Peter Deitz: About Micro-Philanthropy & Social Actions

Peter Deitz was in the District this week. I got one hour with him at Java Green. Happy Day.

I've been seeing the name "Peter Deitz" pop up more and more among the nonprofit blogging gurus. He recently launched Social Actions (formerly "foik"), a resource for cause-oriented people who want to learn about online campaigns related to their issue/cause/passions, a concept that continues to drive buzz. The new Canadian Citizen (congrats!) is based in Montreal and has been on the road for a month and a half, so naturally, I was thrilled to meet with him this week. He had great things to share about the future of social media's impact on social causes.

Social Actions, as it turns out, is different from the "do good" social networks I've written about here in the past (and which I've claimed are not distinctive enough).

Social Actions is not creating campaigns, it's aggregating campaigns. At last counts, that's 1,400 individual "social actions." Like Orbitz does for flight bookings, Social Actions points advocates (and would-be advocates) to other sites which create engagements via groups, petitions, meetings, and fundraising initiatives.

I'm doing [Social Actions] to fill a void, Peter says, "using my intuition and knowledge of web 2.0 tools to build something useful for the philanthropic community . . . I have no agenda. . . It's an educational tool for how to engage with a campaign, and allowing 'amplifiers' to build their work and spread word of mouth."

One of the ways the site accomplishes this is by enabling visitors to email campaigns to friends and grab widgets or feeds that can be embedded in their own sites. Social Actions "Top Ten" includes feeds for new projects, programs, drives and proposals for groups like GiveMeaning, Fundable, GlobalGiving and Kiva, and you can import those feeds onto your own blog or Facebook profile.

Those "innovators in person-to-person fundraising" create much of the content that was originally aggregated in order to bring Social Actions to life. "GlobalGiving was the only one to have RSS when I started," says Peter. He now aggregates approximately 130 social actions through GlobalGiving, and wants you to get involved and promote your involvement.
  • Peter: "People can show the world how they're being active. You can show people your track record."

  • Me: "Doesn't that seem vain?"

  • Peter: "Vanity has always played a role in philanthropy. These social media tools show people where your interests lie. We're moving into a more values-based economy . . . a derivative of that is showing what we're going with good giving."
The site will eventually feature peer-to-peer editorializing on these issues related to health, education, animals, the environment and more, through topic-specific blogs. Peter's intention is to provide a neutral - but informed - perspective from experts and other interested folks, like he does so on his own blog, About Micro-philanthropy. I agree with Peter: "Donors who go to ['do good' social networks] don't get the full context of those issues."

His blog, by the way, is all about raising money online. Holla! I asked Peter what "micro-philanthropy" (small, direct giving) means for the donor, and he pointed out that it's different from larger scale giving in that it's strategic and you can track your impact over time, even if it's on a small scale. "It's about not consuming as much and giving more, being an active giver rather than an active consumer. And that's the reason I'm here - to make it easier to give - actively, intentionally."

Peter's June 2007 benchmarking study analyzes stats of online fundraising campaigns by SixDegrees, ChipIn, Firstgiving, GiveMeaning and JustGive.org, and was a springboard for development of Network for Good's new report on Wired Fundraisers (which I wrote about last week).

Thanks, Peter, and hats off!

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