I’m setting up a website for the PTA of my daughter’s school here in Silver Spring, Maryland. The current post is You can help the PTA by shopping! The PTA treasurer made me aware of three retail chains that will contribute money to the school in proportion to purchases. There is of course some setup to be done, both by the PTA/school and by the supporter/purchaser.

For two of the chains – Giant and Target – supporter setup means linking your store card with the school. I already had a Giant card, and it was very easy. I don’t have a Target card, and wonder why I can’t apply for the type of card I want online – but that’s another story.

This post is more about the third chain – Safeway – or rather, about the way in which shopping at Safeway can result in the chain contributing to the school. It involves a firm called eScrip, of which I’d never previously heard. I became curious about eScript as a fundraising program, and about eScrip as an organization.

As a fundraising program, it stands out from the other two (i.e. Giant and Target) in a couple of ways. First, you deal with eScrip, rather than dealing directly with the store. Those who run their own websites and use commission programs might be reminded of the difference between using Commission Junction and doing affiliate setup at the merchant’s site.

Second, eScrip allows you, not only to register store cards, but also credit cards (and other cards too, but I’ll focus here on credit cards). You can register a credit card with eScrip. If you buy from a merchant that’s signed up from its end, your use of that credit card with that merchant will automagically result in that merchant donating to the school you told eScrip about. eScrip asking for my credit card made me ask about eScrip.

eScrip is a private company. I think that it’s a for-profit. escrip.com doesn’t provide a lof of information about the company itself. But it does have an FAQ including questions such as: who is ESI (Electronic Scrip Inc.), how do I know it’s legit, and who founded the company. eScrip.com links to a Better Business Bureau page, on which eScrip has an A+ rating. Googling does show up many fundraising organizations using eScrip.

I think that ESI is legitimate. I should probably provide my credit card number so that the school benefits when I use my credit card at Amazon and other participating merchants.

Interesting organization, this ESI/eScrip. Interesting stuff, this fundraising. But that’s just what I think. What do you think?

Nonprofits

September 22, 2010

It’s been a nonprofit kind of month. The first session I got to at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic was Geoff Livingston on nonprofits.

More recently, I just set up a website for my daughter’ school’s PTA. Earlier this month, I posted about PTA websites, and got some good advice.

Some of the more interesting posts recent posts at Mashable have been in the Social Good category. One of these posts even defines the term social good: equal parts online fundraising and advocacy via social networks.

Then there’s the post in which Jason F of 37signals asks:

Why should a non-profit organization pay less for software (or supplies or food or rent or…) than a for-profit company? How is an automatic discount for a non-profit fair to a full-price paying for-profit?… The best pricing is clear, fair, public, consistent, and predictable.

By consistent, Jason means the same for enterprises, small businesses, nonprofits, etc. The ensuing comments make for interesting reading. I was surprised at how many come from people in nonprofits who agree with Jason.

The Networked Nonprofit, the book by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, will be released on July 6. There’s a closer, and more important, date: Beth posts about the June 21 virtual book launch party date. She aims to concentrate (pre-)orders around that date, so that The Networked Nonprofit becomes a bestseller.

There are a bunch of things that Beth conspicuously doesn’t specify, at least not prominently enough for me to notice:

  • A real world book launch event/signing here in the DC area, or anywhere else.
  • Any reference to any real world stores or sales. I picture Beth and Allison descending on bookstores to hide copies of their book so that people will buy it at Amazon, thus keeping it high on the Amazon business bestseller list.
  • A widget for the use of people who want to blog about the book and the virtual launch party.
  • A hashtag for tweets and a tag for posts (I’m using networkednonprofit here).

Anyway, the books sounds great, and I intend to be at the virtual launch party.

National Public Radio offers its radio shows at no charge, and hopes that enough listeners will donate enough money to make it viable. More broadly, NPR offers its content for free, on a variety of platforms including radio, the web, and iPad apps. There is the potential for more platforms to mean more consumers and hence more donations.

NPR has much in common with for-profit freemium services (such as WordPress.com). It can therefore use some of the same analytical tools, such as funnel analysis.

We can think of a funnel with NPR listeners toward the top. Fans of NPR, or of a particular show, are at a lower and narrower part of the funnel. Some of those fans donate; we might think of donations as money emerging from the bottom of the funnel.

What effect will iPad and iPhone apps have on NPR’s funnel? That’s what this 3-minute video is about. If it makes you want to donate to NPR, that’s good. The Changing Way Multimedia Studio is not currently seeking donations, despite this production’s use of crayon and handheld camera. The producer, however, is seeking work in the DC area.

