Friday, February 26, 2010

Oops, They Did It Again?

Here we go again. A corporate contest that uses social media to raise money and recognition for good causes is being cited for unfair meddling.

Last month, Chase Community Challenge got into trouble for allegedly disqualifying three nonprofits - Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, and an anti-abortion group, Justice for All -- over concerns it had about associating the Chase brand with their missions, even though the three organizations were among the favorites of those eligible to vote for them. [Chase also took a drubbing for failing to provide a clear leader board to let "do-good" groups keep tabs of the votes during the contest.]

Now it's Pepsi Refresh's turn to stumble. According to an article by philanthropy reporter Stephanie Strom that ran today in The New York Times, Pepsi Refresh -- which plans to give $20 million to good causes this year -- "accidentally gave a charity currently on top of its rankings a little boost by allowing it to submit some materials after its own submission deadline," Strom wrote. Materials submitted by the Joyful Heart Foundation, a charity founded by Law & Order star Mariska Hargitay to help victims of sexual assault, were updated after the submission deadline -- which is against the contest rules. This, Strom reported, "upset some of the contestants who wondered whether Pepsi was doing favors for a celebrity. 'I can't edit my own submission, so how did she do it?' said one who insisted on anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his chances" of winning prize money.

Strom also quoted Jill Beraud, chief marketing office for the American beverages unit at Pepsi, as saying it was an honest mistake. "We didn't follow our guidelines to the letter," Beraud told Strom. "The bottom line is that we've learned from this and we're moving on." Beraud says Pepsi, as a result, will give away three $250,000 prizes this month instead of two as originally planned.

What is it about these corporate contests that makes it so hard for administrators to stop meddling over the outcomes? Transparency bites? Let us hear from you.

(Photo: Flickr)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is endemic of the larger challenge nonprofits face. We jump through hoops, sometimes very acrobatic hoops with bizarre forms, redundant questionnaires, reports that require major investments of staff time (and $) only to learn that oftentimes funding is based on friendships, status, etc. They should disqualify the group that received an unfair benefit or grant them funds some other way if that is their purpose. If I ever had the funds to start a foundation, I'd have a one page application and 2 years of financials and a cup of coffee with the ED and board president. Will they ever learn?

February 26, 2010 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

See also the spirited conversation about this post, which also appeared on Feel free to jump in!

February 27, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

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