Saturday, December 06, 2008

Was just reading about a new "clicks for revenue" project to benefit charities called Everywun.

The concept works this way: Interested users go to the Everywun web site, click on a charity badge - as broad as poverty or as specific as a homeless program - and then embed the badge in a blog or social-networking site. Each subsequent click on the badge by friends and visitors generates income from a corporate sponsor that has contracted with Everywun in an effort to support that charity.

I was impressed to see some of my favorite charities -- as well as a top-notch organization I used to work for -- listed among the charities that are being supported by this project.

Still in its infancy, Everywun is marrying two great concepts for which I have a great passion: the redistribution of corporate wealth to those in need, and making philanthropy accessible to people who may not be familiar with it or be able to afford it otherwise.

[Everywun creator Dan Jacobs] also was thinking about shifting some online advertising revenue, which totaled more than $21 billion in 2007, to charities.

"You are talking about the potential redistribution of tens of millions of dollars to philanthropy," Jacobs said. "And we are providing wonderful value to businesses who know that consumers will switch from one brand to another if the brand is associated with a good cause."

It is really so simple and genius, and I give kudos to Jacobs for tapping into the increasingly immense potential of online advertising as a revenue source for nonprofits. But I do have a concern about who might possibly be sponsoring my badge, and I'm sure some organizations might have the same concerns.

I remember when I worked for a certain nonprofit, we turned down millions of dollars from a corporate sponsor looking to clean up their offensive international business policies and image. We realized it was unethical for us to take money from the company and then turn around and possibly have to use that same money to fight that company's policies. Donors to another nonprofit I worked with were incensed that the organization accepted money (that made up a large portion of their budget) from a corporate sponsor whose policies were in direct opposition to our mission.

So I'm not really comfortable being left in the dark over who is sponsoring my badge, and then placing that badge on my website for sponsor advertising to my visitors. Then again, I don't want to piss on this parade because in the end the point is that a worthy nonprofit gets much needed funds. So what if a possibly offensive corporation gets some friendly advertising? I suppose it could also bring attention to that corporation's policies by default and help change them by pointing out the indiscrepancy -- much like the ongoing back and forth between Greenpeace and Apple.

Like carbon offsets, owning a Mac and an iPhone but then being ridiculously rabid about not driving my car, and ethical vegetarians who wear leather, there's always a give and take. It's just figuring whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.

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