Dec 052012
 
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The serial philanthropist’s project is helping people raise tons of money for their causes, while keeping the attitude light and funny.

In October, and before an audience of 800 Chicago Ideas Week attendees, Norton announced, “My name is Edward, and I’m a philanthropy addict.” He’s not kidding: The two-time Academy Award nominated actor also serves on the Boards of President Obama’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities; Enterprise Community Partners; Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust; the Signature Theater Company; the Friends of the High Line; and the Conservation Lands Foundation. And he’s not an in-name-only kind of board member; he really gets in there and works. When he’s not indulging his philanthropy issues, he writes, produces, directs and runs marathons but most recently he’s launched a crazy popular grassroots, peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform, called Crowdrise. It’s a platform to allow anyone to fundraise for a cause, and it does it with a laid-back and funny attitude that undermines the self-seriousness of a lot of philanthropy. It’s also raised a ridiculous amount of money and cultivated a new generation of young activists who manage not to take themselves too seriously in the process.

Crowdrise is based on an idea of “sponsored volunteerism.” Are you finding that activist volunteers are branching out from the marathon/walkathon model of sponsorship to other kinds of volunteerism? What are some other examples?

It’s happening more and more. iMentor, for example, is a New York-based nonprofit that matches students with college-educated mentors through the web. The organization has been successful convincing a large portion of their 2,600 mentors to ask their own friends to support the cause they already donate their time to, resulting in more than $110,000 in small donations raised on CrowdRise. These volunteers are iMentor’s most reliable and convincing ambassadors to the cause.

Crowdrise cracks us up. Why does the Crowdrise brand of irreverence and humor work?

There’s no reason that humor should exist everywhere except philanthropy. I think people like our voice because it’s authentic. We believe giving should be easy and fun. People like engaging with something that is real, not some generic text. Also, the incentives to donate can be really silly and nonsensical. We’ve found the more off the wall the incentives, the higher the engagement. It’s more interesting to email your friends and say, “donate $25 to my fundraiser and you’ll be signed up to win a bag of combs,” than it is to tell them they could win a gift certificate. Gift certificates work too, but we embrace the absurd, and our users really like that. And let’s be honest, there’s truth to our saying “If you don’t give, no one will like you.”

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via FastCoExist - 
 

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