Blogging For A Cause

I've been thinking and writing a lot about earned media and passed links lately. When I think about the ways that marketers can "earn free media" with passed links, I think about four primary channels; email, blogs, twitter, and facebook. We see that these four channels are, to varying degrees, becoming a significant and growing source of traffic for our portfolio companies and many other web services.

This week I attended my first Donors Choose board meeting. Many of you will be familiar with Donors Choose through the two "bloggers challenges" I've done with this blog. In total, this community has raised almost $40,000 for teachers who want new educational equipment for their classrooms and can't get it from their school systems.

Donors Choose is a web marketplace that allows people like you and me to find teachers with projects we like and support them with a donation of any size. Once the project is funded, Donors Choose buys the equipment and/or supplies directly and sends them to the teacher, bypassing the entire school system. Your donations go directly to teachers and their students which I love.

Anyway, this post is not about Donors Choose, it's about earned media and passed links. At the Donors Choose board meeting this week, we learned that a siginificant and increasing amount of Donors Choose traffic (and donations) come from earned media and passed links. While this is not surprising, it's very exciting to me.

It's pretty obvious how Donors Choose incents people to tweet and share their donations and pet projects on Facebook. I did just that this morning. But incenting people to blog about Donors Choose is harder. The bloggers challenge that they do every October is great. But its not "scalable".

One "scalable" way to make this happen is to distribute all the fundable projects out onto the web via RSS and an API. Donors Choose has done that. A service called Social Actions has taken that data and made it available to others, including our portfolio company Zemanta. So now, the almost 30,000 bloggers who use Zemanta will see good causes recommended to them when they post about things that are relevant to those causes. With one click on the Zemanta toolbar, a "passed link" to that cause is inserted directly into the post.

To highlight this new partnership, Zemanta is running a contest this month called "Blogging For A Cause." Anytime you write a blog post and mention your favorite non-profit, you should include this code snippet at the end of your post:

[This blog post is part of Zemanta's "<a href="">Blogging For a Cause</a>" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.]

That's all Zemanta needs to find your post and track it. The 5 non-profit organizations that get the most bloggers to endorse
them will get to split $6,000, funded by Zemanta and Weber Shandwick. Zemanta is looking for others to join the sponsorship group and increase the prize.

You can write about as many non-profits as
you want, but they will count one only one per blog post.

Since this post is about Donors Choose, as well as a bunch of other stuff, it should count as one vote for Donors Choose. The contest runs until June 6th. I hope all of you bloggers out there take the time in the next couple weeks to blog about a cause you like and include the code snippet. That's all you have to do to be counted.

This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#hacking education#VC & Technology#Web/Tech#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jamey

    Although this post is about Donors Choose, I have to say that I recently started using Zemanta and it’s great!

    1. fredwilson

      And getting a lot better tooI find the relevancy is improving significantly and the addition of videos and other “rich media” is really great

  2. greenskeptic

    Very cool idea, Fred. And great to see the Zemanta-Social Actions partnership. I use Zemanta on my blog and find it a very useful tool.Your support for Donors Choose is fantastic. I hadn’t realized you went on the board. Charles was an Ashoka Fellow and IMHO one of the best examples of a social entrepreneur around. I had the pleasure of getting to know him better during my time at Ashoka and still support his work however I can. Kudos for you for your increased involvement.

  3. David Noël

    Love the idea, Fred. Thanks for sharing.Do euro/german non-profits count or is it US-only? If US-only, can you recommend an education non-profit?

    1. Jure Cuhalev

      Charity counts as long as it’s registered as a charity/non-profit in the country where it’s established.Jure Cuhalev,Zemanta

      1. David Noël

        Great, thanks for the fast feedback, Jure. Appreciate.

  4. markslater

    love zemanta – my favorite service in your portfolio. totally frictionless and contextual and useful.

  5. Mo

    Cool, I have an idea for a blog post that I am going to turn into action. It’s about how I am a serial volunteer without focusing on one specific cause.

  6. Marty

    This young man created a tiny little version of this idea in his own campaign to get noticed by world famous ad agency CP+B on Twitter… very interesting approach. It worked Alex Bogusky re-tweeted his URL and thousands of agency folk looked at his portfolio. Pretty cool.

    1. Ethan Bauley

      That strategy works well but it doesn’t really scale (every sharing action costs $). It’s also directly part of the same “Here come the social marketing bribes” trend Brian Morrissey discussed here:http://bmorrissey.typepad.c…From a strategic/design point of view I like Zemanta’s contest/incentive structure vs. the direct quid pro quo of the CPB guy.Thanks for bringing this into the convo!Ethan

    2. fredwilson

      I love it!

  7. lawrence coburn

    I know a bunch of folks working on putting some game principles into their web service. And because distribution is so important – and so hard – it makes sense that a behavior you would want to reward is users pushing your content or links out via fb, twitter, email, or blog posts. Anyone know of (other) companies doing innovative things around incentivizing shared links?

  8. euwyn

    Fred, thanks for spreading the word about the contest. Didn’t realize that Zemanta was a USV portfolio – really cool thing they’re doing. I’ve been doing my part to help Wokai ( – a microfinance platform for China) make it to the top.

    1. fredwilson

      Awesome. I’ll go take a look

  9. MikePLewis

    I love the idea behind Donors Choose. Many of my friends from school jumped into the educational system. Since then i’ve heard countless stories about how they are underresourced. For American students to compete we need to equip them with the necessary tools. We’d never think of forcing our best tennis players to practice with wooden rackets yet we force our best students to think about the web and the future without computers. It’s ridiculous.

  10. David Sabel

    On the topic of donorschoose, Plastic Jungle, just added a capability to trade balances on giftcards for a donorschoose charity gift card – great way to support the cause and put dollars that might otherwise go unused to work.

    1. fredwilson

      Sweet! Donors Choose gift cards are a great way to get new people exposed to giving through donors choose

  11. CharityBiker

    I am trying to raise money for UNICEF India through my website ( The biggest problem I’ve been facing so far is the issue of trust.I received donations from friends and family but so far I’ve haven’t received one from a random/unknown visitor to the site. Do you know any service that could testify to people that I’m not out to scam them but actually raising money for charity.

  12. evbart

    Great post, cool to know you’re working with Donors Choose.Ever since I moved to SF, I’ve been helping with their social media campaigns, so I’m definitely interested in seeing what kind of attention we can get with this.

  13. Mark Essel

    The fine balance of selfish and giving is always shifting. Too much on the plate at the moment, I can find a worthy cause to blog about this afternoon perhaps. Going forward with a monetization plan for social media, that means digging into some API calls with jQuery/javascript/PHP-> which translates into very little blogging time.