Thursday, April 01, 2010

Curmudgeonly view of vote-for-me contests

Beth Kanter has a whole series of posts on Beth's Blog about vote-for-me funding contests ( I'm not going to try to conduct a detailed analysis of the good and evil of these contests here. Beth has done a great job of providing both sides. I'm just going to be a curmudgeon and raise some of my concerns.
  • Large organizations have a much better chance of winning--for all the obvious reasons. But are the large organizations the most innovative, or doing the most important work, or the most efficient?
  • The rich get richer. Target Store's program that allows people to designate a school to get the rewards from their Target credit card results in most of the money going to schools in wealthy communities because people in wealth communities will spend more than people in poor communities. For vote-for-me funding, organizations that have lots of supporters, clients or audiences who have home computers and who have time to spend on surfing the web will get more votes.
  • Vote-for-me contests divert the attention of nonprofit organizations from their mission and long-term, sustainable fund raising to special promotions that do little for their long-term health. Contests that only count contributions (preferably number of contributions, not size of contributions) at least have a chance of building long-term donors.
  • Vote-for-me promote a culture of scarcity--everyone going after the same pot of money. There is usually no attempt to expand the pool of money.
  • Vote-for-me contests promote competition, not collaboration. For years government, for profit corporations and foundations have been telling nonprofits to collaborate more. Vote-for-me provides a strong incentive to not collaborate.

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