Charity CHAMPs – get involved with microphilanthropy now!

Shop for good sites need some differentiation! by sylvng

For years now there has been a “Taste of the Danforth” festival in Toronto’s Greek area and I’ve been to it a few times – the festival is always packed with street performers, game setups, and a ton of  vendors offering mouth-watering treats. So when I heard about a similar festival in Little Italy I was excited. If the Greek version had lots of street meat, wouldn’t the Italian version offer gelato, expresso bars, and cafe chairs and umbrellas as far as the eye can see? Apparently not. In fact, I was sorely disappointed when I went there 2 weeks ago. Taste of Italy may as well have been Taste of Danforth – the only difference was the location!

Differentiation goes a long way, and sometimes as an end-consumer I get fustrated with brands that are ok with just blending in. Especially with microphilanthropy, because the space is still new enough that I think there are still lots of novel ideas to try out, and more differentiation means more motivation for users to get involved with various sites. Take these shop-for-good sites, for example:

At first glance they look the same. They even have the same 3 step instructions telling you how to shop for your charity! They also all have long lists of merchants, with vary percentages of your purchase actually making it back to charity.In particular, We-care, GoodShop, and ShopWisely all let you add your own causes, and they all have coupons with merchants, like a special gift from L’Occitane when you buy more than $100, or free shipping from

But really, even they their similarities they all have something slightly different to offer. We-care has the most usable and engaging site, with clear communication, a cause of the month, and good blog posts. But GoodShop is actually best for shopping, with a side bar of categories of products and a good store search. ShopWisely has some really high donation percentages, and ShopForCharity seems to have the easiest way of picking a charity (the charity list is shorter, but the other sites just don’t make the choice as transparent).

I just wish sites would spend a bit more effort on differentiation, so that users looking for a shopping site can pick the one that suits them best. I don’t believe that one size fits all, so the more microphilanthropy organizations the better, but it’s not good when everything looks the same on the surface!

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Download IE8 to support Feeding America by sylvng
June 26, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Microphilanthropy | Tags: ,

As far as I know, Internet Explorer still dominates the browser market.  The W3 counter of 25k websites for May shows that IE accounted for ~58% of browsers out there. But of that 58%, only ~2% is coming from IE 8.0. To promote their newest version of browser, Microsoft has partnered with Feeding America. For every browser download from, Microsoft will donate 8 meals to help alleviate hunger.

I’ve been a Firefox user for some time now, and I spend enough time with techies to not want to dabble back into IE. But I will at least download IE 8, because this is microphilanthropy at its best. One click to generate 8 wholesome meals? Awesome. The charitable donation is only good for downloads up till August 8th so don’t wait too long!

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Operation Imani – How to Optimize International Development Dollars by sylvng

Charity CHAMPS is about bringing out the inner hero in everybody, a philosophy which I’ve become very passionate about over the years.  I’ve always been more inspired by “average” people that do great things, than exceptional people that do extraordinary things.

This week a friend of mine introduced me to a definite hero — Greg John. Greg is an engineer by training, but instead of taking up a comfy job, he obtained a CIDA internship after graduation and proceeded to help build an HIV center in Tanzania. While there, he started connecting with other non-profits and became involved with a local organization called Imani. Imani runs a vocational school, teaching trade crafts such as tailoring and carpentry to youth (a good portion of whom are disabled). In an environment where spaces in highschool are short, the vocational school goes a long way to providing kids with an education.

In time, Greg realized that operating the centre was a constant challenge – there just aren’t enough resources. So using a bit of ingenuity, Greg began to teach sustainability, rolling up his sleeves to help build fishponds to generate a steady food source, and setting up drip irrigation in the gardens. Realizing that there is a lack of investment in long-term, sustainable solutions in Africa, Greg wrote a book, titled Mzungu Days, about his experiences in Tanzania. After spending 2 years there, Greg returned to Canada to fundraise, and last summer went back again, this time with a different mission — to produce a documentary film that would not only educate Canadians and NGOs on how to maximize the long-term impact of development dollars, but also hopefully raise $100k for Imani as well.

The resulting film, Operation Imani, has been dubbed “an important resource for all who want to make a lasting difference” by former Canadian High Commissioner to Tanzania Dr. Andrew McAlister. There will be screenings across Canada this summer. You can also purchase a DVD, and 100% of the proceeds of ticket and DVD sales will go toward Imani. Let me know if you’re in Toronto and are planning to go — I will definitely be there!

With cause blogging and the proliferation of social media, I find myself facing a plethora of stories about ordinary people who are doing phenomenal deeds.  They’re all tales that make me feel badly for not doing more, but yet I love reading them because they’re so inspirational. Greg, for one, has been operating with money out of his own pocket, and has made this film with the support of his friends. Hopefully this story brings a bit of inspiration to you — it has to me.

List of Change by sylvng

I know you love reading this blog, but have you ever wondered what other blogs are out there advocating positive social change? I have problems keeping track of all the microphilanthropy sites out there, but thankfully Social Actions has a great list compiled that complements the Charity CHAMPS list really well (and even overlaps in lots of cases, we’ll have to work on getting it all together). But now there is also a very comprehensive list of blogs about social change, called the List of Change. Started by Geoff Livingston, Beth Kanter, and Shannon Whitley, the list showcases cause bloggers who are trying to positively affect lives throughout the world.

