The Reality of Giving — Oprah Scooped Me

Update — How to Become a Big Give Contestent

I swear to you that just yesterday morning I was ruminating on how to get "Giving" into the mainstream (and yes, the extensive article on giving — What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You — in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is a good start, but realistically reaches only a tiny segment of prospective donors), and realized that a giving reality show was the only way to go.

Reality shows are one of today’s common denominators. And when you want to popularize a concept or practice, common denominator is the way to go.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard about Oprah’s plan to pay it forward — The Big Give.
The Big Give — the first philanthropy reality show (AND IT’S IN PRIMETIME) — will features 10 people  challenged to take the money and resources they are given and multiply them to come up with the most powerful, sensational, emotional and dramatic ways to give to others. Each week the group will face a "big catch" that will test their nerve, drive, ingenuity and passion. Throughout the episodes, the field will be narrowed through a unique method. The stakes will get higher and higher, with one person ultimately being chosen to have his/her wildest dream come true for making the biggest impact.

The eight-episode series will center on the drama, emotion and magic of making a difference in peoples’ lives. The concept mirrors a recent installment of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which Oprah gave audience members gift cards worth $1,000 to use for a charitable cause.

Love it! Readers, I’ll be following The Big Give as it comes to life, and reporting back to you. Who’s better to popularize philanthropy than Oprah? The woman has the
charisma, and the market savvy, to do it, and to do it well.

Nancy Schwartz on December 19, 2006 in Advertising, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Marketing News, Philanthropy, Television | 9 comments

  • Adrian Pyle

    Thanks for featuring this item. Efforts to creatively engender genersoity are well worth our attention. Coming from my own philasophical perspective, my questions re this initiative are:
    Should generosity be driven by the desire for fame or in response to one’s competitive drive (indeed, is this really generosity)?
    Does it matter if it enegenders generosity?
    One reason it might matter is this: It will be interesting to see whether the creative ideas of the contestants are based on a deep sense of understanding of those to whom the contestants are being “generous”
    ….or just a desire to feel good and win the show. In other words, we’ve got to watch that we don’t do more harm than good in pursuit of fame or a good feeling.

  • Nana

    I am really curious to know more about the details of this show! Does anybody know anything else?

  • Wendy Collier

    Does anyone know if there is a plan for a second season and another Casting Call and when that might be? I assume this will depend on the shows success but just wondered if anyone has info. on future opportunities of participating. I missed the online deadline and Casting Calls.

  • maureen sullivan

    I sent my tape in from Hawaii two days before the 23 cut off. I hope i got noticed. i cant image that they would pass on my smarts…when i was homeless and hungry for two three years when i first moved to the islands…i just spent all my timein book stores, learning and think of the very things this show is about because i got to experience the other side. maureen 808 782 1000

  • Y

    It’s amazing! A school located in Chicago, was a recent recipient of a ‘Big Give’. I witnessed it and it was exactly what I think the show was hoping to achieve…the children and families involved will never forget and the gift will last and benefit future students as well.

  • Sherri

    What’s the status of the Big Give show? I’ve read that there’s a lawsuit with Harpo productions on this show. Do you think it will air, as planned?

  • Robert from VolunteerMatch. We were very happy to be tapped by Oprah’s Harpo Productions and our friends at Network for Good as the partner to power the volunteering engine at the official Big Give web site.
    You can see the collaboratively branded site here:
    As many in the nonprofit community may already know, VolunteerMatch provides cause marketing “solutions” for corporations and other groups who are serious about connecting with our well-known public network of nonprofit volunteer opportunities.
    Although we had long wanted to team up with Oprah and her Harpo Productions on an official “giving back” project,” our ideas hadn’t really gotten much traction. (Not surprising, considering the rapid pace of TV production and what must be a slew of pitches Oprah’s team gets from other charities and nonprofit service providers.)
    That changed this winter with the Big Give project.
    We were brought in at the recommendation of our friends at NFG, who already knew the power of our network and how effective it can be for connecting volunteers in any ZIP code to great opportunities to give back. Happily, they weren’t afraid to point the Harpo folks to a partner with such specific capability. (Thanks, NFG!)
    Our situation may be unique, but there’s nonetheless something that other nonprofits can learn from this. Focus on your mission and your programs, and avoid duplication with other agencies. By building a reputation for being the best at what you do, other organizations will begin seeing you as an extension of what they are trying to do. That’s the core idea behind “partnership.”
    Robert Rosenthal
    VolunteerMatch Team

  • Maddy King

    A Big Resounding BOO to the
    Home Depot Corporation.
    After the first airing of
    The Big Give on March 2nd, and the details of the shooting and death of Tom Egan,
    a Home Depot employee, whose widow and 2 daughters were the
    focus of one of the Big Give teams
    Home Depot really looked like the greedy corporate schmucks they are…with no sense of community.
    It took Oprah, The Big Give, and total strangers to bring attention to his family that was devastated by the loss of a husband and father.
    You would have thought the least Home Depot would have done was take up a collection or pay off this loyal employee’s mortgage.
    Hooray for The Big Give!
    Hooray for Oprah!
    (and another BIG BOO!
    to Home Depot for their lack of
    support to the Tom Egan family)

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