Posts from Haiti

Solidarity Not Charity

Our portfolio company Zynga has been running campaigns in their games to raise money for Haiti and a number of other causes. Mark Pincus, Zynga's founder and CEO, calls this "solidarity not charity." Zynga describes this approach to giving back in this way:

not charity is a culture that is not seeking a handout but instead is seeking a partnership, and a culture that had demonstrated by its past that it is worthy of our respect, of our collaboration and our sustained commitment.

To date has raised more than $3.6 million for
Haiti in more than 13 separate campaigns, along with hundreds of thousands of
dollars for Gulf relief, and other causes. Almost all of these funds have been raised since the launch of Sweet Seeds For Haiti in October of last year. The effort is an ongoing part of Zynga's business operations.

The biggest beneficiary of this effort is a school that Zynga is funding called L’École de Choix (The School of Choice) in Mirebalais, Haiti.

Zynga, in partnership with FATEM (Mirebalais’s community organization), along with local representatives, global NGOs and others, have broken ground on a K-12 school and community center, intended from its inception to meet the most pressing and critical needs of those living in extreme poverty in Haiti, with a focus on quality education, income generation and financial literacy. Programs include traditional K-12 academics (in partnership with DePaul University and Francis W. Parker School), and will also include ESL, work skills for adults, and a youth center with a focus on psycho-social development, and even its construction will create jobs for the local community and use local sources and materials.

Here is a quick 5min video that showcases this effort:

Here are a list of the games and campaigns that Zynga has run. If you play Zynga's games, you may have helped fund these efforts.

Zynga programs 

I've written about this effort before. I am a huge fan of sustainable ways to give back and I love that we can all do that by playing games with each other.


Social Status For Social Good

Status is a powerful motivator in social systems. People go crazy over their follower counts on Twitter, or number of friends or business contacts in Facebook and LinkedIn. So it makes sense that social status can be leveraged for social good.

Yesterday I logged into my Tumblr dashboard and saw this set of posts from my friends Jason and Dave, and my colleague Andrew.

Tumblr dashboard

You'll note that Dave and Andrew's avatars have a ribbon on them. I thought "well how the hell do I get one of those?"

And then I noticed at the top of my dashboard, the Tumblr logo had one of the ribbons next to it.

Tumblr logo

So I clicked on the ribbon and it took me to where I was presented with this choice of charities to support.

Support haiti

I chose Doctors Without Borders because my daughter Emily is a big fan of their work and gave a donation.

After I did that my avatar got a ribbon on it as you can see in the image above. 

I don't know how many Tumblr users got ribbons yesterday but it could be a lot. Tumblr has millions of users. Even if only 5 or 10% of them did what I did yesterday, that could be hundreds of thousands of donations. Maybe Tumblr will post about this at some point. I'd certainly be interested to know how well this works.

In a post on the Zynga blog yesterday, Zynga announced that their users have already raised $1.2mm for Haiti though the Sweet Seeds offer in Farmville. And now Zynga is going to step it up:

Zynga will run a special relief campaign in three of its top games that reach over 40 million users daily. Users can purchase limited edition social goods in FarmVilleMafia Wars and Zynga Poker, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go towards supporting emergency aid in Haiti. 

Social services like Zynga and Tumblr reach millions of people every day. And they have powerful status driven systems that can drive users to do good things. That's a big deal when something awful like the earthquake in Haiti happens.

Disclosure: Tumblr and Zynga are both Union Square Ventures portfolio companies.

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Virtual Goods For Good Causes

Farmville_freak_sweet_seeds_for_haiti At our Hacking Philanthropy event a few years back we talked about all kinds of new philanthropic models that were emerging online. One model that did not come up in our brainstorming sessions was the sale of virtual goods for philanthropy. And yet, based on the data I am seeing this weekend, this could be a very big one.

Our portfolio company Zynga's Farmville game is the most popular social game online ever with almost 20mm people playing the game every day. On Friday Zynga released a new kind of seed into the game called "Sweet Seeds for Haiti". Since Friday, they have sold about 100,000 of these seeds which cost 25 FV cash.

Here is how the offer is described in the game:

Salutations, y’all! Today, FarmVille is proud to release “Sweet Seeds
for Haiti”. In this event, y’all will be able to purchase Sweet
Potatoes that NEVER WITHER, yield XP and 125 COINS PER HARVEST! Even
better than that is the fact that 50% of the
proceeds will go to helpin’ children in Haiti. What could be sweeter
than lending a helping hand to children in need? You’ll also get a
SPECIAL GIFT with your purchase so hurry on over to FarmVille and check
it out!

And here are the details about where the money is going in Haiti:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
and the 7th poorest in the world. Zynga’s mission of connecting the
world through games is enhanced by our opportunity to support the
health and education of these children and their families. For
additional information on the recipient organizations, please see and

FATEM is a non-profit organization based in Mirebalais, Haiti, and
originally organized to bring information technology to the people in
the region, thus helping with the economic advancement of the area.
More recently, however, FATEM recognized the need for a sustainable
means by which to support the general education of Haitian children and
to ensure that these children have the necessary meals that will permit
their young bodies and brains to learn and grow.

FONKOZE, based in Port-au-Prince, is an alternative bank for the
poor. It is Haiti’s largest micro-finance institution and is committed
to the economic and social improvement of the people and communities of
Haiti and to the reduction of poverty in the country.

It's a bit tricky to estimate how much money the Sweet Seeds For Haiti has raised to date because you can earn FV cash and you can buy FV cash. When purchased, 25 FV cash costs $5. So if everyone bought the FV cash that has been used to buy the roughly 100k of sweet seeds to date, then $500k will have been raised, $250k of it going to charitable organizations in Haiti.

Even though that is best case, it's a pretty big number for three days. The key to this is that the seeds have value in the game and are tied into the game play and game mechanic. So not only are players doing something good when they buy sweet seeds, they are also advancing their own interests in the game.

I can imagine this approach being adopted across a multitude of online social games. It's an exciting development and an area to keep an eye on.

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