Monday, November 28, 2005

Creative Commons and Logo Rights

I may be way way off base here - and I would love some comments...

On a regular basis, I get requests from small businesses who want to donate a percentage of their profits to our cause online. The request in most cases is something like "My wife had lymphoma. I have an online business and want to donation 10% of all my sales to your organization. What do I need to do to get started?"

The typical responses I am familiar with are:
  • No response... or,
  • Terrific! Give us $25,000 and you can use our logo
For most small/micro business owners, neither of those responses do anything other than frustrate and anger the volunteer. In examining non-profit history, many successful non-profits were built on the backs of these very small business owners locally.

In thinking about this situation, I came up with a somewhat unique thought around how to say yes to these volunteers and let them go on supporting our mission and our cause. My thought is to put a special partner version of our logo/marks into a Creative Commons license and allow certain types of businesses to utilize that mark to generate donations for us through cause related promotions.

I tried something similar while at the March of Dimes but we put way too many restrictions on the program and made it too hard for companies to simply start helping. I've also spoken to reps from BeFree and LinkShare, but we couldn't figure out how to make the model work (after all, they gotta get paid!).

I realize that this line of thinking is fraught with challenges - but how can any non-profit ignore the potential of a massively engaged grassroots network who wants to help but is repeatedly told to go away? It doesn't seem right to me.

Do you have lots of small businesses asking if they can make a donation to you? How do you handle it? What rights are you giving them in using your logo?

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