This article is the first for my blog since the new year started. I know, I’m a lazy blogger, but I’ve also been pretty busy with business and conferences that brought me all the way to a conference in Iran, to give classes in a couple of European universities, and to travel further more both for business and sure – also for pleasure! More conferences and classes this year, from speaking at Search Congress Barcelona, Search Engine Strategies London and at the Reykjavik Internet Marketing Conference, to teaching more classes at the Master for Community Managers organized by M4F in Bilbao.

At my next speaking/reaching commitments I will be talking about some of the topics I already explored a lot over the last year or two: social media strategies, social media optimization, video optimization, and social media policies – of course updated to the latest news and insights. But I want to take advantage of this post to share the presentations I created on a new topic: social fundraising – a topic I’m particularly proud of since the two case histories are related to one of the most inspiring communities I ever been part of: Burning Man.


I put together the presentations embedded here for a lecture at the “Law and Economy Master on Arts and Culture” (Master in Diritto ed Economia per la Cultura e l’Arte, in Italian – DECA in short), held by a join venture of Sardinian Universities and their University Consortium in Nuoro, the institution running the DECA Master. I’ve been invited to teach a couple of classes on the topic of social fundraising for arts and culture, and I kicked it all off with a introduction of the famous Burning Man art festival in the desert of Nevada (USA), and with the principles that inspire the festival, its values and its community – with a focus on gift economy.

The first set of slides, after an introduction of the Burning Man principles and philosophy, start analyzing the concept of gift economy from historical, sociological and of course economical points of view. The presentation also introduces several sources for the gift economy, from the potlach of Native American tribes to the theories of social change of Marcel Mauss (from his famous book The Gift, 1923), all the way to the more recent applications of gift economy that can be spotted everywhere from volunteers marketplaces, time banks, open source and peer-to-peer technologies, or in hybrid forms in business models based on the freemium concept – or in the Creative Commons and Open Content standards on the copyright and digital rights side.

The second presentation is a classic presentation on social media marketing, strategies and planning – a few concepts I already shared a few times in several languages across the world. The third part of the lecture is where I actually touch base on a few concepts related to raising funds for cultural or charity initiatives by leveraging the power of social media, as well as a few online fundraising tools and applications available online for the now called “crowdfunding campaigns“. One note: there’s no such thing as “leveraging the power of social media“. For the success of a crowdfunding campaign , as well as for anything else crowd-ish, what it’s really needed is… doh, a crowd. A community, or a potential pool of supporters for the cause, a critical mass of followers turned supporters (or backers, as KickStarter defines donors) who will operate as a real grassroot booster for the campaign. Of course the turbo support of social media networks and tools helps a lot, but social media end up being more the infrastructure for the fund raising than the solution.

Power, as always, is on people’s side – but marketers (or fundraisers. in this case) can now get very creative with the fundraising infrastructure, provided that they are able to plan an effective engagement with their target audience. As usual, as for everything social media marketing, the key points are: goal setting, scrupulous planning, creative rollout, effective engagement, and full integration with offline messaging and initiatives.

The fourth set of slides is the one that gets me very emotional, as it shows a couple of examples of social fundraising campaigns that are very important to me – the first one from last summer when I joined the incredible IAM Temple Crew to build the Temple of Transition at Burning Man 2011. The case history shows step by step how a team of inspired and committed people distributed across the planet managed to raise around 140,000$ to build one of the most breathtaking art installation in the 25 years of history of Burning Man, just to gift it as a sacred space to the community, and to burn it in a transformational and strongly emotional rite of passage at the end of the event.


The last case history also included in the forth set of slides shows how some of the concepts and values inspired by the same Burning Man community (gift economy) are at the foundation of one initiative I launched with the support of my friends and business partners at Xister. ipad4africa-iconWe are currently developing an iPad application packed with kids games for toddlers that will be sold to raise funds for 8 European NGOs with active projects in the field of children’s education in Africa. The iPad4Africa project is a gift economy project and not a no-profit initiative – the difference lies in the fact that besides of giving to the charities network ALL the proceeds from the sale of the iPad app, we won’t get money back to refund our investment in the app development. That investment is our donation, our gift to Africa, with the hope that it will help raise enough money to support the education of thousands of children. More info in the presentation and of course on

Last but not least, it’s a duty and a pleasure to credit my fellow burners and amazing photographers Trey Ratcliff, Neil Girling and Scott London for the breathtaking images of the Temple reproduced here and on the Slideshare presentations. Big credits and kudos also go to all the smart, creative and brave desert brothers and sisters of IAM, the International Arts Megacrew I am proud to have joined to build the Temple of Transition at Burning Man 2011, and to the Xister team for committing with me on a important cause for Africa. No go ahead and start practicing gift economy today!