There continues to be a rabid debate swirling around Oprah’s The Big Give. My take? I just don’t see evidence that it’s motivating a groundswell of giving and volunteering at the local level. Wish I did.
The show is just too fake. People aren’t biting, even though the mainstream attention the show has brought to causes and the nonprofit sector is all good. The potential was there; here are some of the ways I imagined nonprofits could leverage Big Give attention. But not that much is happening.
Here are a few reasons why the show remains small potatoes:
- The show is typical reality, giving is just the rubric. Nothing more. No modeling of true civic action here.No implicit training of citizens on they can work with/via orgs with issue, policy and program expertise to advance what’s important to them. The creators should have woven nonprofits into the show.
- The show site’s link to VolunteerMatch force a prospective volunteer to click four times to get to the action page. Same with the links to Network for Good for giving.Every click is one more deterrent to action.
- Oprah’s company, Harpo Productions, is holding tight to the copyrighted Big Give brand. Despite repeated requests for discussion with the legal team, I never got the reasoning behind this dictum. Too bad they won’t share the goods to replicate more locally-based, sustainable attention and action for nonprofits throughout the US.
On the up side, ABC (Oprah’s network) offered $10,000 seed money up to a total of $1 million to any affiliate eager to leverage it into a greater sum. Not that 10k is huge; but these efforts are engaging folks in a more real, more personal, and possibly more sustained way.
Many of the affiliates are simply choosing one great organization, and broadcasting a request for donations. But here’s a much more creative strategy: Sarasota, Florida’s affiliate asked viewers to make an online donation to one of three local charities. The group that raises the most money wins an additional $10,000 bonus(the network’s gift); the other two keep whatever they raise. Best yet, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County is handling all the contributions at no cost, so 100% of donated dollars get to selected charities. That’s a smart use of community expertise.
I’m hoping to see more awareness of, and action for, key social issues coming from the Big Give. Right now, the impact seems very small. Let’s move on. There are bigger fish to fry.
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