People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 39: Chase Community Giving

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Chase Community Giving

Chase Community Giving empowers customers & employees to nominate charities to compete for a total of $7.5 million of funding. Charities with the most votes from the public win a larger share of the funding.

In September 2012, 30,000 charities were nominated, and after two weeks of voting on Facebook, $5 million was donated to 196 charities across the United States. Chase Community Giving was launched in 2009.

People decide what matters

People participated in the program to support causes they believe in, and in many cases, to give back to charities that have helped their loved ones and their local communities.

As Kendra Kofron commented on Facebook:

“I have Diamond Blackfan Anemia and our charity just won $100,000 from Chase! It meant the world to us since there are only 700 patients worldwide. We are small community of people with a big goal of a cure!”

Charities gain funding & exposure 

Non-profit consultants believe that the platform offers charities more than funding – the charities also gain mass exposure and new supporters from the Chase Facebook community of 3.8 million people.

As Carrie Hirmer, a consultant to non-profits, commented:

 “For us, being in one of these contest-type grants has been a wonderful thing so far. It may not work as well for some organizations. It has helped increase awareness of the need for our project and has served as a door-opener, so to speak, for relationships that will last long after the contest ends.”

Benefit to Chase

By targeting charities with a voting contest, Chase energized the local communities of numerous causes, expanded exposure of the Chase brand, and built credibility as a socially responsible company.

As Kimberly B. Davis, president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, said:

“Voting with Chase Community Giving helps to energize the vast number of supporters of so many great causes. At Chase, we are excited to lead local and national causes in finding a voice and raising awareness and critical funding for their work in communities.”

Jack Ucciferri, blogger at the Huffington Post, took a more cynical view and pointed out:

“What is Chase getting for the crumbs they’re throwing in the direction of our favorite non-profits? Well, they are essentially buying brand value from the one sector that still has much credibility at all with the general public.”

Indeed, Chase received numerous accolades from the public for helping out local communities. As Julie Brown commented on Facebook:

“Way to go, Chase- it is refreshing to see a “big faceless corporation” making things right. Thanks for looking out for the little guys!”

Tapping into local communities

The program sparked grassroots movements as local communities took it upon themselves to promote local charities, using tools provided by Chase as well as their own innovative promotion ideas.


The power of local communities was evident for Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps, a small charity in Nashua, New Hampshire, which qualified for $50,000 in funding. As Paul LaFlamme, head of the institution, shared:

“What put this campaign over the top, is how the community stepped up to help us. The Mayors office, The Chamber of Commerce, The Pheasant Lane Mall, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua, are just some examples of the community that really stepped up and helped us. The support of so many individuals in and outside the music field was amazing”

Erich Timmerman, spokesman for JP Morgan Chase shared some of the innovations used by a local group:

“Some people use Facebook and YouTube. One organization started a thing called virtual volunteering. They had people go to Starbucks with laptops and solicit votes.”

 But should charities participate?

 Members of the non-profit industry remain skeptical and divided about participating in voting contests, which minimize people’s involvement to just voting, pit charities against each other, and provide ‘free’ advertising for big corporations.


Beth Kanter, social media consultant for charities, cautioned:

“For organizations that are pestering their supporters and friends to “vote for me” has the potential of eroding the hard earned social capital. It does not promote the good kind of relationship building that can really sustain an organization in the long run. It promotes transactional relationships.”

Dana Gold, a non-profit executive, commented:

“I think vote driven, online philanthropy contests are an unfortunate trend.  They pit deserving non-profits against one another, increase apathy among supporters/donors who tire of the constant barrage of “vote for us” messages, and discriminate against emerging ideas/innovative initiatives with few backers.

Vote driven online contests are really just very inexpensive ad campaigns for the company donating their funds.  They get lots of good press and lots of bang for a proportionately small buck. The amount of time non-profits spend begging for votes could be better used to educate supporters and enlist their support in more longer-impact ways.”  

