01 December 2009

Charity vs. Democracy

Maybe you've heard this. Chase Bank is giving $5,000,000 away via Facebook . Sounds great, right? All you have to do is vote for your favorite charity, and tell everyone you know. Actually, in the first round, you can vote for 20 favorites, so you can horse trade with your friends.

It's crowdsourcing philanthropy! A new model for the new social media! Charity by the people!

But the problem is that it’s a popularity contest that rewards those organizations with the greatest social networking savvy and not those with the greatest impact and/or efficiency of operations. Arguably, a small organization with terrific grassroots skills but mediocre delivery of a dubious service could win a million bucks - and then fritter it away on pizza and airplane tickets. There's no vetting, no due diligence.

Forgive me for being a deeply cranky cynic, but this whole thing just looks like Chase spending $5,000,000 to make itself look good by tossing some spending money at a handful of charities. Sure, the top vote receiver will get a cool million, but 106 organizations out of 500,000 will split $4 million (the last million will be doled out by ”a special Advisory Board led by prominent national philanthropists...to the nominated charities of its choice").

Keep in mind here that Chase got $25 BILLION in bailout money last fall - $5 million is chump change.

This isn’t philanthropy, it’s marketing. And what’s more? They’re making the 300 million Facebook users do all the work.

26 comments:

meno said...

I'm not much fond of Chase Bank, and like you, i have deep cynicism about this "charitable" event.

Life As I Know It said...

I hadn't heard about until reading your post, and you make good points.
In the end, it's all about making money...even after we bailed them out.

RuthWells said...

Amen.

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

Agreed 110%.

Huge non-profs with a ginormous social marketing budgets will get the chance to make more money. But if St. Jude's or the ASPCA or similar winds-up with money I guess it's all good.

But it does kind of tick me off that the little place I volunteer that struggles to keep the babies that live there fed won't see a dime of it. There's nothing in for Chase to do so.

Alas.

Mental P Mama said...

Marketing and a writeoff to boot. Ugh.

Becky said...

It's called cause marketing, and they get to deduct everything as advertising expenses.

YourFireAnt said...

Well, as soon as I saw the Chase logo in that, I ignored it.

T.

Anonymous said...

Granted, the structure might be flawed and the constructs cooped from another corporate entity, but for those business that carefully and strategically develop a cause marketing platform that both engages customers and leverages charitable dollars is, as Martha might say, "A good thing" - The idea of 'pure' philanthropy as in an old business model just ain't the way the game is played today.  Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Peter

katydidnot said...

It's a smart marketing ploy. Cause marketing is about marketing not philanthropy. It's not called cause philanthropy. That said...it's $5m more that will go to charity, so that's not all bad. Certainly Chase gets something out of it, but is that reason enough not to like it?

It's not a write-off for Chase. Tax-deductibility for charitable contributions doesn't work for corporations the way it does for individuals. So an individual gets something out of giving (tax deduction), a corporation can too (marketing).

$5m is chump change for them though. $100m would be something to talk abot.

mayberry said...

What if the top vote-getter was something politically undesirable to Chase? Then what would they do?

Janet said...

arrrgh, this just pisses me off

slouchy said...

That's sadly so typical of the way corporations operate.

Yuck.

well read hostess said...

Ditto on the Yuck.

Mad said...

This sounds about as shallow and wrong-headed as Facebook activism or plebicite democracy. Popularity does not equal quality or rightness. Erg.

Deb said...

I agree...actually think it reeks of a rigged game. But then Chase is nothing if not corrupt.

Cold Spaghetti said...

Agreed, completely. It's not charity, it's marketing.

ilinap said...

If Chase cared about earnest charity without publicity, they'd just give the damn money away without a peep. But they're not real altruists; like you said, they're marketers.

painted maypole said...

i totally agree that it's marketing, but there's a part of me that also thinks... if they are gonna market, at least 5 million of their marketing dollars are going to, hopefully, help some people and organizations. it's imperfect, to be sure, but better this than a bunch of stupid TV ads and highway billboards.

Kyla said...

I agree with PM. It isn't charity, it is marketing...but at least the marketing dollars aren't just going down the drain. It may not be a sacrifice for the company, but people are still being helped in some small way.

jen said...

it's gross, isn't it? it almost feels like another form of exploitation. and of course, the requisite patting on one's back.

non profits who need support now are most likely the ones doing local community work around basic needs of food, health, and housing. not more dollars going to the posh ones with the best advertising.

oh mags, i've missed you

Florinda said...

I work for a nonprofit that lacks the sort of presence to receive even a taste of that $5 million. Having said that, I do think it's philanthropy to some extent, but with a HUGE marketing component - not just for Chase, but also for the nonprofits who can rally the votes on Facebook. (And why on Facebook, BTW? Why not through an open website instead of a closed social-networking community?)

Also, by making it a popularity contest, Chase doesn't actually have to decide who gets the money, which reminds me of our referendum system in California - we'll let the people vote on it! (Didn't we vote for THEM to make those decisions in the first place? Sorry, I'm getting off topic.)

Still, I think that in some respects, most corporate charity has a marketing angle. It's just not always so big or blatant.

Jessica said...

You know, something just struck me as icky about it and I couldn't put my finger on it. Thank you for this.

abby said...

I loathe Chase.

susan said...

This just seems odd, and I have mixed feelings about it. I actually hadn't heard about this except from you (although since then, one FB friend has reluctantly announced that she is participating b/c a good local-to-her charity is on the choice list now). So that friend's experience says that perhaps some good local places will get some money.

But letting the masses decide how to dispose of that much money just seems irresponsible--it's not a principled gift by Chase, and that doesn't seem right.

the end of motherhood said...

I agree about Chase's project really being a marketing ploy BUT I am running a small experiment in crowdsourcing philanthropy and think it has great potential.

Given your strong opinions about Chase's effort, I'd love your opinion about mine...

Anna

5 for Fairness
http://www.5forFairness.org

PS Haven't been reading or blogging much - well, at all - but I am happy to have serendipitously found my way back here.

amanda said...

Thank you. Just gave it my vote...don't think millions will follow ;)