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September 15 2011


8 Ways Tech-Based Foundations Are Changing Philanthropy


Business content on MediaShift is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

Not so long ago, most major U.S. foundations fit the image of the giant East Coast institution, rooted in fortunes made by titans of the manufacturing and extractive industries. For decades, the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations carried out sweeping programs on a scale that rivaled those of governments. Many public reforms and institutions were buoyed by their efforts, including public broadcasting, public libraries, and the Green Revolution.

But in recent years that primacy has been challenged by a host of new foundations, rooted in the digital communications and technology sector, that are rewriting the rules of American philanthropy. They don't always march in lockstep or speak with one voice, but they are generating a new philanthropic culture nonetheless.

Here are eight ways in which the new tech philanthropies are making their mark:

1. Their footprint is large and growing. In fact, tech-based donors represent the fastest-growing sector in U.S. philanthropy today. This claim could be based on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone. Founded in 1994 with an endowment of $94 million in Microsoft stock, it immediately experienced dramatic growth. This was further galvanized by Warren Buffett's 2006 contribution equivalent to $30 billion, which was to be paid out over a number of years.

The Foundation Center's list of last available audited statements (as of July 2011 at this writing) places the Gates Foundation's assets at nearly $34 billion at the end of 2009. This is more than the assets of the three next largest U.S. foundations listed (Ford, J. Paul Getty, and Robert Wood Johnson) combined.

In recent years, Gates has been joined by a number of other donors from the tech community, among them eBay's Pierre and Pam Omidyar, founders of the Omidyar Network; eBay's Jeffrey Skoll, founder of the Skoll Foundation; and the Google philanthropic arm known as google.org. Not only are these organizations built on vast new fortunes, their assets are also often neutral or even counter-cyclical compared with traditional foundations' portfolios.

2. They are generating new organizational cultures. Institutions tend to mirror the dominant administrative cultures of their origins, and foundations are no different. The new tech-based philanthropies, rooted in startup culture, tend to be distrustful of big bureaucracy and admiring of innovation. The Gates Foundation began in Seattle with a bare-bones staff that had to be doubled in 2006 when the Warren Buffett contribution arrived. The Omidyar Network dispensed with traditional titles to indicate its idiosyncratic approach to the funding process. (This decision included the word "foundation." One of the network's alternate labels is "philanthropic investment firm.") Omidyar programs are shaped by individuals whose titles include "principal" and "managing partner." The network collaborates with "partners" rather than funding grantees. The Omidyar Network is also pioneering the use of social investment, investing in for-profit companies for the sake of social impact, at times acquiring equity in the process.

Thumbnail image for omidyarnetwork.png Many of the new foundations favor a "venture capital" approach to their grants, in which many new projects are seeded with the expectation that a number of them will fail, and the successful models will proceed to the next level of support. This approach often places a heavy emphasis on project monitoring and evaluation as part of the ongoing funding process.

3. They promote a global perspective. The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation were deeply involved with the architecture of the Marshall Plan that rescued Europe from the ashes of World War II. Now the Gates Foundation and its counterparts are taking a close look at the developing world, and at Africa and India in particular. The Gates Foundation's three program areas are global health, global development (with a strong emphasis on Africa and India), and U.S. programs (with a primary focus on education). The Omidyar Network's portfolio includes a number of projects in India and Africa. Google's philanthropy has experimented with a number of different approaches, among them pro bono tech projects and public health initiatives in Africa. Some of these global initiatives include surprising new approaches, such as Jeff Skoll's Participant Media, which finances films to advance public education on critical global issues. Participant's most recent project is Contagion, a feature film that portrays the world in the grip of a rapid-fire pandemic. The project features a public education website, and its advisors included public health expert Dr. Larry Brilliant, formerly the head of Google's philanthropy and currently president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund.


