Last week, my office (Critical Mass) learned that Idea Aid, with not-for-profit partner Heifer International, selected its top five idea submissions. (You can read more about Idea Aid here and here.) It’s something three of our offices had participated in, even amidst hefty year-end work schedules.
In a bit of unexpected news, one of the winners came from Critical Mass – submitted by this very blogger.

The goal of 2009’s Idea Aid (the first of hopefully many to come) was to generate new fundraising models to raise $1 billion annually. The weeklong brainstorm benefit, organized by Mensa Process, resulted in 585 ideas from participants in 66 countries including Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Congo, Croatia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Iraq. Heifer International will share the winning ideas with other like-minded organizations – after all, when the goal is to eradicate global poverty, sharing the idea wealth is a must.

The five winners include ideas that emerged multiple times over the course of Idea Aid week. (“Great minds think alike” is cliché for a reason.)

1. “Rounding Up Around the World” has an approach alá Bank of America’s “Keep the Change,” where users enjoy automatic savings derived from rounding their check card transactions to the next dollar. Here, consumer transactions would round up for the benefit of charities. This idea came from Tomer Ram of Israel – and based on the results of our brainstorm breakouts, it was a popular theme. An added thought from this blogger: Just as BoA offers a 100% match for the first three months and a 5% match thereafter (with an annual cap) to help motivate sign-ups, a similar tactic should be used here – with the help of a generous third-party entity (anyone have Richard Branson’s or Bill Gates’s number?).

2. “A Penny Goes a Long Way,” from Dr. Christina Bautista of New Mexico, suggests that an extra penny from consumers’ credit and debit purchases go to charity. Though consumers would hardly feel these micro-transactions, money would accumulate to a significant charitable sum. This theme was another popular one – in fact, more than a handful of brainstorming CM’ers referenced Office Space as silver-screen proof.

3. “Gift Cards: The little bit that’s left” proposes that the little bit of extra on retailer gift cards be funneled to charity. It’s a no-brainer – consumers could lighten their wallet of those pesky remaining gift dollars, to benefit those who need it more. This idea, from Jay Bassett in Georgia, had at least one idea doppelganger in Critical Mass’s very own Duane Wheatcroft.

4. “Global Online Auction,” a winning idea from Ruth Parvin in Oregon, combines art, charity, and the global reach of the Internet. Artists would donate works to an online auction, with all proceeds going to charity. Ebay would be the first tree to bark up, as they have the global reach this idea would thrive on.

5. The final idea was a submission of mine – originally called “Beautiful Change,” revised to “Destinations for Donations.” In this idea, artists, sculptors and/or architects would create fun, interactive money-collecting structures to appear in cities that get significant tourist traffic. This idea was inspired by the Chicago cows, an irresistible coin-spinner I experienced as a kid (a donation mechanism itself), and a similar thought from a coworker of mine (Senior Copywriter Jamie Toal, who, during one of our office-wide brainstorms, asked, “Why can’t we just clear out the change from the fountains of the world?”)

Needless to say, my Critical Mass cohorts and I are thrilled to have contributed a fundraising idea worthy of the hope and confidence of Heifer International and the Idea Aid organizers. If you asked me, I’d say it’s a lovely way to close out the year. We’re excited to see what comes next.

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