The blogs are listed in order of popularity or clout, using a bunch of metrics from Technorati Rank to Google Pagerank. Not surprisingly a lot of the top ones are by non-profit advertising and marketing professionals who obviously know how to get up there in the ranks. But mixed in there are some grass-roots blogs as well. This blog right now is ranked #144.

So grab a cup of coffee, enjoy the reading, and get involved with the causes!

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Email overload? It’s all good with ReplyForAll by sylvng

Do you have waaaaay too many emails in your inbox? Or do you send too many emails in one day to keep count? Well for once that’s good news! How, you ask? Check out ReplyForAll and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

In the office I’ve often seen people using email signatures to spread a particular message.  People use all sorts of tag lines, from “don’t print this email – be good to the environment” to “you have to be the change you want to see in the world”. But with ReplyForAll you can take that one step further and actually fundraise for a cause using your signature! Just go to the site and pick what you want to support (curing cancer, stopping AIDs, providing clean water, and fighting global warming to name a few). Then sign up to create a custom email signature that includes a banner ad. Sponsors pay for you to see the ads, and the proceeds go to your cause.

Best of all, ReplyForAll tells you exactly what impact your signature will have.  For example, every 12 people using the clean enery signature takes 1 car off the road for a month, or prevents 500 kg of CO2 from entering the atmposphere. In fact, you can see ReplyForAll’s impact in 2008 on their site. Amongst other things they served 734 people with clean water for a day, and provided 3.9 years of educational resources. Pretty awesome!

On my list of microphilanthropies I’ve categorized organizations by the type of actions you can take on them, be it click-to-donate, micro-lending, shop-for-good, or social networking. Just when I think that I’ve found them all, I discover unique ones like RaffleMansion or 10Beyond that I just can’t put in any category. Today I found ReplyForAll. Who knows what I’ll find tomorrow. Ah, I love it – it’s like hunting for treasure!

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Microphilanthropy sites – don’t block me out! by sylvng

The other day I discovered an organization called 10Beyond on Twitter. They have a great pyramid model going where they hope that each person who donates to a charity through their platform manages to inspire at least 10 other donations through referrals. Apparently donations through the site have increased 5-fold since launch (see article). It’s a great model that I would love to learn more about, but the only information I can gather is through peripheral news articles and blogs. Why? Because I’m located in Canada. Which frustrates me to no end, because even if I cannot participate on your site as a Canadian, there’s no reason to block me from reading about what’s going on. Not to mention that it actually takes effort to develop a block based on IP, and on top of that, US residents who cross the border won’t be able to access their accounts from Canada.

The most popular page on this blog by far is the list of microphilanthopy organizations that I’ve complied over the months. If I ever have the time, I’d love to add a column to show where each organization is based, and mark which geographic markets they cater to. Not that I believe every organization should be catering to Canadians, but I would hate to create the bad experience where I tell somebody about how great a site is, only for them to find out they can’t be a part of it.

For organizations out there who don’t currently cater to Canadians, consider the fact that the Canadian market is the size of California, and the fact that our cultures are so close that you really don’t really need much localization work (unless you’re thinking about Quebec). =)

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Who is participating in microphilanthropy and why Charity CHAMPS wants to focus on youth by sylvng

At Charity CHAMPS we’ve been thinking for a while about who our target “market” should be. While we would love to encourage the whole world to be involved with microphilanthropy, we have to face reality: we can only reach certain segments of people with our website, and we would probably be more successful having a focus rather than not. So just who is participating in online microphilanthropy right now? Our rough market research would suggest that a main segment of online givers are middle-aged women, possibly stay-at-home moms who have some spare income as well as time to be involved with social networks and therefore charity using social media.

Some traffic statistics gathered from Quantcast today (June 10 2009):

Site % Female % Aged 3-17 % Aged 18-34 % Aged 35-49 % Aged 50+ 60% 12% 49% 25% 14% 63% 37% 14% 31% 18% 57% 1% 21% 48% 30% 55% 9% 19% 36% 36% 66% 1% 31% 29% 39%

Of course, these are only estimates so you have to take the data with a grain of salt. But even if the data is only directional, there’s a definite difference in % of youth on various sites; Donorschoose and Microgiving both have lots more youth traffic than Kiva or Change. On some level I think it’s fairly obvious why this is the case – Donorschoose afterall is raising money for students and if you just visit Microgiving you can see why it appeals to youngsters more than Kiva and Change.

So just what market does Charity CHAMPS want to focus on? Well for now we’re thinking the youth. Why? Because good kids grow up to be good adults. The Canadian Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating (CSVP) has a bunch of information on the connection between early life experiences and the rate of donating in later life. Not surprisingly, the survey found that those who were involved with community activities as youth donated more than their peers as adults. Not only that, but young volunteers (particularly 15 to 19 year olds), are more likely than other age groups to report that they don’t volunteer because they were not asked (45% of 15 to 19 year olds vs. 39% of 20 to 24 year olds and 27% of those 25 and over), or because they don’t know how to become involved (35% vs. 21% and 11%). And both those things we can potentially have an impact on.

Not to mention, our general concept was always meant to be a fun and even a bit frivolous. So watch out youth, here we come!

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