publication date: Jun 25, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Can you imagine raising $650,000 in just one week for a
previously unknown cause? That's what Toronto's Max Sidorov
did when he came across an online video of middle-school
students taunting their bus monitor Karen
, a New York state grandmother.
Sidorov posted the video and a brief appeal for $5,000 to
send Klein on a holiday to the crowd-funding website Indiegogo
on June 18. By the afternoon of June 25, nearly 30,000
people had responded. With 25 days to go in the campaign, the $649,962 raised
so far (June 25) will fund not just Klein's vacation, but her retirement as
Why it worked
"The lessons have not changed," says Hillfield-Strathallan College
advancement director Maryann Kerr
. "Tell a simple story of
need and see the very human response of kindness. What has changed is the
medium for telling the story."
, philanthropic advisor with Scotia Private Client Group
, agrees. "It wasn't
about medium, or fancy websites, or long paper cases for support. People were
moved by something they saw and identified with. He gave them a simple way to
make a difference and thousands of people responded."
Video producer Peter
highlights the "raw and uncensored" video. "There's no narration
explaining what's going on because it doesn't need an explanation. Many
fundraising videos focus too much on telling
you what's important, when the goal should be to find those moments that show
you what's important."
Philanthropy or ...?
Is it really philanthropy when people, even thousands of
people, make an impulsive gift to someone they've never heard of, based on the
word of someone else they don't know? Or is something else going on?
"This is definitely philanthropy," Kerr asserts. "It is a
response not just to apologize to the bus monitor for the outrageous behaviour
of those students, but to show the world that there is greater good in the
world than bad ... [People] want to prove that together we can change the
world, because we can change the fate of one woman and her family."
No, argues Nazareth, a committed social media presence
himself. "This was a big case study in the ongoing crowd-funding phenomenon and
the hyper-effect when it meets social and traditional media."
He notes that philanthropy is a nebulous term, and Association of Fundraising Professionals
chair Andrea McManus
part. "I believe that while the definition of ‘philanthropy' stays the same,
the practice of philanthropy is ever evolving and has become more personal and
about what is important to you. So yes, I would say that this is philanthropy
at work but in a new, and somewhat unknown, environment."
A bigger concern for McManus is accountability in such an
individualistic initiative. "This story could have a happy ending or it could
be damaging for other charities if the money is not used wisely ... Even though
there is no charity or organization involved, if the situation goes sideways it
will inevitably reflect badly on charities and fundraising."
It's always easier to raise money for a simple problem with
a simple, one-time solution, Nazareth concludes. Even though $650,000 would
have a bigger global impact at a charity, people chose instead to change one
life, he says. So he urges fundraisers to keep improving and keep an eye on new
Maryann Kerr is troubled by the idea that we might pause to
evaluate the fundraiser. "For me, this question in itself represents part of
the problem," she reflects. "Max did not attract those donations any more than
any fundraiser is the reason why a gift is given. At the end of the day, people
give to people, not to organizations ... It wasn't about Max. It isn't about
us. Track records mean nothing."
Nonprofit marketing maven John vanDuzer
sums it up best. We're horrified by the bullying that
Karen Klein endures because we know that it's happening every day. And we want
it to stop. "Money," he proclaims, "is my vote for change." Sidorov, himself a
victim of childhood bullying, would likely agree.