“And the media asks: the music business is tanking and you encourage piracy – how do you make all these people pay for music? And the answer is, I didn’t make them. I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I connected with people. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.” — musician, Amanda Palmer.
For the past decade, every day, then every few days, and eventually every couple of months, the same thought sparks itself to the front of my mind. The internet is made for charities. It’s a simple idea, although more insistent than most. The corollary is the internet is NOT made for commercial brands. The mass media was made for commercial brands. They are bound by the rule that whoever has the most money, gets the most attention. Commercial brands have a lot of money. The mass media was *made* for them. And the relationship with the audience – and they are very much “the audience” at this point with the mass media, as it is generally media for broadcasting one-way messages, as if one were shouting at a crowd through a loudhailer – is one of captivity, capture, targeting, disruption, passivity. It is the world of mass marketing.
The internet is different. On the internet, whoever is the most *interesting* gets the attention, not who has the most money. Charities are typically trying to change the world. They are more interesting than insurance or banking, although to be fair, crime is superficially much more exciting than kindness. Nevertheless, kindness provides a longer lasting and deeper kick. While charities have, slowly, tentatively and finally quite confidently grabbed the internet by both lapels and innovated, I always wanted them to have a moment of supreme confidence, where they act like jackasses, and dance around in front of the commercial brands and their very expensive agencies, shouting unkind words of ridicule, just so everyone understands the world has been turned upside down and the followers are now the new leaders. A medium has been invented for *them* and anyone else who has more sense than money. Eat it.
I don’t really expect that to ever happen. Incrementalism has it’s own rewards. Brands will figure out a way to fudge things, to make the internet work for their shareholders as best they can, in ‘good enough’ fashion. They will likely hire some young woman with a nose ring to represent them as real, kind, thoughtful, humorous person-like entities. And charities will do something similar – but with the critical difference of actually have something emotional and intelligent to say. And it will all work out. No one will be challenged. No boats will be rocked. No one will ever imagine anything was any different than the way it is right now. Nonetheless, you should really watch the Amanda Palmer video. Not because she is such a genius, but because we have to remember how a change in media changes everything. And remember attitude counts for a lot. And know she is actually talking about what *you* could do.
PS. The internet is actually a meta-medium in that can simulate and replace any medium. There will never be another medium. This is it forever. Charities, the internet is built for you. What are you doing that commercial brands are copying?
PPS. Whenever I see a goal and result, it is never the measurement of effectiveness than it is meant to be. It always looks like a winning lottery ticket. And every time I have to resist and remember it just means you are communicating.
For more, watch Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong
Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.