What motivates someone to champion a cause or support a charity? Usually it’s a direct experience, a personal connection, or a powerful story about a friend, or friend of a friend, that touches your life and creates an emotional tie to the cause. It’s those stories that generate awareness and spark a desire to make a difference. And there is no better medium to share them, and recount those compelling encounters, than the Internet. No ad or marketing message could ever evoke the emotion needed to embrace a nonprofit’s mission better than a resonant real life story.
Under the vision of Michael Hoffman, See3 was created to bring these stories to life through new media. A media and non-profit veteran, Michael’s blog was named a must-read by the Nonprofit Times and he is frequently quoted in trade journals, industry blogs and the mainstream press. He is also co-founder of DoGooderTV, a video-sharing site for causes, and EarthFirst.com, a fast-growing green news and information site, and is considered an authority in Web 2.0 for social change. He brings these strengths to client engagements for See3 and orchestrates vivid memorable masterpieces that spread across the cyberverse and create a collective consciousness toward change. For See3, it’s not just about the greater good; it’s about the viral good. And their ability to harness the tools of technology to catalyze communications is making the media the message… and that message can be felt through heartfelt clicks around the world.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
I think we are waking up to the fact that the division between nonprofit and for-profit hasn’t served us well, and we have learned a few things that have recently come to people’s attention:
- Even large amounts of nonprofit money – think Gates Foundation, for example – are a pittance compared to the forces of the economy. We can’t attempt to fix big problems with only nonprofit resources.
- Poor people – the target of most philanthropy – represent a real market. A market for what? Microloans, for example, have become a staple of the banking business now. But clean water, better light, better housing, better food, and many other things are all things low income people will pay for. And there are billions of low-income people who are ready to find better alternatives in their lives – it’s a big market.
- People in the first world have too much crap. The movement has been developing for years now, but the economic meltdown is making many more people think about meaning in their lives and separating the meaning from the stuff. People are looking for meaning, and companies that provide meaning will have an easier time selling their stuff.
- Our world is in trouble, particularly around the environment. We simply can’t do things the same way we’ve always done them.
All of these issues have combined to create this “for-profit philanthropy” which I see as putting market forces to work to make the world better. I see this as different than cause marketing – where brand does one thing (shoes or coffee or whatever) and uses money from sales to support another thing (hospital, clean water, etc).
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
See3 is a company built to help causes move forward online. That’s what we do. We believe that new media must be a central piece in any theory of change. This means we need to take new media out of just the communications department and into the program if we want to change the world. At See3 we are creating original content and helping causes and businesses who support causes tell their stories effectively online.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
Our customers are mostly nonprofit organizations who are learning to use the amazing power of the Internet to advance their mission. When they combine compelling storytelling with new forms of delivery online, they are seeing the results in the outcomes of attention, donations and advocacy.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
I believe we are waking up to the fact that all the crap we have been told to buy doesn’t make us happy. We are searching for meaning, and seeing that the world we always thought was moving forward in progress is actually being destroyed [in the name of that progress]. We are seeing the gaps between rich and poor expanding. We are seeing that 2 billion people – 2 billion - live on less than $2/day. We are also realizing that we have been complicit in this situation because of how we spend our money. And so companies that tap into our desire to change the world, to create a more sustainable and fair future, will see results.
Traditional advertising is dying and this means companies can’t simply force messages down people’s throats and expect it to pay off. They have to make meaning, and make stories that will be compelling so that friends will tell friends and so on. This change in how people discover products and decide what to purchase is driving that change. Companies that don’t think about what they can do to become more socially responsible in their business and decide what change they want to help bring about, are going to lose.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
Good intentions are not enough to make change. You have to plan and consult with others. You have to test your theory and see what will actually work in real life. Sustainability is critical. The goal should be not simply to make a change once, but to create a new system that will sustain itself over time while making the world better. And if you don’t have technology and new media components to your plan, you are missing the critical component for lasting change.
Name: Michael Hoffman
Company: See3 Communications
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | 773-784-7333