Posts tagged ‘Social Enterprise’

#PRFail: Chase’s Transparency Mishaps

an Open letter to Chase about their Community Giving Initiative from by Nathaniel Whittemore of

Dear JP Morgan & Chase,

You’ve recently made waves in the social change community with your Chase Community Giving initiative, a $5 million Facebook giveaway contest. Unfortunately, you’ve also demonstrated some pretty bonehead anti-transparency tendencies which have hurt your brand with exactly the people you were supposed to be getting excited. Further, you’ve demonstrated a lack of understanding about how nonprofits really work. You’ve got an awesome opportunity to literally be the coolest contest there has ever been, but you’ve got some work to do.

First, lets be clear about your motivations for the $5 million giveaway. It is almost certainly true that your staff care about community involvement and giving something back. It is also almost certainly true that your marketing department and leadership determined that that caring, combined with the distribution power of the internet, could be great for brand building at a time when banks are somewhere between sour milk and sinus infections in the public eye. In short, Chase cares, and they *really* want us to know about it.

This is pretty much the way branding efforts around doing good happen. A genuine interest in doing good comes together with a genuine interest in the ability to sell the company as one that cares about good, and it happens. The key is making sure that the marketing actually reflects the company’s practice – or perhaps the other way around.

You have committed two major boo-boos with potentially far ranging consequences for the success of your branding efforts. Both of them belie a problematic anti-transparency that just doesn’t work in the digital world, and a fundamental lack of understanding of the real cost of nonprofit work.

Boo-Boo #1: No Leaderboard

The first mistake you made was that you didn’t have a public leaderboard. The contest was all about getting the most votes, and your calculation was, I’m sure, that if groups knew their total but didn’t know how their total compared to others, they would push harder and harder. To take it even farther, you actually took down individual charity’s totals with a few days to go to “build excitement among the broadest number of participants.”

Chase, I don’t know if you’re reading, but let me be clear about something:

This made you look like jerks.

Sorry, it had to be said. By not having a public leaderboard, you demonstrated your lack of understanding of the cost to nonprofits of a) the time it takes to ask people to do things for you and b) the social capital cost of asking for favors. Your lack of this one piece of transparency made groups go out on a limb to research their competition (which took an immense amount of time away from the good work that they do outside of their fundraising apparatus) and put them in the unenviable position of having to ask people to help without clear information about how likely that help was to actually achieve anything. All those groups that didn’t win actually probably lost some good will.

Read the rest here

The moral of the story is this: while social media is in many ways an “open” form of communication, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. It also doesn’t mean that there there aren’t any rules of engagement, which Chase did not follow during their Community Giving campaign.

In any contest driven by the use of social media  there needs to be clear rules that lay out who all the players are, and what the process is for qualifying or not qualifying. It is also up to the company in question to let people know where they stand at every stage of the competition…if that is really what this campaign was about. It’s been argued that the whole Community Giving campaign was really just an advertisement for chase…which is another post and another story entirely.

In my last post, I talked about the recent study that companies that use social media are more successful…but perhaps we need to also take a look at how responsible companies are when using social media to create a base or to attract partnerships with non-profit organization in the name of being “good corporate citizens.”


We are the Possible

Friend and fellow blogger Rosetta Thurman  interviewed me for  this week’s series, “We are the Possible”. Check it out!

How did you become involved in doing the work of social change?

For most of my childhood my parents did work in our church community and they were devoted to education and creating better opportunities for youth in our neighborhood and in our congregation. They developed a series of training for young people about everything from STDs to preparing for college. Seeing the way they connected to the needs of teens inspired me to do that kind of work when I got to college. I tried to find the best possible ways to reach out to the Black community on campus and not on help amplify our voice at a predominately white school, but also to build safe spaces for Black women on and off campus.

What causes are most important to you? 

Access to reproductive health is pretty important to me. It goes beyond abortion for me;  in my opinion every woman and girl should have the access to quality reproductive healthcare and sexual health education. I am also passionate about closing the achievement gap and providing creative outlets for inner-city youth. I believe that by providing safe spaces for youth they will have healthy alternatives to drugs and gangs and ultimately will be excited about furthering their education and bettering our communities.

Elledub on the radio!-This Sunday, April 20th

On this Sunday from 6-7pm, I will be featured on Rosetta Thurman’s BlogTalkRadio Show on Non-Profit professionals and the quest for a good salary. As a Non-Profit gal, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart.

Rosetta is the Director of Development at Non Profit Roundtable and her blog, Perspectives from the Pipeline, focuses on diversity and other issues young professionals face in the Non-Profit sector.

Click here this Sunday at 6pm to tune in and perhaps ask a question or two.