Is charity a profitable strategy?

The Angel

He didn't answer my LinkedIn connect request!

Reid Hoffman is the man you want to have as your angel investor. He gets it. And if he gets your company then that’s a sure sign that you might just be on to something. Not that he has actually cashed in on that $1bn LinkedIn valuation just yet. However, once he does there are signs that he might do a Bill and Melinda and apply his expertise to philanthropic ventures.

At Silicon Valley’s TEDxSV on the weekend he confirmed that he wants to be a public intellectual. He went on to explain that he thinks that the same tools that drive social media can help cause-based foundations create platforms for change. TechCrunch reported that, “One of the things that Hoffman finds interesting is that corporations, because they have the reach of millions of people…can make cause-based initiatives part of their web based platform. This is exemplified by Facebook’s Causes application.”

Personally I am more interested in seeing LinkedIn list as a profitable company, and seeing Facebook convert its 350 million members into cash, than I am in looking at how cause-based organizations can use crowdsourcing to drive change. Let’s see the model refined and proven as a for-profit strategy first.

That’s just my personal area of interest though, and there is no reason that companies and charities can’t move in parallel. The issues that cause-based organizations are trying to solve are usually extremely complex, and if they can leverage mass collaboration to solve these problems then the profit-driven companies can probably learn a lot from how they do it.

Customers Become the Brand
Also, I would like to explore the idea of companies using their business web platforms for charitable activities. Bringing in their customers as part of this might just make it a profitable venture. A brand sharing a common world outlook with its customers – as they engage together in charitable activties the customer moves from outside to inside the brand. Now that’s brand loyalty.

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