Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Update from the Online Giving Markets

This is my second year attending the Online Giving Markets forum, a gathering of leading giving sites from around the World. Officially, the conference ends today (just before tonight’s Presidential debate) but there is a conference hosted by Stanford tomorrow that many of us will be taking part in.

In conference calls leading-up to this gathering, a number of participants from last year (which includes representatives from GiveMeaning GiveIndia, DonorsChoose and GlobalGiving) had been trying to achieve a “Quick Win” from this gathering that would create the potential for collaboration amongst our platforms. What we had been trying to do was determine a way in which for us to share our project data with each other’s platforms as a first-step to potential collaboration.

On a separate track but also involving discussions with technical representatives from a number of our marketplaces, Peter Deitz and his colleagues at SocialActions had been facilitating discussions on defining a philanthropy microformat.

A microformat is most simply described as a structured way of describing common data so that our data is easier to read by search-engines and 3rd party applications like SocialActions that want to make use of our data.

Throughout the conference calls and our break-out session yesterday on this issue, a concern that was expressed a lot was whether a compelling business win needed to be in place as an incentive for our individual marketplaces to do the work required to implement a microformat (or other semantic description schema) and thanks to Pawan Mehra of GiveIndia, we were able to agree upon a tangible goal that would drive usage of the philanthropy microformat.

Once a sufficient number of our marketplaces implement the microformat (which – from a technical perspective – shouldn’t be too cumbersome), we will submit the microformat to one of the two major search engines and engage in evangelism with the search engine folks to ask them to pilot including our collective microphilanthropy offers in their general search during December (the month of the year where most giving occurs).

This would increase the overall traffic to all of the participating marketplaces and – assuming we can get buy-in from one or both major search engines – provide the necessary incentive likely required for significant buy-in amongst our marketplaces.

More later. The conference is resuming after our lunch-break

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