Here’s yet another Google foray into the world online advocacy: the company is allowing nonprofits to create special channels within YouTube that should help them spread the word about their issues. Some details about what advocacy groups can get by joining the YouTube Nonprofit Program:
Premium branding capabilities and increased uploading capacity
Rotation of your videos in the “Promoted Videos” areas throughout the site
The option to drive fundraising through a Google Checkout “Donate” button
The fundraising angle is an interesting addition and quite possibly a new threat for competing online donations schemes. More from the main Google Checkout page on what the program offers:
Increase donations to your organization
With a streamlined checkout process and a single login, it’s easy for your supporters to make an online donation and do it again and again.
Process online donations for free
Get free donation processing until 2009 and pay no monthly, setup or gateway fees.
Enhance data security for your organization and donors
Google Checkout lowers the cost and risks associated with managing sensitive data for your non-profit organization by concealing the donor’s credit card number and providing a secure online donation alternative.
With Google’s “trusted brand” status attached to the fundraising process, will organizations that join the program see an increase in donations, or are we comfortable enough now with online transactions that it won’t matter? Also, how will other online fundraising providers counter the no-fees-through-2008 offer? And, at what point will Google finally just hire us all and take over running the entire online economy for real?
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a good parody — especially one that mixes legislative politics with just the right amount of sleaze. In this case, to highlight provisions in the just-signed College Cost Reduction and Access Act, some of our friends on the Hill have put together a video expressing their True Love for college students, modeling after the endlessly-replayed eHarmony TV ads. Is that Justin Hamilton showing a dangerously creepy side? Genius!
I’m just bummed they didn’t call my agent to set up an audition.
Presidential candidate John Edwards has long been one of the top money-raisers at Democratic fund-raising site ActBlue.com. But, for a short time recently, he was almost surpassed by Daniel Biss, a 30-year-old mathematics professor running for the Illinois state legislature.
The Biss phenomenon illustrates another way the Internet is shaking up politics and changing the way races are run this year: online fund raising is now filtering down to low-dollar state and local races, where a little bit of extra money goes further than it would in a national race.
In Bliss’s case, he was helped by a friend who was willing to humiliate himself on-camera if Bliss’s supporters pledged enough money; the WSJ story has a nice video of him eating a Happy Meal-turned-Slushee (too bad the cat-licking thing didn’t work out).
Overall, the article provides yet another example of how the ‘net can help to level the proverbial playing field for challengers and outsiders. Also, check out Bliss’s campaign site — it’s a nice, tight little critter that does the job well.
Hi y’all, after spending about 18 very exciting hours yesterday exploring Our Nation’s transportation infrastructure (note: airports suck), I’m finally ensconsed deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. The pre-trip work frenzy is over at last, and now I’m getting ready for my [classified]-year Palestine High School reunion (oh jesus). A veritable slew of articles are sitting half-finished in the old e.politics notebook, so let’s see what we can get through over the next couple of days, assuming I’m not too busy making things up for the benefit of my former classmates (“There I was. There I was. In…The Congo…”). Wish me luck! (I’m a-gonna need it). Please send booze.
A colleague passed along this little gem from an email message yesterday: “IEER’s comments on the DOE’s NOI to prepare EIS on Disposal of GTCC LLRW are now posted on the web at….” Apparently, this translates to “Comments of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research on the Department of Energy’s Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level Radioactive Waste” (not much of an improvement, though it makes perfect sense for those In The Know). Sad thing is, I’ve seen press materials and even online action alerts intended for the general public that weren’t much more comprehensible. Something like this is fine for insiders, but not for normal political communications — always remember your audience!
As part of an article on Democratic presidential fundraising and Barak Obama’s difficulty in turning money into poll numbers, Perry Bacon Jr. and Matthew Mosk note in today’s Post that Hillary Clinton in particular has a problem: 70% of her campaign’s donors have already given her the maximum $2300 they can contribute during the primary season. By comparison, fewer than half of Obama’s donors have maxed out, in part reflecting his campaign’s success at building a broad base of online supporters who are giving less individually but more in the aggregate.
Of course, once a donor has given the maximum, he or she can still support a candidate by volunteering time, by speaking out in public or private and by encouraging/organizing others to give. But as the big traditional donors attend their last $1000-a-plate dinners, small donors across the country should become every campaign’s target, in part because a campaign can turn to them for money again and again. And, each donor is a potential volunteer and a voice for the campaign in his or her community — once you’ve given to a campaign, you’re INVESTED in it, and you’re much more likely to work to make sure that that investment pays off. Small donors have a value beyond just the money they give — and the barriers to online giving are very low, since all you need is a credit card.
BTW, though it’s not reprinted online, the Post article has a nice chart of what percentage of each major candidate’s donors have contributed the maximum, which also serves as an excellent barometer of the KIND of support they’ve received. Of the eight candidates listed, roughly 70% of donors to the New York twosome (Hillary and Rudy) have maxed out, as have 58% of Romney’s and 51% of both Edwards and McCain’s. The populist predominator and overall winnah: Internet darling Ron Paul, since only 23% of donors to his campaign have contributed the limit — though he’s also only raised $3 million, a tenth of Rudy and Mitt’s respective takes. Interesting numbers all around, and yet another indicator of which candidates have received the favor of the big institutional givers in their parties.