4. They're still in motion. Some of the older technology-based foundations include the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (founded in 1964) and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (founded in 1967). These foundations have been around long enough to define their portfolios and institutional approaches, and bear a stronger resemblance to traditional East Coast foundations. But their younger cousins are far from set in their ways. The Case Foundation was founded by former AOL CEO Steve Case and his wife Jean in 1997. Google was only launched as a project in 1996, and google.org wasn't formed until 2004. Google is still adapting the administrative structures for philanthropy, with an increasing role played by various policy and regional offices.

Google has made a habit of experimentation in philanthropy as it has elsewhere. It has included traditional grant-making, staff volunteer projects, and the creation of online platforms for worthy causes, such as online crisis mapping to help disaster victims locate missing friends and relatives. (Google's philanthropic projects include the Google Foundation, a subset of google.org.)


5. They believe in "social entrepreneurship." Digital media celebrates a culture of grassroots participation, so it's no surprise that many of their foundation portfolios feature projects in micro-finance, anti-censorship, and public participation in good governance. The Case Foundation has experimented with the Make It Your Own Awards, in which individuals are invited to suggest "citizen centered" solutions to their community problems and compete for $25,000 grants to implement them -- chosen by a public online voting process. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is based in Miami with origins in the newspaper industry, but it has moved decisively into the spheres of digital media and tech-based philanthropy. Knight has not only pioneered its News Challenge as an online public competition for digital media grants; it has also forged new approaches to collaboration among philanthropies with shared goals.

6. Their funding interests often reflect their core businesses. It's only natural that foundations that arose from the digital revolution would take a strong interest in innovators in the field. The Omidyar Network and Google have recently made major grants to the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia, as well as to Global Voices, an international blogging community, and its academic birthplace, the Berkman Center at Harvard. Tech-based philanthropy also displays a strong affinity for other areas of science and technology, especially medical science and public health. The Gates Foundation has undertaken massive public health campaigns involving vaccinations, malaria eradication and nutrition in the developing world; the Omidyar Network and google.org have also made important contributions.

7. Individual and institutional philanthropy are both significant, and are sometimes carried out simultaneously. Pierre Omidyar's wife Pam was a co-founder of the Omidyar Network, and also founded two other philanthropic enterprises, Humanity United and HopeLabs. A large community of individual philanthropists is taking shape in the tech sector, and their influence is certain to be felt in coming years. Nor will they all be American. Skype, which was founded by Scandinavians and is based in Luxembourg, has been exploring new philanthropic avenues, including technological support on behalf of social good. A new generation of Indian philanthropists has emerged in recent years, such as Dr. Abraham George, a technology entrepreneur who created the George Foundation to promote projects in health, education, and poverty alleviation.

8. They're West Coast-oriented. This point is less obvious than it may seem. For decades, much U.S. foundation activity was concentrated in the Northeast Corridor, running from Washington through New York to Boston. This route involved heavy traffic with the federal government, New York media and cultural institutions, and northeastern universities. The new corridor involves Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. (It is noteworthy that while the Case foundation is based in Washington, D.C., and the Gates Foundation has a Washington office, none of the organizations mentioned in this article maintain a foundation office in New York.)

Many Americans can describe themselves as "bi-coastal," but important cultural distinctions still exist. The West Coast elite have a different relationship to the news media than their East Coast counterparts. To start with, they read different newspapers -- and may not look for their news in newspapers at all. They naturally have more ties to Stanford and Berkeley and fewer to Harvard and Yale. They will be more attentive to Asian and Latin American culture and less concerned with Europe than their East Coast counterparts. Most importantly, theirs is a technology-driven environment that still carries the expectation that innovation can fuel growth.

This is not to say that East Coast foundations have disappeared from the media scene. The Open Society Foundations, based on the fortune of financier George Soros, has major offices in New York and London. It provides some $50 million a year to media projects, many of them devoted to freedom of expression and grassroots digital democracy efforts around the world. The Ford Foundation also plays a major role in supporting freedom of expression and international media development. The MacArthur Foundation funds an innovative array of programs in which media, human rights, and international development converge.

