Thanks to social media and other quickly evolving technologies, the world is hyper-connected, making social problems more difficult to ignore than ever. Those same digital tools also offer new opportunities to solve age old problems. I hope that the following examples will inspire your organization (company or nonprofit) to think deeply about how you can leverage both digital opportunities and strategic partnerships to help scale social impact, and possibly even create system change.
EXAMPLE #1: DONORSCHOOSE | CROWDSOURCING, CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS, EDUCATION REFORM
“We want to use our site to galvanize people to give, but also to take important steps toward real change.”
-Charles Best, Founder DonorsChoose
DonorsChoose pioneered the use of crowdsourcing in education, raising $225 million to fund over 400,000 projects that have helped more than 175,000 teachers support the education of more than 10 million students. The revolutionary site connects donors (and micro-donors) with teachers in need of funding for projects and classroom supplies. The idea and the execution are simply beautiful. While creating this successful platform is an impressive accomplishment, its founder, Charles Best, has even bigger plans for the powerhouse brand. Perhaps that is why DonorsChoose just became the first charity to be listed in the top ten on Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World,” alongside other well-respected pioneers like Apple, Google and Nike.
DonorsChoose has set its sights on leveraging its platform and audience to create real reform and is doing so –at least in part- by leveraging strategic partnerships with corporations. For instance, it has developed a new marketing opportunity for select corporate partners to sell relevant products directly to the teachers/schools participating in its digital community at a highly discounted rate. This groundbreaking partnership strategy is a win-win scenario as it opens up the $579 billion American education marketplace for companies while creating affordable solutions for teachers and students.
And, here’s a simpler example that could be replicated meaningfully with minimal effort: Starbucks is serving up some piping hot social good on its wi-fi login page by promoting DonorChoose projects there. For DonorsChoose, this is a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness and to connect with new potential supporters. In turn, Starbucks gets to enjoy the halo effect of offering interesting, socially conscious content (yes, like the buzzword ”content marketing”) that is relevant to its audience. The website referrals from this arrangement are easily tracked, and we all know how important metrics reporting is. Good stuff.
Those are just a few examples of how the creative use of digital assets can significantly enhance the value of your partnerships. I encourage you to read the full Fast Company blog post, Beyond School Supplies: How DonorsChoose is Crowdsourcing Real Education Reform, which is what inspired this portion of this post. I hope it gets you thinking about how your organization can leverage your own digital assets as well as those of your corporate partners to increase impact and return on investment (ROI).
EXAMPLE #2: STANDBY TASK FORCE: DIGITAL VOLUNTEERS, REAL-TIME DATA MAPPING
“We believe that digital volunteers are key to humanitarian response.” –Standby Task Force
When disaster or crisis strikes, time is of the essence. Increasing the pace and accuracy of first responder activity can often be the difference between life and death for thousands. Standby Task Force has created a digital platform that organizes “digital volunteers” into a flexible, trained and prepared network ready to deploy in crises. This volunteer organization can quickly compile and analyze large amounts of data by breaking down large and complicated processes into “digital microtasks” to achieve real-time mapping of data. Standby Task Force has worked with numerous governments and first-responder organizations to provide the most current data available in relief efforts such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.
The following 5-minute TEDx Talk by Standby Task Force Founder, Patrick Meier, explains how and why this endeavor has evolved, outlines some of its impressive achievements, and –hopefully- will get you thinking about how you might be able to leverage this organization and/or the concept of “digital volunteers” and maybe even “data mapping” to support your own mission or partnerships.
Also, on a related note, I suggest checking out Catchafire.org to learn more about leveraging skills-based volunteering to support your goals. Catchafire is a certified B-Corp with a mission to provide talented individuals with meaningful pro bono experiences in order to build capacity for social good organizations.
OK…so that was a really long blog post. I’ll wrap it up quickly. Those were just a few ideas to cue up the point that there are MANY ways to leverage the digital age to support your cause and enhance the power of your corporate-cause partnerships. I’m not encouraging you to come down with a massive case of “shiny object syndrome.” Nope, not doing that. But, I do see value in opening the dialogue internally and with partners around how to turn digital potential into social impact.