On the other hand, Jon Camfield who organizes similar voting contests at, pointed out one benefit of such as contests:

“The increased funding transparency of competitions is a good thing for the social change sphere.  Transparency changes the closed world of grant submissions into an open space.  This allows the entrants to see who else is competing, how their idea is (or is not) differentiated, and gives a clear sense of what the funder is interested in.  Hopefully, for the ideas that don’t win, they at least also understand better why their idea was not selected, and have a path forward to evolve it or pursue more relevant funding sources.”

Not all participants however agreed with the voice of the crowds.

Which charity is “more important”?

With a maximum of 5 votes to cast and nearly 30,000 charities to choose from, people were forced ask themselves which cause was “more important,” leading to anger and bitterness after the winners were announced.

As Linda Percy commented

“Hammonton Rescue Squad. In the business of saving lives. Yes human lives in all types of weather who really really really could have used the money since we have a lot of uninsured children and adults and migrant workers that have no insurance…. We don’t even [get] considered. But yet its more important to fund a band or playground not save a human life… Chase should have given all charities some and not a bunch too a couple groups because they got a lot of votes.. we all could have benefited. JERKS”

Support for Chase

Brand evangelists condemned the bitterness of “sore losers,” pointed out the benefits other than funding, and argued that charities that can successfully mobilize their communities to vote deserve to be rewarded.

As Facebook fan Shelly Griffin commented:

“Being passionate about what you believe in is one thing. Being rude to and about the ones you are not, is offensive. Quite frankly, you are making a wonderful thing that Chase is doing into something very ugly…

You were afforded “free advertising” on this page for your cause as well, and if you had so many voters, I bet it elevated your overall donations beyond what you would have received had you not been at this page at all.”

Facebook fan Ryan Williams commented:

“These contests reward charities who can actively engage their volunteer or donor base to go out and vote for them… Getting people actively involved in your mission is equally as important to the sustainability of a social movement as gathering outcome data.”

 Wave of nationalism

However, the decision to award the top grant of $250,000 to the Egyptian Cancer Network* was not received well, and people were enraged that the money would not be used to the benefit of U.S. citizens.

 As Holly Williams commented:

 “It say community giving, since when is Egypt in OUR community? Ship it over seas and when your in trouble the AMERICANS will bail you out! I am extremely disappointed!”

Some were especially outraged that Egypt was the main beneficiary of the contest given the recent protests at the U.S. embassy in Egypt (two weeks before the Chase Community Giving awards were announced).

As Carol Ross commented:

 “I’m very surprised about the winner-please hold the money until they stop burning our flag and demonstrating their hatred for us.”

*The Egyptian Cancer Network is a U.S. based non-profit that provides support to hospitals and non-profits in Egypt.

Charities v.s. customers

Most of the debate focused on which charity was most deserving, but several people pointed out that the $7.5 million could instead have been given to customers in the form of better rates and products.

As Debbie Strong Washington commented:

“not to seem crude, but what about just giving your real customers better rates on their savings accounts instead of giving money away to charities?”

Demand for shared value

All the responses, both positive and negative, had one thing in common: they acknowledged and demanded the need for shared value, and rewarded or punished Chase for the same.

Indeed, upon hearing that the charity he voted for was disqualified with no explanation, Steve Joseph pointed out the need for customers to choose companies that provide shared value:

“I’m truly sorry to read about [the disqualification] but I am not surprised. This simply deepens my efforts to move ALL my banking and investment efforts away from Chase bank and I would suggest to anyone after reading the above that you do the same. Only we can make the difference by aligning with individuals and businesses that have the better interests of our health as a key priority.”

Others believed that Chase did provide value. As Ryan Wilson, a professional contest organizer, commented:

“Chase and Pepsi (re: Pepsi Refresh) got good mileage out of their campaigns, and they put up a ton of money to run them. So are these contests philanthropy or marketing? Can they be both and achieve simultaneous goals?”


(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

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As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi is Director of Research and Insights at MSLGROUP. She tracks digital consumer trends for People’s Insights and is community manager of MSLGROUP’s insights community SPRINT. Tweet her at @nidhichimnani

6 Responses to “People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 39: Chase Community Giving”

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