Non-Governmental Imagination

I’m in India, finally
January 28, 2007, 11:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After a breezy 37 hrs of travelling, I’m at the hotel in Jalandhar, India.  I’ll be here for a week, other parts of India for another week and then back to the US.  Coming here was a string of annoyances and near-disasters, but now that I’m here in a near comatose state due to lack of sleep (6 hrs out of the last 48) and a full belly of Indian food (buffet!), everything is peachy. 

Our plane from London to Armritsar got rerouted to Delhi (too much fog), where we sat on the tarmac for hours before flying successfully to Armritsar.  We had a pool to see who could guess closest to our actual arrival time, which I lost.

I’ll try to update this when I can while I’m here, but no promises.


Fast Company Social Capitalist Awards: No Kiva?
January 24, 2007, 12:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Fast Company announced their annual 2007 Social Capitalist Awards, and I was surprised to see that Kiva was not on the list.  After all, 43 groups made it, which suggests that the editors picked all they wanted and then decided the final tally, rather than cutting off a larger list of qualified orgs at 10 or some other pretty number.  I wonder what they thought Kiva did wrong, they certainly sound like the epitomy of social capitalism to me.

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Should I Revisit The Orphanage I Worked At?
January 23, 2007, 7:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

On Friday I will go to India via London for work, and I will be very close to the orpahange that I used to work for, live at, and help administer. I spent a couple of months there after college, and became very attached (and vice versa) to the 40 or so kids who live, play and learn there. I have the opportunity to go back and visit which would be tremendously cool for me. It’d be neat to see the kids three years later, see how everyone is doing, and splash around in the Ganga (Ganges River) like old times. They would always call me “goonda” (translates to villain or jerk) and then I would roar and throw them in the river or tickle them until they cried.  We’d sing songs, play cricket and other games, do homework, draw monsters and all kinds of other fun stuff.  Although it was really hard, unending work (we even had to put out the fires that arsonists lit to burn us off the property), I loved it, and told myself I would really try to come back to the little corner of India.

But I worry that my return might be hard on the kids. They’ve probably forgotten me or tried to, and it’s probably easier for them to just add me to relegate me to the recesses of their minds. Lots of volunteers like myself work there for a few months at a time and then leave. It’s probably hard for the kids to get so attached and then have to say goodbye. They made me promise I would come back, but what if doing so would awaken happily buried emotions? I could only stay for a day or two, and they (it they remembered me at all) would want me to stay for months.

Another wrinkle is that one of the kids has a horribly deformed hand. Rebels intentionally mangled his hand and what remains has been fashioned into two fingers and a thumb-like appendage. This is exactly the kind of thing Interplast can help, and we will be only five or six hours away by bus. Does the prospect of helping him justify my return? I have written the director of the orphanage who has not responded to my emails.


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Are Disabled People Only Half As Valuable As Pets?
January 22, 2007, 8:06 am
Filed under: Imagination

That’s the question that ENABLE Scotland is asking in a new ad campaign. They say that 11.1% of the UK donates to animal-related charities while only 6.6% donates to charities that benefit disabled people. While that sounds like a cherry-picked statistic (and no reference or citation is given), I believe it. I definintely see people avert their eyes when I’m with my cousin who has a mild form of Asperger Syndrome more than I do when, say, a shivering puppy whimpers and shuffles along.

I like how the ad hits you in the face and confronts you. No subtlety, no hiding behind excuses, no bullshit. After reading about this on The Intelligent Giving blog (which you really should subscribe to), it really made me think.

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No more voting down charities on the Squidoo/Net2 top 59 list
January 19, 2007, 9:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I checked back on the 59 smartest orgs online site today, and was surprised to see that many charities had lost votes (Interplast had gone from five to two), the bottom-dwelling groups are now at zero points instead of -1, and the option to vote down a charity was gone.

Huh. Maybe some people went a little too crazy go nuts with the downward arrows. I hope the Powers That Be didn’t take my previous post about people gaming the system as a castigation of the system.

I’d be curious to see which nonprofits would have been down based on merit (or lack thereof) alone had there not been a benefit to voting a group up. I didn’t vote any organizations down, but I wonder if there was a limit as to how many groups you could dock. If there was, there’s a greater chance of the groups at the bottom earning their rank.

Oh well. It was a great idea to have those down arrows, and it’s a shame that the system got abused. I certainly learn more from bad examples than good ones. The lesson that curling irons are hot is a particularly memorable one.

Speaking of cleverness, it was really a great idea to pick the number 59. It’s so random, arbitrary and prime that it makes the site and all related commentary super findable.

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Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees of Celebrity-Backed Charities vs. ChipIn
January 19, 2007, 8:31 am
Filed under: Big vs. Small, Donations, Imagination, Resources, Web 2.0

Kevin Bacon, famous for the well-known (and really hard) drinking game Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, has teamed up with Network For Good to create Six Degrees, a charity badge sharing site that lets you give money to the favorite charities of your favorite celebrities or to the charity of your choice. The badges that you or people like Seth Green and Ricky Gervais created can be put on any webpage, and you and your crew can keep track of the donations. The donations are processed through Network For Good, which takes a hefty cut of 4.75% that the donor can choose to absorb or pass on to the charity.

ChipIn is a flash widget that you can also put on any website that allows you to accept and track donations through others’ badges. Unlike the Network For Good badges, the ChipIn widget has a handy-dandy little thermometer that shows you how close you are to your goal, and the donations go through PayPal, which takes only 2.9%. The downside is that you can’t customize the buttons at all, and let’s face it, celebrities’ faces tend to be more attractive than the ChipIn logo.

I think ChipIn is clearly the better project, but Six Degrees has the Network For Good marketing muscle behind it. This is one of those unfortunate instances where the better marketed product is not as good as its lesser-known competitor. Bummer.

The difference in fees is something that really can’t be overstated. And ChipIn supports a clear trend in online philanthropy: the preference of people to support individual projects rather than organizations. You can give to a particular project within an organization, which might annoy many orgs but please the new breed of online donors who abhor overhead costs and worship at the altar of efficiency.

Plus, there are plenty of worthy causes that are not charities registered with the IRS that ChipIn can support. If your kid’s soccer team needs new uniforms or your neighborhood wants to buy the local homeless guy a sleeping bag, ChipIn is flexible enough to accomadate you, while Network For Good will only deal with nonprofits that have been blessed by the IRS.

I gotta admit, Six Degrees is clever and slick. Good site design, a brilliant jiu-jitsu style transformation of a drinking game into a charitable endeavor, and famous celebrities. Not the washed up, B grade ones, either.  It certainly has a bright future, and I hope they can steer the absurd cult of celebrity in this country to support worthy causes instead of fragrance lines and shampoo companies.

But I hope people don’t lose sight of ChipIn, a less glitzy but ultimately more solid offering.

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Convio Buys Get Active And The Integration Proclamation
January 18, 2007, 8:11 am
Filed under: Resources

Convio and Get Active, two eCRM competitors who shower nonprofits with promos and pleas to use their CRM software, will be merging in holy matrimony. Democracy in Action has an interesting post with good background info and interesting food for thought.

On a related note, I’m tired of integrating and moving data/tools/stuff from one platform to another, so I signed the Integration Proclamation. It seems sorta toothless, and I usually don’t think much of cheap pledges, but in light of today’s merger, maybe the toolmakers will finally see a demand for easy transfer of data as a good thing, not just a scary thing.

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