- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
I was surprised to see Ed Norton making appearances at various conferences during Internet Week last month in NYC, and even more surprised to find that he was there to talk about online fundraising?! Ok, you had me at Ed Norton, but really, he’s here to talk about things in our sweet spot - giving, social media, online platforms? I’m all ears.
He was making the rounds to talk about Crowdrise, a new online fundraising platform that he and partners Shauna Robertson, and Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe have created. The platform integrates social networking, crowdsourcing, and incentives in order to not only put the "fun" back in fundraising, but also make it more effective. I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Wolfe - he and his brother Jeffrey were co-founders of Moosejaw, the online outdoor gear and apparel retailer - and wanted to bring their experiences in successful online retail marketing to the fundraising world, hence the birth of Crowdrise.
Clearly, their marketing skills are working. Since their public launch in May, they have been mentioned and featured all over - from networks (ABC, NBC, CNN, and USA Today) to blogs (Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and Likeable Media) and posts on Facebook and Twitter. They’ve clearly leveraged their celebrity connections - Seth Rogan, Russell Brand, and Will Ferrell all have fundraising projects on the site (Will Ferrell is even offering his own brand of sexy sunscreen to donors who give $17 or more to his project, Scholarships for Cancer Survivors). And, it looks like it may be translating into general users and participants, too. Although they’re not disclosing how many users and projects they currently have on the platform, there does look to be plenty of activity.
From my discussion with Robert and perusing through the site, one thing is evident - what lies at the core of Crowdrise is FUN. From his infectious enthusiasm, to the irreverent and witty copy on their site, to the cool prizes offered - they try to infuse fun in all elements of the process. Here’s what Robert has to say:
Sokunthea: There have been many online volunteer and fundraising platforms that have sprouted as of late. What makes Crowdrise different from others out there?
Robert: Our goal at Crowdrise is to have an impact by making volunteering and fundraising fun. I don't want to bore you with a million examples of how we go at it but if you play around on the site you'll see endless foolishness that we hope is somewhat notable. I'd say the two most unexpected parts of Crowdrise, that have been really awesome since we launched, are the point program and the crazy engagement.
The Crowdrise community is obsessed with their points and I certainly mean that in the most positive way. You earn Crowdrise points by donating, raising money and getting votes from the community. The idea is that the crowd determines who the most philanthropic people are on Crowdrise and those people are rewarded with points and awesome prizes. The combination of crowdsourcing along with incentives that you typically find in online retail creates more engagement and raises more awareness about Crowdrise projects. There's no question that the most passionate people are having the most fun and getting rewarded for digging in.
Even though we've only been live a short time I can say with some degree of confidence that people are getting addicted to the site. And, the best part is that it's super niche and all about giving back. Random people are voting for each other and donating to each others projects and helping each other fundraise. It's actually really cool. We're getting multiple emails a day from people saying... 'Someone just started fundraising for the project that I started but I don't know them. Is that a mistake?' And, our answer is that it may be a mistake but that's really what Crowdrise is all about. The social network enables people to click around like mad and find real human people starting projects for causes they care about and helping 'em out.
Sokunthea: How did you come up with the Points Program?
Robert: When we were doing our research and talking to high school and college students to try to figure out how to make volunteering fun and appealing to them, we realized a lot of high school students who had to do community service to graduate didn't particularly like it. We're obsessed with our own airline miles and developed a really successful point program at the other company we founded, Moosejaw. So, we thought it made a lot of sense to create a point system in the philanthropic space to try to make everything a little more fun. And, our badges couldn't be any more ridiculous.
Also, on Crowdrise, a $29 donation also enters you to win an iPad. We have lots of different prizes and they're all really, really good. At the end of the day, our goal is to create engagement, drive donations and make it all fun. If our incentives get people to participate more then it's all good.
Sokunthea: Donor Fatigue is a big question when it comes to the hot topic of online fundraising and the popularity of online giving challenges. Are there ways that Crowdrise addresses this issue?
Robert: I don't want to be boring but, to us, it all goes back to making Crowdrise fun and we're supremely focused on it. There's a difference between asking someone to donate $9 to an important cause and asking someone to donate $9 to an important cause and you also get signed up to win a Macbook Air and a Shower Cap. We’re embracing everything we learned as online retailers to incentivize people to do good. Also, why isn't Incent a word? Can someone fix that? We definitely care about the quality of our community, not the quantity. We'd much rather have 10 people on the site kicking ass then have a hundred people with still those same 10 having fun and giving back.
So, the way we see it, we’ll contribute to that fatigue if we’re not making it fun.
Also, we don’t see ourselves as competing with online giving challenges like Chase Giving or Pepsi Refresh. We're competing with people who wait to get a letter in the mail from a charity and send in a check. Fifteen years ago, no one thought anyone would buy shoes and backpacks on the internet and, in that same way, we think we can do a decent job getting people why typically give back in real life to also do it online. I'm sure I'm making no sense at all.
Sokunthea: Who’s behind all of the fun irreverent copy throughout your site?
Robert: That's mostly me and my brother and Shauna and Edward with plenty of feedback from customers, too.