Is charity the new greed?

by Mathew on December 8, 2008 · 31 comments

Anyone looking for a test case in how Twitter can be used to pull a community together — apart from little things like the Obama campaign, of course :-) — might want to consider a recent Toronto phenomenon called HoHoTo. A holiday party for Hogtown geeks and friends started as the germ of an idea about 10 days ago, after Twitterers in Montreal mentioned that they were having one. Not to be outdone, my friend (and fellow mesh organizer) Rob Hyndman started talking up the idea of a Toronto holiday party, and soon a group of make-it-happen types like Ryan Taylor as well as Michael O’Connor Clarke, organizational genius Sheri Moore from MCC Planners (another member of the mesh team), Modernmod and Ryan Coleman and others joined the conversation.

Someone suggested that all the revenue from tickets ($10) could go to the Daily Bread Food Bank, then another person said they knew someone at a local venue called The Mod Club (which has donated the space), another offered to put together a website, someone offered to DJ, and sponsors started crawling out of the woodwork. By the end of the week, almost $10,000 had been raised for Daily Bread, powered almost entirely by Twitter — a sign that the “flash crowd” phenomenon (which I’ve written about before) can be used for positive things as well as for negative things. There are now over 60 pages of Twitter messages about #hohoto.

In a similar vein, my friend Rachel Sklar — who until recently was the editor of Eat The Press section of The Huffington Post — has created a charitable site called Charitini.com. Using the occasion of her 36th birthday as an opportunity, Rachel decided to let people buy her drinks — but instead of buying them, donate an equivalent amount to a charity of their choice. One of the inspirations for this approach was a Toronto-based startup called EchoAge.com, which allows families throwing birthday parties to accept charitable donations (half the money raised goes toward a single present, and the other half goes to charity).

How do social networks like Twitter allow communities to form? Give people a cause they think is worthy, and then get out of the way :-)

Update:

Tamera Kramer of Wildfire Strategic Marketing has a great post along the same lines about #hohoto, and lessons for companies looking at social media strategies.

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