Innovative Philanthropy: New Approach to Local Giving

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February 25, 2011; Source: The Post-Bulletin | This is a new twist on prize philanthropy that we think is interesting. Rick Weiss, the owner of Insty-Prints in Rochester, Minn., has always given annually to local nonprofits but this year he is taking an unusual social network-based approach that promises to attract the attention of other potential givers.

This is the part we like – Weiss has decided to ask people who have benefited from the services of nonprofits in town to tell their own stories about how the groups have touched them. Then he will have people vote for their favorites and the winner will get $1,000 while the second and third place winners will get donated services.

Weiss means to help get the word out about the work that community groups do. He says, "People just don't know that much about what our non-profits do, particularly the smaller ones."—Ruth McCambridge

  • Mike Burns

    Sorry Ruth — this “twist” on American Idol Philanthropy maybe moves up philanthropy by voting a small notch but I still have big issues with philanthropic giving conducted through popularity contests. So much more wrong than right although the added value of anecdotes to more or less tell the story of impact is indeed better than just getting out the vote for a (nonprofit) name alone.

  • Ruth McCambridge

    Mike: I actually agree with you about prize philanthropy. All you have to do is look at the problems with the Pepsi setup to see how off base it can get. What I liked about this was the fact that it founds the system on the stories of those who have had occasion to be touched by the nonprofits in question – a way of measuring worth that is too often completely neglected

  • Allan Shore

    Yes, the voting is unnecessary. The value comes from showcasing what nonprofits do so that we can learn to be more confident in the value we bring to the table. Right now, nonprofits are on the lite side of the teeter-totter when it comes to balancing social responsibility and business profits. If the world learns we know the secret to solving problems, we might get more of the credit and thus the profits we deserve.

  • Debra Owen

    agree w/ Mike. I, and many others, could certainly get a bizz to run with this idea.. and take advantage of the opportunity. But I’d feel a bit like we weren’t “doing the right thing.” Let’s do a little creative thinking to tweak the idea.

  • John Hallward

    I understand the worry, but I think the point is being missed. Rick’s approach has earned free media to a wide audience, and his voting is a reason to spread the word. It engages many more people to think about philanthropy. My hat is off to Rick, and I challenge people to think openly to any and all causes which bring philanthropy into the open. We need to encourage such new entrepreneurial spirit. Three cheers.