Chase Crowd Sources Non-Profit Donations to Facebook Users

Today is the last day of the second round of Chase Community Giveaway Campaign on Facebook. Chase Financial Services – a giant financial conglomerate, started a community giveaway campaign on Facebook in November last year. As part of the campaign, Chase would give away $5 million to charities. The voting ends today and soon enough the top charity, which will receive $1 million, will be announced.

Chase launched the campaign as a Facebook application which contained a list of 500,000 nonprofit organizations. The bank then crowd sourced the selection of the charities to Facebook users. In the first round, which ended on Dec 11, 2009, the top 100 charities (selected by users) won $25,000 each and advanced into the second round. The second round lasted this entire week and would determine which charity would get the top price of $1 million. The five runners-up in the second and last round will also each receive $100,000.

More than 1.7 million Facebook users participated in the first round to vote and vouch for their favorite non-profit organizations. These numbers, however have dropped to around 1.5 million users in the second round – but that might be due to the elimination of a large number of organizations in the first round.

The idea to crowd source philanthropic donations is not new and was first initiated by American Express in 2007. Back in those days, Digg and Reddit were the frontrunners in institutionalizing the concepts of crowd sourcing news discovery and editorial. American Express borrowed the crowd sourcing concepts from these social news sites and launched the Members Project – which donated $5 million to charities selected by AmEx card members.

Chase Community Giveaway is unique in a sense that it crowd sourced the entire campaign to Facebook users – a group with which the company has no affiliation or business linkage. The campaign is the biggest non-profit effort undertaken on Facebook to-date and is also one of the most significant examples of crowd sourcing philanthropic decision making. Previously, these decisions were made behind closed doors and usually represented hidden agendas.

Allison Fine, a senior fellow at Demos, a New York City think tank, considers this to be the start of the democratization of philanthropy, and is excited about its immense potential. However, some non-profit veterans are cautious about this gimmick, and consider it to be a popularity contest that might reward organizations with distorted reputations.

It would be unwise to think of this campaign to be a mere philanthropic effort. The campaign is a mix of marketing, brand building, philanthropy and social outreach. The campaign has also resulted in extremely good PR that was immensely needed at a time when banks are facing on-going media scrutiny over executive bonuses, financial fraud, financial incompetence and other such issues.

The Chase Community Giveway has also served as a wakeup call for Charities that have yet to explore the benefits of social media. It would likely become the turning point in the way non-profits perceive and conduct themselves on Social Media.

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