The video illustrates, using the funnel model, an argument I made yesterday: that NPR was rather hasty in getting on the iPad bandwagon. I was prompted to make the video an following an exchange with Beth Kanter. We seem to agree that someone should write a post living up to the title: Apple or Android? Which One is More Nonprofit Friendly?. Neither of us has done it yet.

I’d be interested to see comments (or external posts) on the comparison of Apple and Android for nonprofits, on the use of the funnel model by nonprofits, on Apple’s policy toward nonprofits, or anything else arising from this post/video. Over to you…

NPR: Bitten By Apple?

June 9, 2010

NPR is a fascinating business. Yes, the word business is appropriate for a nonprofit like NPR. How can it bring in enough money to fund its radio shows and other activities?

This particular post was prompted by a remark about “Apple’s wrongheaded policy of prohibiting donations.” That’s from Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX, writing at Ars Technica. One of the things that PRX does is develop apps for NPR shows such as This American Life (by the way, that last link currently goes, not to a home page, but to a donate page).

Apple’s app policies deny nonprofits access to 1-Click payments: “the most powerful direct-payment platform in the mobile marketplace.” Apple does provide a payment infrastructure, but takes a 30% for itself.

I don’t want to bash Apple. Well, I do, but there are other posts for that.

If there is bashing to be done, at least some of it should be directed at the people at NPR (and PRX?) who rushed headlong to kiss the iPad’s touchscreen: “we’ll be there for you Day 1 with a fully redesigned app and a Web site that’s optimized for the platform.” NPR made it a priority to expend money and other resources on iNPR.

I can see that the iPad audience is a desirable one. We might call them ABCs: affluent, brand-loyal, connected. This audience benefits from iNPR. I hope that NPR benefits as well, in terms of contributions from the ABCs.

But I suspect that most of the benefit goes to Apple. NPR has packaged its content for the iPad, thus improving the already-lauded tablet. Perhaps even more important, NPR’s eagerness to support the iPad, and to be seen to be doing so, is free publicity: something that Apple doesn’t lack, but can always use more of.

Here’s an app promo image. It’s linkjacked from NPR’s tablet page. But it links to NPR’s donate page. If you’ve used iNPR, and haven’t yet donated, please do so. No, I don’t want a cut of your donation.

I found Jake’s editorial via Beth Kanter. Her post has the title Apple or Android? Which One is More Nonprofit Friendly? I think that’s a great title, and a great topic to explore. I don’t think that the post really explores it, though, consisting as it does of little more than an approving pointer to Jake’s article.

We recently received the summer edition of blue, the magazine that the New England Aquarium sends to its members once a quarter. It includes an “on the web” sidebar, which draws attention to the aquarium’s blogs.

The above echoes my recent post about Zoo New England and social media. But where ZNE’s dead trees provided directions to multiple social media sites, NEAQ’s emphasized its blogs. NEAQ does use other sites; for example, I’ve just become a fan of NEAQ on Facebook.

There’s a lot to like about the NEAQ blogs:

  • There are multiple blogs, such as: Giant Ocean Tank Divers; Marine Mammal Trainers; and Bahamas Expedition.
  • For each blog there’s a clear subject, and a set of individual bloggers who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about that subject. For example, the Tank Divers blog has a list of regulars, each with a profile. It also includes contributions from others; in fact, the above photo is from a post by an intern, Linda (the ray is anonymous).
  • It seems that NEAQ regards its blogs as an important part of its website. At the risk of being a greedy advocate for social media, I’d like to see the blogs become more prominent, and I’d like to see a link to Facebook and to other social media channels on the blogs, etc. page.
  • I’ll summarize by saying that NEAQ uses blogs well to provide frequent updates from expert individuals. I emphasize that last word because, although organizations can enable and encourage blogging, good blogging comes from people who know and care about what they’re writing about.

How many of the following interest you? Chocolate. Consumer awareness of companies’ social responsibility. Using the web to spread such awareness. Being in Boston(ish) on June 3. Launch party for a nonprofit. Party at a chocolate factory. With samples of chocolate and other goodies, and raven costumes. Chocolate.

If you that’s you, then you might want to get to the launch party for Buy It Like You Mean It. It’s on Tuesday, June 3, 7PM, at the Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville, MA.

I’m not sure whether I can make it, but I do thank reader Claudia for bringing the organization and the event to my attention.

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