Last year, Sarah Bunting, who writes the blog Tomato Nation, a culture and humor blog, offered to shave her head if her blog readers donated to DonorsChoose.org, a site that allows donors to purchase school supplies for needy classrooms. Her readers responded, raising approximately $30,000 in a few days. Keeping her end of the bargain, she saved her hair off. And, if you don’t believe me, you can view the video on YouTube. Her efforts were chronicled in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
On October 1, 2007, Sarah Bunting announced that it was time to do it again. (Not the head shaving, she has picked another type of humiliation.) She launched the month-long campaign with a goal of $40,000, again to support DonorsChoose.org. Just at the mid-way point, Ms. Bunting has raised $75,000! But she isn’t going to stop fundraising until the end of the month.
Oh, the humiliation she selected? She will find a tomato costume and wear it all day.
I don’t mean some wear-a-red-outfit-with-a-green-hat, only-go-outside-to-buy-milk bullshit either. I mean a big old spherical tomato-mascot rig, red tights, foam leaf hat, the whole bit – on the subway. To Rockefeller Center. Where I work, on the same floor as Saturday Night Live, 50 feet away from the president of Bravo. And then out for lunch, where I will pause to perform the post-kiss Angela dance from My So-Called Life in the plaza. And then back to work. And then out for a drink.
And I will film it.
The DonorsChoose.org Blogger Challenge is an initiative to help hundreds of thousands of public schools in need. DonorsChoose.org created a challenge platform which enables a blogger to select favorite classroom projects, set a fundraising goal, and customize the DonorsChoose.org page presenting his/her challenge. The challenger can then link to this page from his/her blog, call readers to action, and display an hourglass tracking progress toward the goal. More than a hundred bloggers have joined and the competition is heating up, but it’s not too late to create a challenge or to donate to another blogger’s challenge! The challenge will end at the end of October.
Leaderboards show the generosity each blogger has inspired from readers. And, Sarah’s campaign is leaving the others in the dust! As of this evening, her campaign had raised over $80,000. The second place campaign is at $18,000 and being implemented by Fred Wilson. She’s also well ahead of TechCrunch which has raised slightly over $5,000. Hmm .. maybe they should issue similar challenges to their readers?
Sarah blogged about this exclusively and acknowledged each gift. From my experience, you can’t simply put the widget on the side bar, announce your campaign, and go on as business as usual. You, the blogger, has to be passionate about your cause – and it leaks out from your blog into the hearts, minds, and checkbooks of your readers! It has to be authentic!
Katya Andresen has noted that it works because: “The beauty of people-to-people fundraising is that it is based in two-way communication; it is a conversation between individuals rather than a speech from an organization. It puts your message in the mouth of the person most likely to prompt a donation: someone the audience knows. There are two useful social psychology theories at work here: liking and reciprocation.”
From my experience doing several personal fundraising campaigns for Cambodian causes (see here, here, and here), I concur with Lucy Bernholz’s analysis of the model of charity blogging is something to keep an eye on:
Regardless of what you think of the DonorsChoose model of giving, the fund development strategy here is worth looking at:
- The Bloggers Challenge shows how big and fast peer-to-peer fundraising (the oldest model we know) can grow with a push from the Internet;
- The media attention of something like this is worth it, even if the money is one-time gifts and none of the donors ever return to DC – which is pretty unlikely;
- DonorsChoose is doing very little to raise these funds – they’ve outsourced their fundraising to bloggers;
- Its new (I think). It takes the ChipIn/DonateNow/Widget/Facebook fundraisers and accelerates them.