We’ve been talking lately about using social nets like Facebook and MySpace as “enablers” that can equip a nonprofit’s strongest supporters – your missionaries – to help fundraise for your cause. In this instance, your nonprofit would be reaching out to its most committed supporters online and asking for help. The approach is grounded upon strong pre-existing relationships between donors and the cause.

Another approach is illustrated by an email we received from SocialVibe, creators of a social media platform for fundraising. Here’s their message …

Today there is a new vibe circulating all around us of social change and personal responsibility to help make our country and the world a better place … The social media landscape is primed to help millions of people make a difference, and celebrities are rallying more than ever to use their global influence and gather support to help a chosen worthy cause. Recognizing the impact and reach the social media world can have with the help of people of all ages, Linkin Park and their charity Music for Relief have partnered with SocialVibe.com to help raise $25,000 by the end of April to help in Haitian recovery initiatives.

SocialVibe.com is a new social media platform revolutionizing the way people use social networks for the common good by allowing members to earn donations rather than giving from their own wallets. This past August four hurricanes hit Haiti leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and without food and clean drinking water. Currently 5.1 million people do not have enough food. Music for Relief is participating in the long term recovery effort in Haiti and summoning the help of SocialVibe.com and their members to help accomplish its goal.

Linkin Park and SocialVibe.com today released a call-to-action video rallying people to help raise $25,000 for Haiti and the hurricane recovery efforts. The SocialVibe member with the highest number of friend recruits will be flown to Los Angeles to meet Linkin Park in their studio while they record their new album this spring.

Here’s the way this works for an individual "donor": go to SocialVibes; pick a corporate sponsor (like Coca Cola); pick a cause (like Music for Relief or WWF or the Red Cross); create a SocialVibe "badge" that links the two for your various social net profiles; and encourage your "friends " to click away on the badge. The more they do, the more your charity benefits.

I confess … I don’t know what I think of this. On the upside, anything that get’s new people involved as promoters of causes and charities is a plus. It’s a clever way to "empower" individuals to match-up their favorite brands and causes. And I have no problem at all with a band or sponsor enhancing its brand by endorsing a cause and connecting fans or customers to it.

But, from a fundraising and relationship building perspective, I do have reservations.

First, the entire concept is pitched as a way to “give” without opening your "own wallet.” The giving that occurs is SocialVibes allocating a percentage of its ad revenues from “Sponsors” in proportion to the charities or causes SocialVibe “Members” pick, and the extent to which Members then promote, on their various social net profiles, the Sponsors. So, at bottom, it is the Sponsors who are doing the donating. I don’t think much of a giving ethic is being cultivated amongst new donors by this approach.

Second, it would not appear that any relationship is being fostered between a Member’s cause and the Member. Indeed, as a Member, my charity – be it WWF or the Red Cross – will have no knowledge of me as a donor. Personally, I just don’t care much for this “wall” between donor and cause.

All in all, this is the most casual form of “giving” one could imagine. It’s cause-related marketing in the social networking environment. But I don’t begrudge the Coca Cola’s and Sprint’s of the world for marketing their brands this way, and I wouldn’t turn down the funds that came to my nonprofit via SocialVibes.

But it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m a control freak, I guess. I want to at least know my donors, if not own them!!

What do you think?

Tom

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