Congratulations to Elk Grove Unified’s Franklin Elementary School and Sheldon High School and Robla School District’s Taylor Street Elementary School, who were 3 of the 45 schools to win “Big Lots Lots2Give” prize money. From the contest website:
We asked participating schools to put their creativity to the test by submitting a short video and brief essay explaining why their school is in need of financial support. Then we turned to the public to select the winners by voting for their favorite video. Cash prizes include one $10,000 grand prize and forty-five $2,000 first prizes.
I know that cynicism gets old, but I am cynical about these big corporate “charity” social networking programs. In addition to Big Lots you’ve got the Pepsi Refresh Project and more locally the Raley’s Reach grants. My skepticism only goes so far, because at the end of the day these are actual charity programs and various groups are actually benefiting from them. Charities that fund public school projects in particular are doing great work, as governments consistently fail these schools. But these programs all leave a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to methodology.
The corporations all have the money (along with their partners in some cases) and presumably want to give it away. In the pre-Facebook days, they would simply set up a charitable arm and hire program managers to identify needy organizations and give out the money. But these days, it seems like they just hire some marketing goons to create a big social marketing push around it, and turn the real work of deciding where the money goes into a popularity contest. The Pepsi project is beyond annoying, going for laughs in radio spots by having actors promote obviously stupid/silly ideas for “changing their community.” (I don’t have any audio clips to back this up.)
The vibe I get is that the most important thing in the equation is your vote, as if they couldn’t possibly just give away the money without first allowing every contestant to spam their Facebook friends for votes.
(If you don’t mind an deeper layer of cynicism, allow me to Inception this shit on you: is $2000 really enough to open an entire school library, as Franklin Elementary was asking help to do? If Big Lots really had $100,000 to give away, why not find the 2 best projects that required something more like $50k and fund just those 2 projects?)
Again, I really shouldn’t have an opinion about this. I’m sure these companies are doing good work, and I’m sure that the ideas being submitted are at least as good as they are required to be to enter the contest. I guess the “popularity contest” model brings out the crusty old man in me. This morning. Tomorrow, it’ll be something else.
It can’t just be me: the Pepsi Refresh Project model is annoying, right?