State Farm's new approach to corporate philanthropy

(Facebook/State Farm)

March 5, 2012 7:12:06 PM PST
It's not every day you get to tell a multi-national corporation how to spend its money. But State Farm is asking people to do just that when it comes to its charitable donations.

The Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley uses finger paints and Play-Doh to connect with children, b but the museum relies on donations to hold workshops for new parents.

"Everything from not being buckled into a car seat safely, to poisoning, to falls; we do an early childhood safety campaign that really helps parents learn what they can do to prevent accidents," Habitot Executive Director Gina Moreland said.

Habitot has applied for a grant from insurance company State Farm, which often donates to educational nonprofits. But this year, the way they choose which charities to fund is changing.

"To allow the public to decide where and how we grant $1 million nationwide," State Farm spokesperson Sevag Sarkissian said.

Using Facebook, anyone will be able to vote for the non-profits they think deserve a $25,000 check. State Farm calls it Cause An Effect. A panel of college students will select 100 finalists and then the public can vote to select the 40 winners.

"The power of crowdsourcing and social media to allow the public into the process and tell us what's of concern in their neighborhood," Sarkissian said.

The program has attracted attention from some nonprofits that might not have otherwise looked to State Farm for donations, like the Muttville senior dog rescue in San Francisco.

Muttville is a place for dogs 7 years old and older. The organization was featured on Oprah but they say they're always in need of donations and so they're hoping for a check from State Farm.

"We would be able to say yes to so many more needy animals," founder Sherri Franklin said.

If they make the finals, they'll need 'supporters to go online and vote every day for almost a month. They say they're up to the challenge.

"We have a nice email list, and you know, we have some big mouths," Franklin said.


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