Donation by Action: The New Social Charity Model

rss imageDrew Olanoff was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May of 2009 and launched For every person that follows @DrewFromTV, Drew Carey will donate $1 to Olanoff’s charity of choice, LIVESTRONG.

2009 was a heck of a year for technology. In the age of sharing, mini-sharing, and micro-sharing, something unexpected happened: A lot of good actually came out of it. And I was lucky enough to be involved in a real renaissance of caring, action, and good old fashioned awareness-raising.

With the economy in the shape that it’s in, bouncing back or not, charitable donations go to the bottom of everyone’s to-do list. “I’ll donate money to charity next year.” That’s definitely something I’ve said, until May 20th, 2009, when I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

Being a geek and a sharer, I had one of two options: I could have packed it in and stopped working, tweeting, updating Facebook, and sharing for 6-7 months; or I could take this opportunity to do something good. I could do something that until a few years ago, couldn’t be done with such proficiency and impact. I could take you on a really scary journey with me.


Lance Armstrong Tweet Image

Clearly, I didn’t opt to hide away. Instead, I started a web site with my friend Mike Demers (who beat Hodgkins himself) called where on Twitter you could blame my cancer for whatever you like. The hook? By doing so, I promised that I would find a way to raise one dollar for each unique person who blamed my cancer for something.

How was I going to do this? I had no idea. But I pledged to worry about that. All you needed to do was take an action and raise awareness about a horrible disease. In the process, I stumbled upon a new “business model” for raising money for charity: Donation by Action. No money needed from you. Just your heart and your tweets.

It took off. Nearly 15,000 people (most of whom had no clue who I was) blamed my cancer for everything from the band Nickelback, to global warming, to losing their own friends or family members to the disease. I had struck a nerve, it was (and still is) powerful. We raised way more than $15,000 for the awesome Lance Armstrong Foundation LIVESTRONG.

During the past 7 months (most of which I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments and felt like garbage), me and a team of lifelong friends from Philadelphia threw a 24 hour “Blame-A-Thon,” appeared on local TV stations, CNN, and got picked up by tons of blogs from every corner of the web. This was working. The masses took an action, and I found other people and businesses to donate.

Two Famous Drews

Drew Tweet Image

Looking toward the end of my treatment, I decided to take it to another level. I’m the owner of the Twitter name@drew. It’s a pretty neat party trick to say “I’m Drew on Twitter.” Recognizing the value of that, I decided to (with Evan Williams’ and Twitter’s blessing) put my username up for auction to benefit LIVESTRONG. After January 1st, I won’t be @Drew anymore, but it’s worth it.

There are two famous Drews I thought would bite: Drew Barrymore or Drew Carey. Little did I know, Drew Barrymore publicly stated that she disliked Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet in general, despite dating a Mac (Justin Long from the famous Apple commercials).

While at Starbucks in San Francisco I saw a tweet pass by from someone who goes by @DrewFromTV. It was Drew Carey, the host of The Price is Right.

Drew CNN Image

He had bid the asking price of $10,000, and took it to another level by starting a bidding war with himself — raising the price to $100,000. Then, he dropped the bomb: If Drew Carey got one million followers by December 31st, 2009 he’d donate one million dollars to LIVESTRONG. Even if he didn’t get to a million, he’d still donate $1 for everyone who followed him.





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