Voice of San Diego Unveils Most Awkward Fundraising Campaign Ever*

Yikes. Just in time for March Madness, the highly-touted non-profit Voice of San Diego has unveiled a fundraising campaign that looks like it belongs on the JV squad. How to describe it…

Well, aside from the floating heads of various reporters pasted in wildly unflattering fashion on top of a basketball background, the effort is constructed as a game of sorts. Donations to various beats accumulate “points”–with each beat competing against the other to see who can reach 200 first. If it sounds confusing, it looks even worse. We get the site is trying to piggyback off San Diego State’s success in the NCAA tournament, but jeez. Class it up a little guys.

On top of that, as one Fishbowl LA reader in San Diego pointed out to us, “they have a running ticker with the names of donors…so the reporter can see who exactly donated $35 to fund their stories. That’s really alarming. I mean I thought the idea was to make reporters more independent, not to link them directly to the funding source.”

We love VoSD, so we’re just busting balls a little here. We get it: there’s no proven formula for online journalism fundraising. You’re experimenting a little. But, let’s just say, it might be time to send this one back to the laboratory. Or at least get a better designer. How you do have a March Madness-themed page and not incorporate brackets? Come on!

*Update: A response to our post from VoSD’s Scott Lewis

Your criticism about the design is fine and the lack of brackets is well taken. We’re doing our best to set goals and give people a chance to vote for supporting the areas of our work they’re most passionate about. I can’t control your opinions about how well we do it. We actually thought a long time about the bracket but couldn’t figure out what the team would “win” at the end of it.

But I’m a little taken aback about the charge that it hurts the independence of our reporters. We feel it’s important for our credibility to be as transparent as possible and to fully disclose our sources of revenue. I think all news sources should, including alt-weeklies. I realize there are journalists out there who think they have more independence by being ignorant of where their money comes from. But we feel it’s better to be honest and open about it.

We need to raise money for all our areas of coverage, from local government to education. Disclosing where the money for those areas comes from may give ammunition to the people who want to criticize us, definitely. But that’s the point. Independence doesn’t come from ignorance, it comes from being transparent and being proud and honest about where you get the resources to do the things you do. It comes from confronting sources of revenue when you have to and it comes from being confident that they’re buying into your mission.

We’re transparent like this so that people can hold us accountable.