Pitch Night Follow-Up: Q&A with Clarence Wardell of tinyGive

September 24, 2017 | 10:17 am by Mandar Apte
Clarence Wardell from TinyGive was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 Media Rise Festival Pitch Night

From left to right: Suzannah Simmons, Eleanor Hall and Clarence Wardell present the Grand Prize of the 2013 Media Rise Festival Pitch Night.

As we approach the 2014 Media Rise Festival taking place in Washington, D.C. in September, we are checking in with some participants from last year’s festival to catch up on what they are working on, to give you a sense of what to expect from this year’s event: the sort of people you will meet and connect with, and the type of work that inspires our mission.

In this interview, we hear from Clarence Wardell, the Grand Prize winner of Pitch Night in 2013.

Clarence founded tinyGive in order to change the conversation around philanthropy and online cause-related activity by providing a place where social capital matters just as much as the amount you give. Clarence earned a PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he conducted research on the role of transparency in charitable giving. He continues to research various aspects of philanthropy and advises several nonprofits and online giving platforms on fundraising strategy. Originally from Lathrup Village, Michigan, Clarence also holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.

How do you use storytelling, art or design to make the world a better place?

tinyGive is a micro-philanthropy platform that helps turn online social conversation into tangible social action. tinyGive connects passionate individuals with the organizations working on causes that they care about, and allows them to quickly and easily support these great organizations through their social streams.

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We are trying to turn the notion of “slacktivism” on its head — we see the need for a new model and understanding of philanthropy and activism as driven by online engagement. “Slacktivism” is a pejorative term used to diminish the significance of actions that individuals (primarily millennials) take online to express support for various causes and organizations. We believe that the denigration of these actions comes from a place of ignorance about the value of small actions and contributions when aggregated at scale. In particular, it represents a failure to account for the effects of social capital on influencing behavior and driving improved outcomes. We want to provide a space that takes these acts of online social good engagement, and the individuals that initiate them, seriously.

Our initial focus is on Twitter, referred to by some as the “21st Century Town Square,” and the hashtag-driven conversations and movements that reside on the platform. Individuals can support organizations on tinyGive through traditional donations, but our platform also enables Twitter-based donations to those organizations, allowing individuals to simultaneously contribute financial and social capital.

In some way, you’ve seen this with the recent #ALSicebucketchallenge, where there is a social media component that is associated with a donation. We’ve been working to make something like this less of a one-off, and more the norm. While Twitter is where some of the most passionate conversations and new media movement building has taken place (e.g., concern after Hurricane Sandy, the outrage after Trayvon Martin’s murder, and now Mike Brown Jr.), it has been difficult for organizations (and individuals) to capture that passion and translate it to some type of tangible action (beyond retweets and online petitions).

tinyGive is the next phase of growth in new media activism, and is aiming to reduce the friction that often discourages someone from getting involved beyond the initial phase of conversation. We do this by making giving really simple, and social, and by working with organizations to tell their story in a way that is appropriate for consumption through social and mobile platforms.

How did last year’s Media Rise Festival help your cause?

Last year we participated in the Pitch Night, and we were fortunate to win the Grand Prize among an amazing group of projects. While the prize money was great, what helped us more than anything was the exposure to a community of like-minded people who were eager to help grow tinyGive. From being connected with a great designer, to having several other people come up to us afterward and either offer to help personally or make introductions to other people and organizations that they thought would be helpful, being a part of the Media Rise community has been a big help to us.

What is the value of bringing people together at events like the Media Rise Festival?

I think any time you can get a group of people together who are all passionate about changing the world, and get them exchanging ideas, you’re doing something special. Generally, I think collaboration is key for progress in any field, and I think that rings particularly true in the social good space, which is why I think Media Rise is so important. Even with all the ways we now have to collaborate online, I still think that physical interaction and in-personal relationship building is key for moving ideas forward and getting things done.

What are you working on now? And do you have any requests for collaboration?

At the time of the Media Rise Festival last year, we were only a few months old, and while we were still making updates to the platform, we were also focused on getting some early nonprofits on board. Right now, we’ve shifted to focusing a little less on getting nonprofits signed up, to focusing on running some innovative campaigns and pilots with several of the nearly 150 organizations we now have registered.

We’re attempting to socialize a new way of giving and storytelling that will take some time to get right, but we’re committed to working with organizations and donors to figure out what works best. On top of that, we’re working behind the scenes on the next version of the platform with the designer that we met through Media Rise last year.

I’m really excited to share these updates with the community going forward. As far as requests for collaboration, we’re looking to work with any organizations and individuals that have great ideas around using the platform, so please get in touch!

Sounds great. Thank you, Clarence!

To learn more about Clarence’s work visit https://tinygive.com/about