Thursday, July 27, 2006

Second Life & NPO's - a critical look

I stumbled upon a terrific post on the Second Thoughts blog. It's a bit wordy (no offense) but is very worth the read as a counter-point/balance to all the wonderful press and blog activity surrounding Second Life Relay for Life. I have no idea who the blogger is other than he's someone who lives and works in SL.

I did read though all the comments - some good (and some not so good) stuff in there. I'm all about the discourse though.

Some of his more important point include:
  • Is much/all of charity work "part of the old reputation-enhancement game for which SL is famous?" To be honest, I have no idea - but even if it is, who cares- more awareness typically leads to more funds and services for patients. That's a good thing I think. If Linden wants to partner with charities to bring more users to SL - sign me up.
  • He points out the abundant media criticism (link can be found on this original post) surrounding large charities - and I think he's right. I learned my freshman year in college that perception is reality. If I say the sky is pink then it's pink! That said, big charities (all charities) need to work smart, but the public also needs to realize that effective business leadership is required to run large charities. Those leaders need salaries, training, travel budgets etc... It's a delicate balance and clearly, there are recent examples of abuse in the system. NPO's aren't the only ones that need to shape up though: how about a round of applause for Enron and Worldcom. Yes, more money (as much as possible) should go to fufull the mission... but the reality is that if NPO's don't hire the right folks to fundraising and execute the mission, nothing good happens.
  • The post also seems to be making a point about elitism within SL ("the community" is made up of the limited cadres of Linden lifers and FIC types and their stable of talented builders and scripters who work like mad against terrible odds). After I posted about my impressions of SL Relay for Life, I started to think about how we'd actually go about starting up something and was immediately stopped by the fact that I don't have a cadre of willing, technical volunteers, nor do I have the support and time from Linden or consulting companies who can help us understand how to build a successful virtual event.
I feel like I'm reviewing this post and that's not my intent... I'm very happy to see some sort of counterpoint to all the publicity around SLRFL - it validates some of my thinking that virtual fundraising is a lot harder that it appears to be and that the early returns will be small and hard to justify. That said, I also believe that "virtual fundraising" is about to happen at some substantial level. It's not too hard to imagine the virtual fundraising market to be well over $1 million a year within a few years (and even that number may be sandbagging it).

Before I close this post, I want to point out (again) my own observations that SL is in a very early adopter stage. The bandwidth, hardware and time requirements create a techno-elite environment - one that I believe will change over time (don't you remember when no one knew what a URL was or never heard of Google?). Just because we're not there yet... it's a good thing that ACS is doing/leading in opening up new fundraising venues because if I hear one more time about some unique idea for a charity walk I think I'll go mad.

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