But other traditional players of the past have receded from the field. The New York Times Foundation has closed its doors and the Tribune Foundation has retrenched, while the Freedom Forum has dedicated much of its recent funding activity to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

These trends have increased the relative influence of the West Coast donor community, but there have also been signs of increased consultation and collaboration among the various donors. Ideally, the surge of the tech-based donor activity can usher in a new age of American philanthropy, combining the energy of the new institutions with the experience of traditional foundations, to offer the world a much-needed array of innovative solutions.

This article is adapted from forthcoming issue of Anthony Knerr & Associates' publication, Strategy Matters

Anne Nelson is an educator, consultant and author in the field of international media strategy. She created and teaches New Media and Development Communications at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She consults on media, education and philanthropy for Anthony Knerr & Associates. Her most recent book is Red Orchestra. She tweets as @anelsona, was a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Business content on MediaShift is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

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May 04 2011


Columbia J-School Students Try to Keep Professor Off Social Media

News of Osama bin Laden's death brought a huge surge of activity to Twitter and other social media platforms Sunday night and Monday. So it's a strange quirk of timing that this is the week that Sree Sreenivasan -- digital media professor, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and longtime social media enthusiast -- has agreed to go silent for 24 hours on Thursday.

It's no accident that Sreenivasan shows up on such lists as Poynter's "35 Most Influential People in Social Media" and AdAge's 25 Media People to Follow on Twitter. When news began leaking out about Bin Laden's death on Sunday night, @sree was right there with:

sree tweet bin laden.jpg

He followed with tweets pointing to background information about Bin Laden and even an explanation of how a city in Pakistan came to be known as Abbottabad.

How many messages does he send out on social media?

"I get a boatload, but it's a good boatload," said Michael Cervieri, co-founder of ScribeLabs, a media production and digital strategy firm, and founder of the Future Journalism Project. "It's mostly tips, tricks and insights from sites I don't visit too much on my own. So, if I think about it, he's an ambient bookmarker I can turn to when I want to learn about new apps or changes in existing ones."

But it's not all business with Sreenivasan. His Facebook page is sprinkled with photos from family vacations or his brief forays away from his computer, BlackBerry in hand, out onto the sidewalks of New York.

SPJ Capitalizes on Loud Voice

So what could possibly silence him for 24 hours? The student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) at Columbia.

"A few years ago, Dean Sree was known for sending school-wide emails known as 'Sree-mail,'" Columbia student LaToya Tooles told me. "He sent a lot of it and students begged him to stop. Now Sree does a lot of tweeting, and while we don't mind the tweeting, we thought we would adapt a few fundraising models and capitalize on his rather loud web voice."

When Tooles and her fellow student Andrew Seaman approached Sreenivasan with the idea, he said "absolutely not." He reminded them of the Digital Death campaign last year in which a group of celebrities vowed to stay off Twitter until a certain amount of money was raised. He insisted that he would not engage in something he called "egotistical," something that suggested his messages were so valuable that people should pay for them.

sree sreenivasan.jpg

A clarification caused him to relent: This would be the opposite of the Digital Death fundraiser. Contributors would not be paying to receive his tweets; they would be paying to keep him quiet. "This is the idea that nobody really wants my stuff," Sreenivasan said.

So a Silence Sree web page was set up and if 200 people donate $5 or more, Sreenivasan's 4,999 Facebook friends and 19,400 Twitter followers will not hear from him for 24 hours. Columbia students who donate cash can give as little as $1. If fewer than 200 people donate, the silence will last for a comparable portion of the day. All the money will go to charity: 85% to scholarships for Columbia journalism students and 15% to earthquake/tsunami relief in Japan.

So far, the campaign is nearly halfway there, with 51 donors giving $443.

A Tall Order

Sreenivasan and everyone who knows him acknowledge that this is a tall order.

"I think Sree can do whatever he puts his mind to," Tooles said. "He isn't allowed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare or Posterous. If he invents another social media between now and Thursday, I'll be very upset with him, but probably not surprised."

Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said: "Sree is one of the most generous persons I know. He naturally has countless social media connections and he spends a lot of time coaching rookies on the tricks of the social media trade. He is a tireless facilitator, desiring for everyone to know everyone else. All that said, I'm sure he has the willpower to keep silent for a day -- but just barely."

