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CauseWired: Rising ‘Culture of Giving’ Expands on the Internet

By Tom Watson on October 22, 2008No Comment

CauseWired Foreword by Jean Case

CauseWired, published by Wiley, is due out on November 10th. Readers can pre-order it now at a discount from Amazon.

Way back in the 1970s, when causes were still causes but wired referred to a college student pulling an all-nighter, a TV commercial for an add-water-and-stir cup-of-noodles product had as its tag line the famous question: “Is it soup yet?”
Today, in the worlds of philanthropy, social activism, business, and even politics and policy making, this question is especially ripe for asking. We are at a juncture where new forms of civic engagement and business activity — supported and spurred by new social web technologies — are being used by both individuals and organizations to create and expand a rising culture of giving and a coming together of ingredients that can create powerful opportunities for positive change.

CauseWired  is so timely in its arrival and spot-on in its focus. A new generation of givers — the Net-native millennials  — is emerging, and a fresh generation of nonprofit, foundation, and business leaders is already taking the helm. But do we understand what these changes will mean? Do we know as donors, foundations, nonprofit and business leaders, policymakers, and volunteers how we should participate in this change? What more do we need to know in order to capture this opportunity to motivate and engage more people and increase giving of every kind, everywhere?

These questions have occupied a great deal of recent effort at the Case Foundation (as graciously noted in this book), and will consume more of our efforts and resources in the future. In 2007, we launched several projects to better understand how people were engaging using Web 2.0 and social web tools. First, we watched with great interest as more than 5,000 people applied to earn four $25,000 grants from us, and then observed in near amazement as more than 15,000 online voters decided who would get those grants. Later, we launched twin  “giving challenges” with our partners Parade magazine and Causes on Facebook, asking people to use online tools, including widgets and social networks, to spread the word of their cause and encourage online donations through Network for Good and Global Giving. More than 80,000 people gave over $1,750,000 in the six weeks the challenges ran.
These efforts, and our observation of the many others noted in this book, help confirm our hunch, which underlies CauseWired’s well-explored premise: Giving has in fact changed. It is still changing, right before our eyes and in ways that will forever alter the relationships between people and the causes that motivate them.

Tom Watson has been there all along, exploring the nuances of what these new approaches might mean to the philanthropic sector, commenting on efforts to harness their power, and helping the sector make sense of it all.

From every direction, new opportunities to get involved are being presented and developed by a new breed of civic leaders and entrepreneurs. And though the debate over how best to blend business models and nonprofit missions continues, the integration of entrepreneurial thinking and online tools into philanthropic ventures and the equally important integration of giving and nonprofit sensibility into corporate cultures are well underway.

CauseWired does a wonderful job chronicling exactly that — the imaginative and bold ways people have chosen to make their voices and their causes heard using new tools, new technologies, and new social relationships.

What is more, it provides an instructional narrative for anyone who wants to play a role in building this new culture of giving. Finally, it makes clear that it is time to get moving because it’s soup and it’s now.

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