When 30,000 people show up in a small Southern town to protest a racially tinged prosecution, the mainstream media take notice. But for months beforehand, the story of the “Jena Six” was largely spread over our beloved Internets, as NPR details in an excellent online addendum to today’s Morning Edition story on the rallies (NPR’s coverage of the situation in Jena, Louisiana has consistently been good). A loose network of black bloggers raised both awareness AND over $100,000 in donations, while others spread the word through social networking sites:
Many of those posting comments said they first learned of the Jena Six on the Internet. “I am so disappointed with the media right now. I live in Connecticut and I never even heard of this. Honestly if it wasn’t for Facebook, I still wouldn’t know,” wrote Jennifer Hightower.
Yet another example of citizens using the new tools of online communications and social media to organize for political action and to push a story out in front of a mass audience. Groovy.
A little bird dropped something off via email the other day that I thought you guys might be interested in — it’s a new twist on the classic political house party fundraiser. For years, campaigns have organized supporters to throw their own house parties both to raise money and to build enthusiasm. Conference calls with the candidate and/or other Big Names have become a staple of these ritual events. The new twist is that campaigns are beginning to substitute webcasts for the conference calls, at least as an experiment. Here’s the invitation to an upcoming Giuliani party (with the hosts’ names and the address removed to keep you kids from swooping in and drinking all their beer), part of Rudy’s evil plan to raise a million in a single night. A quick Google search shows that the Obama campaign did something similar a couple of weeks ago, although there seem to have been some typical webcast buffering problems.
I suspect that this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon; wouldn’t be the first time I’m late to the party. I’m interested to see how well it works — apparently, the hosts whose invitation I received are going to be hooking their computer up to a big-screen TV. Mmmmmm, low-quality web-video — in hi-def! I wonder if a pre-recorded video clip would work better than a video stream, or would it lose the “you are there” effect?
Hi kids, I’ve pretty well swamped with work the past couple of days and will be in Philly all day Wednesday for meetings. But don’t despair! You should be able to receive your regular dose of e.politics again later in the week, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
One of the marine conservation folks at my day job passed along this little critter yesterday — it’s an online game that uses the classic Space Invaders model, only this time you’re a whale trying to stop Japanese whaling ships by “bumping” them from below with globs of bubbles while at the same time you avoid hitting the little Greenpeace speedboats. The whalers are dropping harpoons on you in return (ouch!). Build points and you get a faster whale (that orca kicks ass!), hit ships enough time and they sink (oh, the humanity). Check the wacky details — the blood that spurts when you’re harpooned, the WW2-style Rising Sun on the ships, and the little mushroom-head sailors (are they wearing hats???) who bounce and flail (and drown?) when you bump a boat.
According to the site stats, the game site has collected almost 400,000 signatures since its launch a year and a half ago. Interestingly, it seems to have been created by a random web development company in Australia as an awareness-raising device — no doubt both for the whales and for the company. It’s a good example of how a game can be a practical way to net email addresses for an activist list. Just don’t forget the fun — ain’t nobody gonna play it if it sucks.
Interesting findings from a new study of the use of text messaging to send day-before-election reminders to vote — 5% ain’t bad, and it sure was cheap ($1.56 per vote vs.$20-$70 for other methods). Conducted by the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project, Working Assets and researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton, the study looked at the effects of SMS GOTV reminders in the 2006 general election on a group of 4000 people selected at random from a pool of over 8000 new voters. Researchers checked polling records to see how many texters had voted and compared that with the control population. According to the actual paper, the 5% difference was statistically significant, and follow-up questioning of participants showed that positive responses far outweighed any backlash.
A couple of observations — as people sign up for more text notifications, they may not be as effective as in this example, and obviously we’ll want to see follow-up work on different populations. Still, it’s good to see some initial confirmation of the idea that text messaging is useful for building last-minute turnout. Note that campaigns and state parties may want to coordinate their text outreach, since people may recoil from receiving more than one go-vote-dammit message on their cell phones (a barrage of ten of them would suck). Let’s be careful not to poison the well before we’re finished drankin’ from it. Thanks to Mike Connery at Future Majority for the initial tip.
According to today’s Post, Mark Warner announced yesterday that he’s running for Virginia’s now-open Senate seat — via an email to his supporter list. That’s not the first sign that the former tech executive would rely heavily on the Internet: before he bailed on the presidential race late in 2006, his campaign was already noteworthy for an intelligent and innovative approach to the ‘net. For details, see this post-mortem discussion of Warner’s presidential campaign by key members of his online staff, and also this piece on Jerome Armstrong in Personal Democracy Forum. Warner says that he won’t start campaigning in earnest until November, so between now and then, let’s keep an eye on whom he hires for his online staff.
In other election news, check out the multiple hatchet-strikes administered to Ol’ Fred today in the Post op-ed pages. George Will takes a solid swing at him over campaign-finance reform, a particular Will bugaboo, as well as the claims to piety of a man who rarely makes it to church. Bob Novak brings it dirty and nasty (shocker) with the claim that Thompson’s biggest problem is his close advisors — and has Republican political operatives willing to go on record by name to back him up. C.f. David Broder’s generally favorable column on Mitt Romney, and you can see the pundit-industrial complex indicating its collective preference. All bow before it.