Vadim Lavrusik, who just left Mashable to become journalism program manager of Facebook, had a devilish take on what might transpire tomorrow.

"I think that secretly, he will create a fake Facebook page for something entertaining and grow a following of a million people, all while being anonymous. We will never know," he told me.

Computer in the Delivery Room

Perhaps the person who best appreciates the degree of difficulty is Sreenivasan's wife, Roopa Unnikrishan. She awakened her husband on Sunday night when she heard the news about Bin Laden. And she remembers well that in 2003, when she gave birth to twins, Sreenivasan got permission to have his computer in the delivery room, "although he was mostly focused on video."

Andrew Lih, an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, takes credit (or blame) for getting Sreenivasan involved in Internet journalism back in 1995 and he remains skeptical.

"Asking Sree to step away from social media communication?" Lih said. "You'd have better luck getting TMZ to ignore Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen for 24 hours."

But Daniel Dubno, founder of the consultancy Blowing Things Up and president of the Hourglass Initiative, thinks there might be a future in "Silence Sree."

"Perhaps next year, if he survives this challenge, he might give up the use of his iPad, Android, video chat, TV appearances, radio interviews, blogging, flogging, emailing, Gmailing, and the like," Dubno said. "But I still wouldn't take away his Xeroxing, faxing, Morse-coding, semaphore flag-waving, and his potential for nailing 95 theses on some door."

Ironically, Sreenivasan is organizing the first Social Media Weekend at Columbia from May 13 to 15. It's a good thing he won't be silenced then.

Carla Baranauckas is a freelance journalist, director of Round Earth Media and adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She made a small contribution to the "Silence Sree" campaign.

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March 15 2011


Say "No" to Money (to Raise More Money)

Say “no” to money. We dare you. 

Believe it or not, sometimes saying ‘no’ to money, helps the money pour in.  Counter-intuitive? Yes.  But does it work? Yes! 

Based on 10+ years of game-theoretic research and live lab experiments, conducted by two of the company's US founders, NYU and UC Berkeley economics professors, give2gether has built an online fundraising platform, that also introduces some brand new line of thought on crowd and donor sourcing  

Consider ALL or NOTHING when it comes to setting your fundraising goals.

Set an ambitious but not unachievable target, and vow to your donors that unless you hit that target in the allotted time, you will return all the money raised so far. Every single cent.

For example – a hospital looking to raise $50,000 for a new CT machine creates a ‘conditional giving’ campaign.  Either they raise the $50k needed to buy the new machine, or they return any money raised by the time the campaign ends.  They can’t buy half a CT machine, and they won’t redirect the money raised into another cause.  It’s the machine or nothing.

Sounds crazy, eh?  What sort of fundraiser worth their salt would promise to give back money that has been donated by generous, supportive donors?? 

Here’s the thing.  By opting into the ‘conditional giving’ or ‘in it to win it’ strategy, it has been proven in Berkeley XLab (Economic experimental lab) that your donors are more likely to rally, rise up, step up to the plate and come through for you. They know exactly what is at stake, and they won’t let you down. 

Knowing that the balance of the money raised so far rests on their shoulders, gives incentive to civil philanthropists to make the final push, give more than they normally might, and enlist the support of their own networks to help meet your goal before time runs out and the money is snatched back.

And here’s something else interesting.  Try setting a maximum donation amount for your donors.  No, we didn’t say minimum, though that too.  We said maximum.  Donating money is scary. How much to give? How often? Help your donors make those decisions by removing the guilt and uncertainty.  Set an upper limit and time after time, they will donate amounts closer to their top limit, based on your suggested amount.

Now. We don’t just want money from donors.  Your donors are more valuable to your campaigns and causes than just their credit cards, cash and cheques. What you really want are for them to inspire their friends. You want each donor to share and spread, post and get excited, introducing your project to their entire social network and community.  One person with their $50 quickly turns into 100 friends who reach out to their friends each with their $20-50 donation, and see an average social activist bring in x20-x30 of his original individual donation! Awesome!

