Turning Patronage into a Consumer Experience

It’s like Groupon, but for a good cause.

That’s how I would describe some of these new platforms of Internet patronage. Organizations such as Kiva and Kickstarter have embraced this model of coupling the power of creative Internet purchasing with philanthropy. These sites have allowed ordinary people, like you and me, to directly help other individuals or organizations in need of funding. So instead of buying, say a $50 sushi dinner at Oiishi for $25 (which is a great deal), you use that $25 to help a poor farmer in South America replace his old tools. Kickstarter has channeled more than $20 million in pledges to artists, musicians and filmmakers from more than 250,000 people, and Kiva has done the same with $150 million in microcredit loans to aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. Just browsing through these sites, I find it amazing to scroll through some of the ideas and talents that people have. I sense both an incredible need from those who have posted and also an equally incredible spirit of philanthropy from those who donate.

There is an insightful post on Assetmap, a blog on how social capital is transforming business, culture and social change, about what they call “creative crowdfunding platforms.” They argue that this model is appealing because it makes people happy, both the recipients and the donors. According to the science of happiness, “purchasing experience” and giving to others make us happier than buying material items for ourselves. There is also tremendous potential in this area to help many of those who often don’t get their voices heard and needs met. It’s harnessing social capital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Groupon not just for networking or commerce but as instruments of social change.

I’m excited because that’s where I think The Jubilee Project is heading. With our most recent short film, “Love Language,” we have received over 70,000 views in a little over a week and have raised so far $2000 for the American Society for Deaf Children to help deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families. This would not have been possible without first, our viewers and second, social media such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

I personally am interested in applying this model of “creative crowdfunding” to the health care world. Although there’s been a growing use of social media in hospitals and clinics, many clinicians are still resistant to the idea. But I believe that they are merely delaying the inevitable. Social media is here to stay and whether we can use it positively or negatively is in our own hands.

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