Friday, December 14, 2007

Widgets for Charity

The holiday season is traditionally the time for giving to family and friends and the causes we care about. This year technology and social networking get into the act in the form of a contest based on Internet "charity badges" to raise money for your favorite cause. It's got Web 2.0 technology, $500,000 in prize donations, Kevin Bacon, and perhaps yourself.

Kevin Bacon? Yes, Mr. six-degrees-of has created his own Web site,, to support the charities of celebrities and is promoting the Charity Badge concept to help non-celebs bring in the bucks for their causes.

The whole idea is that all of us have social connections that run farther than you'd ever think. That includes friends, family, co-workers and other people we associate with on a day to day basis. But today it also includes Web Sites, Blogs, MySpace and Facebook pages, email lists, and other online resources. In the days since the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game was a fad, we have all multiplied our connections and influence worldwide. Truth be told, many of us associate regularly with more people online than we do in person.

What "America's Giving Challenge" is doing is to acknowledge that we can be activists for our causes just as easily as donors. All that's needed is for someone to package the technology in an easy to use tool and give us an incentive to get going. The technology is the Charity Badge. The incentive is $500,000 in donations sponsored by Parade Magazine and The Case Foundation.

The contest aspect awards the prize money to charities based on how many people donate through the Charity Badge, not the highest monetary donations. As a small time champion, 50 friends donating $10 each counts just as much as 50 corporate big-wigs donating $100,000 each. You don't have to sponsor a formal ball for the elites in order to win this thing. Just get people to click the donate button on your widget and kick in $10 or more using their PayPal or credit card. The way the prize money breaks down is that the 8 charities receiving the highest number of unique donations during the contest period will be awarded $50,000 each. The next 100 charities receiving the most total donations get $1,000 each.

Oh, by the way. You have to get moving on this if you want to participate. The contest opened on December 13 and runs through 3 PM on January 31, 2008. You can get all the details and rules and sign-up by visiting America's Giving Challenge on the site.

So how does this Charity Badge work? It's basically a Macromedia Shockwave Web object that you insert into your Web page or blog. Generically, these are often called widgets. You don't need any tools to generate the code. Once you sign-up as a champion for your cause you get the opportunity to build a Charity Badge like the one shown on this page. You supply a graphic of your choice and 250 characters of information about your charity. You can also link to a video if you have one, or use Kevin Bacon's. Make sure you pick the Parade Challenge as badge type. Then continue and find your charity in those listed in Network for Good or GlobalGiving. When you're all done, the system will give you the code and also email it to you as a backup. Paste this code into your Web page, social network page, or Blog. Network For Good also hosts your badge on their site and gives you a link to use in email or online in lieu of pasting the actual widget.

Notice some interesting things about the Widget. At the top is a running total of the amount of money donated and number of donors. This updates in real-time as people make donations. There are also three tabs. The Charity tab is the one usually displayed with graphic, text and big orange donate button. The About tab tells visitors about the contest. The Share tab is the most interesting. Why? because it gives visitors the opportunity to copy your badge code and put it on their site. Or to grab the link to your badge for their site or email.

This is extremely valuable if you have visitors who want to support your cause. It multiplies your efforts so that more donations can come in attributed to your badge, giving you a better chance of getting a high enough total to win one of the prizes. If everyone makes their own badge for the same cause, the donations will be spread among the champions.

By the way, if you don't already have a cause you are passionate about, please take a copy of our widget or a link to put on your site. Our cause is the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. They rescue old and ailing elephants no longer wanted by circuses and zoos and give them a wonderful home on 2,700 acres of natural habitat in Tennessee. Perhaps an elephant you knew as a child is there now... or should be. Donations are also warmly welcomed. We thank you on behalf of the current and future inhabitants of the sanctuary.

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