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Other Blogs: The Death of Crowdsourced Corporate Philanthropy

Posted May 8th, 2014

Remember all those corporate sponsored competitions for philanthropy dollars going to your favorite non-profit, should you vote for them and sign up for the company newsletter? They were the hot thing a couple years ago—a perfect synergy of social media, marketing, corporate philanthropy, branding, and the that crazy crowdsourcing thing. Now, the biggest of those programs are non-existent and no one new is taking up the model.

Ian David Ross, in an article on, writes, “Hey, remember Chase Community Giving? And Pepsi Refresh? And the American Express Members Project? . . . . It wasn’t long before such contests made their way into the daily lives of nonprofit administrators, including arts organizations. As far as philanthropic innovation was concerned, it seemed like it was all anyone could talk about. That was four years ago. If you haven’t heard anything about these initiatives recently, it’s not a coincidence. It’s because they all appear to be dead.”

The article is a somewhat humorous reminder of all the hoopla that can be so quickly ascribed to some weird matrix of giving to good causes, corporate strategy, and harnessing the power of social media, as if we have finally found the capitalistic elixir that will save the world in all the ways that a system based on greed cannot do, by that same system. In the end, corporations are all about feeding themselves (whether or not that corporation is bad or good). But in the days of wherein the Silicon Valley overstatement—this app to buy groceries online will save the world!—reigns over development and marketing models, it is always somewhat amusing, except for those who invested too much time and emotional investment, when the last “next big thing” vanishes with barely a whimper.

“What does it mean?” Ross writes, “Well, to me, it’s a depressing reminder of the tension that exists between corporate philanthropy and corporate goals. Remember, these projects were supposed to be a marketer’s dream, tapping into the idealism and digital savvy of the Obama generation. But either that generation wasn’t that idealistic after all, or the annoyances created by the competition for votes overwhelmed any positive vibes generated by the often modest amounts awarded.”

Check out the whole article here, which touches on the mysterious fates of the biggest of these programs.

–Sonny Valare