enabled scientists to study the spread of disesases from person to person in a way that wasn’t available before, I’m positive that social media will enable social innovators to discover so much more about what really triggers and sustains lasting social change.  The more data we have, the more we’ll be able to refine our techniques and strategies for solving some of the world’s most complex problems.

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Love chocolate? Send a bicycle to Africa for eating some! by sylvng
May 5, 2009, 10:52 am
Filed under: Microphilanthropy | Tags: , ,

What can a bicycle do? Well in places where transportation isn’t readily available, it can do a lot.  It can be a delivery truck, a school bus, an ambulance, and a water distribution system. And right now, Cadbury is running a promotion where every Cadbury UPC code entered at will go towards sending a bicycle to Ghana (Ghana is where Cadbury sources its cocoa from). All it takes is 100 UPC codes to send a full bicycle, so this is a great way to make a difference. And by participating in the promotion, you are automatically entered into a draw for a chance to win a 10 day trip for 2 to Africa!

There’s no better excuse to eat some candy (Dentyne, Stride, Cadbury, Maynards, Trident, Bubblicious, Certs Chiclets, Clorets, Jersey Milk and Halls apparently all qualify). Promo ends July 30th. Open to Canadian residents only.

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Volunteer Toronto Free Movie Night with Don Tapscott and Mayor Miller by sylvng
May 1, 2009, 5:01 pm
Filed under: General Charity Musings | Tags: , ,

For those of you in Toronto, Volunteer Toronto is hosting a free movie night with Don Tapscott and Mayor Miller on May 5th, from 6-9pm. The movie “Us Now” is going to featured, a UK documentary on how the Internet has enabled people of all ages to participate in their communities, and emphasizes the power of mass collaboration, government and the Internet. There will be representives from MaRS, Mozilla, and FAME present, and the event will take place on the Ryerson Campus. For more information visit the website.

Let me know if you’re going – I’ll see you there!

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Opportunities and risks of using social media for fundraising by sylvng

Right after I finished writing a post about measuring the ROI of online social media campaigns, I came across this Pentagraph article on the opportunities and risks of using social media for fundraising. The article does emphasize something that I personally believe in; quoting Melissa Brown of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, “Even if social-networking sites draw relatively little money now, it’s imperative for nonprofits to explore them”.

So what are the opportunities and risks? Here’s what was mentioned in the article, plus some of my own thoughts:


  • Social campaigns can be very cost effective – referrals are made through friends, and it doesn’t cost anything to create a Facebook group or Twitter account.
  • Involvement – because it’s essentially free to be involved, social networks are a great way to engage people, especially past donors who cannot afford to give cash now because of the economy
  • Capitalize on the trend – internet fundraising is on the rise while traditional methods like direct mail are becoming less successful
  • Campaigns can be low effort – if you already have online reach the incremental effort to get a campaign going can be minimal. For example,  David Armano’s campaign for Daniela’s family has raised over 337% of the original goal, using David’s already established professional network and well-followed blog. The campaign has been featured in media, and a former colleague of David’s who works for a social media PR firm brought it up with me the other day as a success story that he often quotes.
  • Low barrier to entry – anybody, regardless of experience, can start a campaign, especially on sites that support this type of activity


  • Information overload – have you ever been annoyed by too many application requests in Facebook? Users are bombarded by a lot of information online, and by running an online campaign, you risk associating your brand with some of that annoyance.
  • Donor fatigue – because it is so easy to reach a large base of potential donors with social media, some donors are finding that they’re being asked to open their wallets too often.  Donors might decide to give a micro-donation online, but then opt out of volunteering at local charities or writing big cheques .
  • Hard to measure ROI – outside of direct donated dollars, the long term ROI of branding benefits and involvement is hard to ascertain.
  • Time consuming – if you’re building your brand and reach from scratch, it could take a lot of time, especially if you’re new to the field.

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