Last week I attended a tech event… what else is new, you ask? Well, despite the barrage of silliness that has seemingly enveloped the L.A. tech community as of late (you know who you are Francisco Dao – congrats on Twiistup, by the way), this event did not involve the word “karaoke” and the only costumes worn were a hairnet, a plastic apron and rubber gloves, as I accompanied Rubicon Project to its community service day. Organized once per quarter by Rubicon head of culture and training Mallory Portillo, the day is mandatory for all 100 Rubicon L.A. employees and hits a different organization every time, some recent one's have included, Midnight Mission, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.
From Causecast.com to GOOD Magazine, Cause + Capitalism, Michelle Kydd Lee's CAA Foundation, Richard Wolpert's Crohn's Bahama Challenge, Olivia Kuhn-Lloyd and Mallika Chopra's (Deepak's daughter) Intent.com (which aims to attract a collection of investors who are socially conscious), as well as Rubicon Project's efforts, Los Angeles is turning into a “hub for social good” — with much of the innovation happening online. Even the “geeks” have gotten in on the action, with the newly-minted Society For Geek Advancement (despite some discrepancy as to what a geek actually is) managing to raise over $1,500 for Room to Read, enough to change the lives of six girls with a scholarship for an secondary education.
Philanthropy Matchmaker Sloane Berrent had this to say, “L.A. is important because of the convergence of entertainment and tech, as well as the focus on forward trends. Living in L.A. we live in a bubble; when you leave and visit other communities nationally you realize that entertainment plays a vital role both in what people buy and how they give back. L.A. has the ability to use entertainment for good as a opposed to bad, we're some of the most connected people, why not make it about cause”
Berrent, the founder and editor of The Causemopolitan is currently in training for a Kiva Philippines fellowship. “I picked Kiva because I really believe in their model,” Berrent said. Kiva.org looks at a way to help people living in third world countries through micro-finance loans and by encouraging entrepreneurship. Because it is an unpaid fellowship, Berrent is raising money online and has already progressed 50% towards her goal of $7500, with donors who give over $100 receiving a hand-written post card from Berrent's trip.
Nicole Jordan, head of PR for Rubicon, has this advice for other tech companies and individuals interested in public service: “They should just start calling. Every community across the country right now needs their businesses to be giving back. People aren't donating; there's a shortage of money because of the recession. If the L.A. tech community can rally and set an example, than maybe the other tech communities across the country can be encouraged to do the same thing.”
The thing about social media for social good in a recession is that it's free; non-profits could conceivably make up for the dip in donations with the drop in costs for spreading awareness. Jordan echoes this, “Non-profits aren't known for their marketing savvy and typically they're not as technically savvy as some other companies on how to use social media and how to reach out. Midnight Mission has a Twitter account and more non-profits can embrace that. [Tech companies] can go in and show how to create awareness in the community using social media channels.”
Barrent adds, “Start anywhere, people in tech are willing to click on a website and check it out – start small, find what you're passionate about. Cause is one of the great unifiers because everyone has something to give back to.”