Winning and Doing Good

Photo by familymwr

Americans are funny. We love a great competition! Nothing is more exciting than a thrilling winner or watching someone get close to achieve a notable goal. Just look at all of the momentum currently surrounding Twitchange Founder Shaun King in his effort to fund HopeMob with $125,000. It’s been exciting to get Shaun’s updates as he funds his would-be social enterprise.

Yet when it comes to social good–even though we celebrate the winner–our culture hates to see losers. In fact, creating losers in the nonprofit space is one of the least palatable outcomes possible for a contest, initiative, or a fundraiser.

As someone who develops gamification strategies for giving days and other contest-based fundraisers, the most important element is creating a means for everyone to benefit. No matter what, a low level performer has to feel like they got something from the contest or effort, even if it’s just a handful of new donors.

Some see this “everyone wins” concept as robbing the sanctity of a contest. But in reality, what you are allowing people to do is save face, and continue to feel good about their efforts to affect social change. In traditional Chinese culture, saving face means protecting someone’s honor.

With social good initiatives, there are best practices and ways to achieve change. But many people are not professional social activists, rather citizens who want to make change happen. They may have a tough issue. And maybe they are learning as they go, or this is a one time effort.

Change and doing good is a spiritual journey. Hopefully it encourages people to do more and more as their life progresses.

Consider this general community growth–individual by individual–in context with winning. Greatness and winning feels good no matter what, yet we have to emphasize progress over perfection when it comes to social change. Rewarding excellence can encourage more collective good, but only if it is done within the proper context.

Whether it is a dollar donated by a five year old, or time volunteered by low-salaried workers, every contribution towards progress means something. That’s why a smart social good contest makes dozens, hundreds even thousands of winners, rather than a Machiavellian blood sport.

What do you think of contests, gamification, and social good?