Our research demonstrates that:

(1) by increasing transparency, fundraisers can enlist trust, donor engagement and commitment  

(2) conditional giving, i.e., the ‘in it, to win it’ principle encourages donors to rise to the occasion to help campaigns succeed and meet their target  

(3) money is not enough, but that people’s vocal support and advocacy are ultimately more important for exponential growth 


Shachar Kariv Bio

Educated at Tel Aviv University & New York University; Ph.D. in Economics. In 2003 joined the Department of Economics at University of California, Berkeley as Professor & Faculty Director of UC Berkeley Experimental Social Science Laboratory (Xlab), a laboratory for conducting experiment-based investigations of issues of interest to social sciences. His fields of interest include game theory, decision theory, and experimental and behavioral economics. His research includes social learning, social networks, social and moral preferences, and risk preferences and are published in a variety of academic journals including, The American Economic Review, Games and Economic Behavior, Journal of Economic Theory, and others,



February 11 2011


David Geilhufe, Program Manager, NetSuite.org

I run NetSuite.org, the philanthropic arm of NetSuite Inc. Our priority is improving the back office technology infrastructure of charities and social enterprises through product donations, pro-bono service grants and social solutions ... our greatest social impact is helping our grantees expand and extend their social impact through better back-office operations.

 The assets we bring to collaborations are cloud-based back office technology (accounting, payroll, ERP, CRM, eCommerce, multi-subsidiary consolodation, PaaS), thousands of hours of pro-bono service grants from employees, partners and customers, and social solutions in areas as diverse as fundraising and carbon accounting.

Since our expertise (technology) is such a minor, yet critical, part of scaling an organization's social impact from the back office, we need collaborators to identify grantees that can benefit from our assets, collaborators that can do business process work and consulting, and collaborators that would build the social enterprise business models around delivering social solutions at scales (thousands of software instances to thousands of grantees/customers).


giving AT netsuite.com 


February 09 2011


San Francisco GiveCamp Planning Meeting


GiveCamp is a national program sponsored by Microsoft, O’Reilly, Telerik and many other companies involved in software development. GiveCamp events are weekend long hackathons where developers volunteer their time to create software solutions for nonprofits. We are currently in the planning stages for a GiveCamp event in downtown San Francisco. Anyone who is interested in participating should attend the planning meeting on the evening of Tuesday, February 15 at the Microsoft office on Market Street. Please see our Meetup group for details and to sign up for the meeting.

We’re looking for designers and developers regardless of your platform and specific expertise; if you don’t have software development skills to share you can still be a great help by becoming an assistant organizer or project manager. We also encourage non-profits to attend the planning meeting to make sure we can put the right team together to fit your needs. 


January 14 2011


Code for Charity at This Weekend's National GiveCamp

Are you a designer, developer or database administrator who would like to use your tech expertise to help a good cause? For the first time since GiveCamp was created in 2007, a National GiveCamp will take place on the weekend of Jan. 14-16, 2011 with 14 different locations across the United States simultaneously.  

During the weekend-long event, teams of designers, developers and database administrators will donate their time and expertise to complete an IT project – usually custom software or a new website – to benefit a charity in their community. 

Multiple events over the same weekend – no coincidence that it’s the weekend set aside to celebrate the community service-minded Martin Luther King, Jr. – means Microsoft can help organizers overcome the event’s two biggest hurdles – location and sponsorships. Partners supporting the event include Domino’s (free pizza for volunteers); Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (free coffee); DeVry University (facility space); and Pluralsight (free training for volunteers).  

For all their hard work, time and commitment, organizers and volunteers receive the satisfaction of knowing they’ve created a new web page or custom software that their cash-strapped charities could probably not otherwise afford to develop. In this information age, charities need as many means as possible to reach the communities they serve and National GiveCamp helps make that a reality. Visit http://bit.ly/h9eHtM for more information. Follow GiveCamp on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/GiveCamp. Get involved and Code it Forward!  

