Monday, November 26, 2007

What's The Point?

I'll tell you what the point is....

Not the point of anything, in particular, but a website called thepoint.com . A website that uses the organizing potential of the internet to get really big things done by lots of little people. (actually you can still get things done if you are a really big person, too. They don't discriminate against big people at The Point.)

Anyway, It works like this. As one little person, you figure you can't tell a big, multi-global corporation what to do. Or you can't achieve some really large accomplishment, like building a skatepark in your town, or raising a barn, buying a keg, whatever. So you look at the thing you want to get done, and think of how many people out there would need to get involved to get it done, or to make a real, substantive demonstration. Then you set your campaign to "tip" at the point when that many people sign up, pledging to take the specified action.

Then when users drop by to visit the site, they can sign up for your campaign, pledging to take action when enough other people have signed on. If your cause is hopeless, and nobody cares enough (for now) to get anything done, then you have saved yourself the time and effort of being a one man protest. (or a one-woman protest, whatever.) If your cause is shared, and taken up by enough other people in the world, then your campaign "tips", letting everyone who signed up know that the time for the designated action is NOW. If these people all make good on their pledges (a big "if", since they are unaccountable, anonymous, web users), then the action begins. (people begin boycotting, picketing, writing/phoning congresspersons, etc.)

Another method of using the site is to fundraise for things. You can set your sights higher, knowing that no-one is spending a dime, unless enough people pledge. If you can afford 90% of a project, nobody spends a dime. if you can afford 100% of a project, everybody ponies up their fair share. The awesome thing with this method of fundraising is that it really increases the giver's awareness of the need for their particular contribution. They see, in a very real way, that if they do not help this project, then this project will not happen.

Contrast this with NPR's semi-annual Pledge Drives. We give to these because we are guilted into it, not because we have any sense of real need for our particular contribution. I have given to NPR at some points in the last few years. Some seasons, though, I did not give any money to NPR, and you know what? The next week, when the pledge drive was over, NPR was still on the air! You don't, as a consumer get the idea that without your 35 dollars, NPR is going to have to pack up its broadcast tower and go home. With The Point, though, you see the total figure needed to make the campaign "tip", and if it is close to that point when you get there, then can't you go just a little further to be the one to make it happen?

Well, My first $52 charitable Donation has been pledged, via The Point, to their "Nothing But Nets" campaign, to send a shipment of 300 mosquito-killing bed nets to East Africa, protecting 300 families from malaria-spreading mosquitoes. I won't go into the specifics of NothingButNets here, but you can read all about them at the campaign page. To get there, go check out My Profile Page, and click on the campaign that I am a member of. If you create an account while you are there, add me as a contact; We could be buddies! A note of caution, though, before you pledge money. The money that you pledge today might not be charged to your card for months. For this reason I recommend using an open line of credit, rather than a check card/debit card, especially if you tend to ride close to the bottom edge of your checking account. You don't want your pledge of $100 to be honored when you only have $45 in the account. Being Overdrawn can lead to some very not-good things.