I wrote about a friend who used a social network (Twitter, FaceBook, etc) to raise money for a social cause (Unicef and you can still take part) in Charity = f(altruism) ± 2db. People contacted me that they were having trouble posting comments to that blog (and I’m discontinuing it for reasons you can read at either Today I was asked if I was comfortable doing NeuroEngineering or You found it!).
One of those commenters is the good and honorable Dr. Geertz, a long time reader of my posts. His comment, dealing with how to use social networks for social causes, is presented here along with my responses (in italics) because this discussion is worthy of its own post.
I hope you’ll agree.
Dr. Geertz wrote:
What could Scott have done differently to elicit a broader/greater response? I am loosely familiar with philanthropic endeavors and asking people to support a cause, as you know. From what I’ve found, the less effort you put into making the request, the less success you’ll have. Much like any communication, face-to-face is best, followed by a telephone call, followed by real time communication, followed by mail/email.
The type of philanthropic activity you’re describing is very different from the kind Scott used. He was using social mechanics (which works very well for certain things when done along certain lines) and you’re describing (essentially) one-to-one solicitation (you know email addresses, phone numbers, etc). Your method uses direct address, something I’ve discussed elsewhere. Scott chose another method, something that could be likened to “cast your bread upon the waters” and that I expand to the quote “Cast your bread upon the water and eventually you’ll get back bits of soggy bread.”
The first question to be answered is deciding which method to use. Deciding that involves understanding the size of your network and the average amount you’ll need for each member of the network to contribute to the cause. Direct address works best when the network size is small and the average contribution would be considered medium to large by members of that network. Example: Want to raise US$10M from 10-20 people with an average income of US$50-100M/year? Go to them individually. Direct address is the only way even if such people are your financial peers. If such people are your peers chances are the direct address will only involve a phone call. You’d have to meet each of them individually if they weren’t your financial peers. Example: Want to raise US$1M from 10M people? Use the social networking vectors Scott chose. Direct address would (obviously, I hope) be time and cost inefficient.
I think there is a convenience factor in being able to pay by credit card through the email link that should be helpful, but I’m not sure the message with the request expressed urgency, expressed the need in terms of the village, or made it sufficiently personal to Scott. The water system need was vague and seemed to express what $20k can do more than it expressed what this $20k would do, raising $20k is something Scott was doing (not providing water to a village), and it suggested he hoped to get the money from 400+ twitter followers (Twitter followers are not a strong village, IMHO) and 200 facebook friends ($20 from each would still fall well short of the goal).
To your points re Twitter and Facebook, yes and no. Those avenues are dependent on the strength of the social ties expressed by the individuals communicating via those networks. Some internet based social networks are incredibly strong. Examples of such networks are SmartMobs (links below) and Community Response Grids (links below). Many people may believe their social network has such actionability among members or to a cause and they are mistaken (sad to say).
Finally, I think if you really hope to raise that kind of money, you need to step up with more than $180 – this goes back to the effort of the requester/commitment to the cause. And, as I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m not trying to be critical toward Scott, but I am trying to provide a little critical thought as to how he could have communicated his message more effectively to achieve his desired effect.
I would disagree with your comment about Scott’s level of commitment to his own cause, as well. My disagreement goes back to the social methodology he’s using. A demonstration of “greater” commitment on his part could have proven financially intimidating to the audience he was addressing and the means he was using, hence the response would have been much poorer than it was.
I will not slight anyone for desiring to raise money, effort, whatever, for a cause they believe in. I do recognize that success in anything comes about either through dumb, blind luck or good research in planning.
Either of them will bring you success. When you get both or even a good mixture thereof, it’s amazing what can happen.
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Links for this post:
- SmartMob links:
- Community Response Grid Links:
- You can also find NextStage Social Network Research Papers in The NextStage Store
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