If you want to volunteer this weekend, contact the following organizers:


·         Austin GiveCamp, Austin, TX: Toyin Akinmusuru, toyin-akinmusuru@tmit.org, (734) 657-6114

·         AZGiveCamp, Phoenix, AZ: Barry Stahl, bsstahl@copperbyte.com, (503) 427-8245

·         Birmingham GiveCamp, Birmingham, AL: Daniel Leverett Powell, leverett@educatortech.com,  (205) 296-4140

·         Colorado Springs GiveCamp, Colorado Springs, CO: Gabriel Villa, gabrielvillajr@gmail.com, (915) 317-6856

·         Dallas GiveCamp, Dallas, TX: Shawn Weisfeld, shawn@shawnweisfeld.com, (682) 518-6770

·         GiveCamp Atlanta, Atlanta, GA: Jeff Ammons, jeffa00@gmail.com, (678) 372-7047 

·         GiveCamp Houston, Houston, TX: Tony Champion, tonyc@championds.com, (281) 812-7921 

·         Nashville GiveCamp, Nashville, TN: Ben Henderson, ben@fireflylogic.com, (615) 473-8227 

·         NEPA GiveCamp, Dallas, PA: Jason Gaylord, jgaylord@nepagivecamp.org, (570) 606-5255 

·         Northwest Arkansas GiveCamp, Fayetteville, AR: Jay Smith, jay@jaysmith.us, (479) 422-0122 

·         NYC GiveCamp, New York City, NY: Seth Juarez, sethj@devexpress.com, (818) 660-0777 

·         Philly GiveCamp, Malvern, PA: Vince Paglione, Vincent.paglione@cigna.com, (215) 913-7023 

·         Seattle GiveCamp, Seattle, WA: Ali Daniali, alidaniali@gmail.com, (206) 353-2682

·         St. Louis GiveCamp, Clayton, MO: Kevin Grossnicklaus, kvgros@architectnow.net, (636) 236-3279

July 07 2010


Attention nonprofits: Young adults love texting donations

This afternoon the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study on Americans’ mobile device and wireless habits. The full report has many interesting figures, but I’m going to zoom in on just one portion that signals an important trend for nonprofit journalism.

Pew asked survey participants whether they had ever made a charitable contribution via text message. A surprising 10 percent of all cell phone users have. When you look at young people, it gets even more interesting: 19 percent of 18 to 29 year olds have made a charitable donation via text. Other age groups text donations considerably less: 10 percent of 30 to 49 year olds, 8 percent of 50 to 64 year olds, and 4 percent of 65 and up.

I emailed with Peter Panepento, the web editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, to put the 19-percent figure in perspective. Surprisingly, he says 26 percent of people in their twenties have mailed in a donation in the last two years. (Who knew 20-somethings were so generous! And so likely to use the mail!) “What’s startling about that number [the 19 percent] is the fact that it is catching up with other forms of giving so quickly,” Panepento wrote. “Giving through mobile phones is still in its infancy and only a small percentage of charities even have the ability to set up mobile-giving programs. These programs are still too expensive for most groups, whereas direct mail and checkout-counter-style giving is a huge part of how most nonprofit groups raise money.”

The survey also showed differences among demographic groups in donation texting. Of cell phone users of all ages, 23 percent of English-speaking Latinos have sent a charitable text, 16 percent of African Americans and 7 percent of whites. Pew has previously found similar racial differences among mobile news consumers.

Here’s the question for journalism: Can nonprofit news groups figure out a way to cash in on the potential of mobile fundraising, particularly when the next generation of donors clearly like giving via their cell phones? Earlier today we an item about a new iPhone app for Boston NPR station WBUR, which is inching public radio closer to mobile giving. This growth is the reason Apple’s ban on in-app donations matters: WBUR was forced to come up with a series of workarounds that complicate the process. Those aren’t quite the same as, say, texting the word “HAITI” to give ten bucks to the Red Cross.

Photo by Paul Hart used under a Creative Commons license.

June 16 2010


Index of Charitable Giving: Nonprofit Revenue was up 12.1% Earlier this Year!

