case studies, fundraising, Google Plus

Interview with Carter Gibson: A Google + Fundraising Story

2 Comments 21 September 2011

The newest form of social media fundraising has arrived, and as far as I can tell, it may be one of the first instances I’ve seen of a purely Google+-based fundraiser. This fundraiser was created just hours ago, and it immediately grabbed my attention. Carter Gibson, an American University senior, announced this afternoon through his Google Plus account:

And others were inspired by this act.

Intrigued, I began to chat with Carter on Google+, in order to find out more about his inspiration, experience using Google+ for fundraising, how he’s going to follow-up on this fundraiser, and how the fundraiser is faring seven hours after it has begun. This is our Google+ interview:

Why are you raising money for the Red Cross’ Horn of Africa Relief?

I was in Best Buy today looking to buy something when I realized that either I a.) had what I wanted or b.) nothing really caught my eye. I returned home and realized that, even though I am very poor college student, I had to use my money in a better way. I’ve been working with Daria Musk on various projects that have really gotten me fired up to start giving back more. I had originally heard about the Horn of Africa during my internship at the Ad Council and felt compelled to do my part to get involved.

Why through G+? (And…what was the inspiration?)

I’ve never been part of a social network that makes me feel grateful to be a part of it until Google+. The relationships I’ve built on here are meaningful and powerful. Facebook is a place for friends and “friends” aren’t always the most reliable when it comes to supporting causes because that’s not what Facebook is necessarily “for.” Google+ on the other hands demands cerebral interactions in order to get the most out of it. People feel an innate obligation to support one another and I wanted to capitalize on that.

It was an obvious choice for me to use a platform that has a foundation promoting collaboration and support of other community member’s drives and ambitions.

The reason I made the requirement for people to circle me instead of +1’ing my post is because I don’t want to simply fundraise, I want to raise awareness and create activists. +1’ing is lazy and it’s become all people expect to have to do to make a difference. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. People need to be engaging other people in order to make a meaningful impact. By resharing and circling, my post has been shared across who knows how many different circles creating awareness. I would much rather have 100 new contacts to engage than 1,000 +1s.

As you are using the platform to raise funds, what are the issues with using G+ for fundraising that you’ve come across? How would you change them to make it easier for you? What are the plus sides to using G+ for your challenge?

I think that, especially in a beta, it’s up to users to find creative ways to use a platform and I think I did that. In the future I would hope to see Google+ implement something like KickStarter or Google Checkout (which they need to do right and is probably pretty far down the line).

The main advantage here is the kind of person Google+ attracts. This is an interactive forum on the large-scale with people who sincerely want to connect and help other people.

What do you say to the naysayers that think you’re just in it to increase the number of circles you are in?

I don’t have any harsh words for the naysayers, rather, the questions they’re asking are the right questions to ask – “Isn’t this self-serving? This is a scam. He won’t do it” are all questions any intelligent internet user should ask. If they circle me, and my other content enough to not uncircle me after Friday, then I’ve expanded the number of people I can reach out and they’ve gained another interesting person in their stream.

In response however I stress that I’m here to create activists and raise awareness.

In all honesty, I’ve built so many relationships on Google+ that I can’t possibly afford to flake out. The point I’m trying to make here, to as many people as possible, is if a poor college student can afford to donate, why can’t you? I think that’s the much more important question to ask.

When you allude to “if you do circle me…you’ll see more opportunities in the future to help out,” what do you have in mind? (see second screenshot, above)

Judging on how this all works out (and it seems to be doing quite well) I’ll do something exactly like this in the future. As for any other future plans, my wheels are turning and I do have some give-back plans that I can’t talk about yet, but they are on a much larger scale.

What results have you seen (four hours into it) of your fundraising G+ campaign?

I have 102 shares in 4hrs and hundred of comments and likes on all of them. I’m up to donating about $100, based on the 182 new circles I’ve been placed in.

Editor’s note: Carter began the fundraiser in 1,244 circles, and he’s now in 1,426 circles.

How are you viewing and relating to your new G+ friends? How will you nurture those relationships? What can they expect from you on G+?

It’s too much to keep up with everyone right now, but I will be going through my circle notifications later tonight and tomorrow to scope out interesting people supporting me. I plan to circle back as many interesting people as I can.

As for what they can expect, I’m a social media blogger specifically on Google+. I write many editorials, lists, and the occasional breaking news piece. I’m also a HUGE fan of Hangouts and love engaging with people through them (almost all of my Hangouts are public). Additionally they can expect me to blog about non-profits through the Ad Council. Basically technology, news, satire, social media, Hangouts, and funny stuff every once in a while.

Engaging and responding is something I try to do very often. I don’t take my connections for granted.

What’s next for you?

Gosh! Who knows! Isn’t that the #1 question for a college senior!? Right now I’m just going to keep blogging, making relationships, staying in touch with the Ad Council, and continuing the job search.

Update: Carter held an open Google Hangout with Extras on Friday to talk about the fundraiser. By Friday, Carter was added to 786 circles, his updates were shared over 450 times, and he ultimately donated $393 to the Red Cross Horn of Africa relief fund.

Carter Gibson is a college senior from Virginia, Beach, VA attending American University, where he is pursuing a BSBA with a specialization in Marketing and a BA in Film & Media Arts. He’s a huge film buff and marketing fascinates him. On top of all that, he is a roller coaster junkie. Carter blogs about blog about non-profits and social media at the Ad Council’s and about Google Plus at PlusHeadlines. You can circle him on Google plus here.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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