BBH Labs has just come up with a pretty cool idea. Donate your Facebook or Twitter feed to the African Medical Research Foundation. You simply go to an AMREF website, authorize the organize to post in your feed, choose one of seven needy Africans whose updates you want your followers to see, and just like that you raise awareness for the plight of Africans and for the good work being done by AMREF.
I donated my feed to Amos N’Dungo, a street kid in Nairobi.
What’s interesting in this new kind of digital charity is that I didn’t really have to do very much. No volunteer work. No check writing. No sacrifice whatsoever. All I had to do was click a couple of web pages, authorize access to my Facebook account and I’m done.
What did I donate? Nothing more than my Facebook real estate, which I don’t really own, along with some of my friends’ attention, which I also don’t own.
And while I have given very little, I’ve hopefully received kudos and credit for doing so. My friends and followers can see that I am a caring and giving individual. “Hey, look at me! I just supported the needy in Africa!” And perhaps I am. After all, I’ve declared that this is an important, worthwhile cause. I’ve made a statement about my belief that it deserves attention. I’ve raised awareness for people in need. Perhaps I’ve even inspired others to take action.
But the question is whether or not I, or we, have actually accomplished anything. Will our news feed, rapidly filling up with information about life in Africa solve any the problem? Will it raise money? Will it affect policy? Or will it just make everyone who gifted their feed feel good about themselves for their “contribution” of digital real estate?
Don’t get me wrong. I think that BBH’s concept is brilliant in its simplicity and cleverness; it has virtually eliminated any barrier to participation. But have they made it too easy? If we can all do our part by simply passing along some digital bits, will too many of us take the easy way out, changing our avatars, posting a link, gifting our feed instead of volunteering our time or writing a check?
Certainly digital donations can be effective. Arik Fraimovich’s green avatar raised awareness for the Iranian elections and may have even saved lives by mobilizing Twitterati to change the locations in their profiles, confusing the government as to the sources of information.
Charity Water’s banner ads have helped drive awareness and contribute to fundraising in support of over 2500 projects that have collectively brought potable water to over 1 million people who previously didn’t have access to it. And ideally this project will not only raise awareness, but funding as well.
We now live in a world where we can ask not for goods or services, but for a few bits. Pass on this link. Change your avatar. Donate some space on your blog. Give someone access to your fans and followers.
It’s definitely easier to get someone to do that than it is to extract either time or money. The question remains how much it will accomplish. What do you think? Will it do more for a cause? Or less?
In the meantime, I hope you’ll offer up something more valuable than access to your newsfeed. Visit AMREF and make a donation. It’s a little more work and no one will know about it, but I promise you it will feel a lot better than a Facebook update.