Blackbaud recently announced their new Index of Charitable Giving, a fundraising index that reports revenue trends of 1400 nonprofit organizations on a monthly basis. The tool is valuable for fundraisers and organizations interested in keep an eye on the global pulse of of monetary giving.

The Haiti Effect

read more

January 15 2010


Best Online Resources for Following Haiti News, Taking Action

In the face of devastating news happening far away, there is comfort in making connection. And those connections often are made online, among strangers, who are sharing video, photos, stories or just tweets, about the devastation around them. Such is the case in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a city that was devastated by an earthquake last Tuesday, with tens of thousands feared dead.

While Twitter has had a growing role as a first-responder medium with breaking news, that role has grown this week into a major booster for giving. When the Red Cross said people could donate $10 by texting the word "Haiti" to 90999, those instructions were passed along virally via Twitter, helping to raise more than $5 million for relief efforts. The Yele Haiti Foundation similarly used text messaging to raise more than $1 million; you can donate $5 by texting the word "Yele" to 501501. A search on Google's real-time feed from Twitter for "90999" brings up more than 48,000 results, meaning it's been mentioned in that many tweets.

And the spirit of giving became infectious online. The cell carriers said they wouldn't be taking their customary cuts of those charges, nor would they charge users for sending the text messages. Even the credit card companies got into the act, waiving their fees for donations to Haiti. Plus, I noticed at one point today that the home pages of the major U.S. cable networks had removed their most lucrative ad slots and replaced them with Haiti relief pitches. (Commercial ads came back later tonight.)

The only downside to all this kindness was the confusion that so many free offers brought. According to AdAge, UPS offered "in-kind services to Haiti," which somehow became interpreted to mean that people could send free packages to Haiti if they were less than $50 in cost. When American Airlines offered free miles for donations to the Red Cross, people misinterpreted that to mean free flights. "It was misinformation that got picked up, and we got information back out on Twitter saying that it wasn't the case," an American spokeswoman told AdAge.

With so many people missing in Haiti and communication systems down, social media has played a surprising role of life-saver in some cases. The CBC reported that a Montreal woman got a Facebook message from someone in Haiti saying that their neighbor was trapped in rubble next door. The Montreal woman contacted the Red Cross and the neighbor was eventually saved. These are the stories that give us hope, even when we're thousands of miles removed from the disaster zone.

Online Resources

Here's a list of online resources to follow the news, tweets, find missing people, see satellite imagery, and take action to help out in Haiti.

Special sites and pages

Wikipedia page on 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Miami Herald's Disaster in Haiti

Ushahidi's 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

Global Voices Online Haiti Earthquake

Huffington Post's Haiti Earthquake

CNN's Voices from Haiti reports on the ground

Twitter feeds

Red Cross




Wyclef Jean








Twitter lists and searches

NY Times haiti-earthquake

LA Times haiti-quake

FoxNews haiti-earthquake

CNNbrk haiti

MSNBC's BreakingNews haiti-quake

Google real-time search results for #haiti

Facebook pages

Earthquake Haiti

Haiti Earthquake Relief

Support the Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti

Photo Sets

Boston.com's The Big Picture Haiti 48 hours later

Google Maps with satellite image overlay

Google Earth Library's links to satellite images

BBC's Haiti after the earthquake (from GeoEye)

International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Society Flickr set (not Creative Commons; must get permission to use)

boy gets treatment.jpg

UN Development Program Flickr set (under Creative Commons)

Disasters Emergency Committee Flickr set (all rights reserved, mainly from Reuters)

NPR's Photo Gallery


YouTube's CitizenTube channel

YouTube videos geo-tagged in Haiti

iReport videos on Haiti earthquake

Take action

Google crisis response page with various ways to donate

CNN Impact

FoxNews How to Help

Huffington Post's How You Can Help

NPR's How to Help

Find people

Miami Herald's Haiti Connect

Red Cross FamilyLinks for Haiti

CBC Help people find loved ones


This list will be updated over the coming weeks, so please add in your own favorite online resources in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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