The Members Project is a neat promo set up by American Express. The motto is: Our money. Your ideas. Your decision.
The way it works is that cardmembers can submit their ideas for improving the world at the project website. For everyone who registers on the site, Amex will throw $1 into a pot, to be awarded to the persons or organization behind the idea judged best of all. Amex says it will pledge up to $5 million to the winning idea.
Note that for the 5 mil, Amex will get a super e-mail list of that many activist members, along with a host of great publicity, for being so community-minded. What’s more, they can probably track the individual votes of those who register on the site to get psychographic data, as well.
From a webmaster’s point of view, there is much on the site not to like, but rather than dwelling on the tech aspects, let’s look at two proposed projects, each of which is now a semi-finalist…
Adopt A Classroom to support school children
At first glance, the description sounds pretty good:
Project designed to stimulate individuals, businesses, organizations to contribute funds to specific school teachers nationwide and enable the teachers to purchase school products online to enhance teaching opportunities in the classroom.
Tough to be against that, right? Well, maybe not.
Typical figures for cost per pupil in public education range from $7,000 to $13,000. Assume an amount of $10,000, for ease in the arithmetic. If the classroom has 30 kids, there is now already $300,000 being spent in that classroom. OK, where is it going?
If the teacher is being paid $50,000, figure their total cost to the district at $100,000 with all benefits and payroll taxes. In a given classroom, there is surely not more than $200.00 per student in books, for $6000. The maintenance, utilities, overhead, and amortized real estate cost of that classroom could hardly be more than $75,000 per year and is probably a good deal less, since the school pays no taxes.
We can continue this exercise, but I think you’ll agree that we would have to be quite creative to account for the rest of the money without cataloging the massive bureaucracy behind the classroom. Trust me, getting those details is as difficult as determining true cancer statistics—and for much the same reason.
So, we have a quandary. Being married to a teacher who did work in a district where the average teacher spent more than $2000 out of their own pockets to procure classroom items, I have no doubt the Adopt a Classroom will fill a need. The problem is that it will do nothing to get rid of the cause of ever-expanding school budgets that don’t seem to go into the classrooms.
As long as we preserve the status quo, the needs of students and teachers will remain at the bottom of the school district food chain, sacrificing all for the administrators and politicians. Doesn’t anyone else think that it is just a bit ironic that charity has to be given to a government-financed institution, which consumes ever more tax dollars each year?
Save Lake Winnipesaukee!
This project was submitted by Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed Association, and wants to “develop and implement community strategies which effectively stop threats to water quality,” affecting the famous New Hampshire lake. The association claims that three non-profit organizations and a university are committed.
As they put it: “We have a proposal, staff, and resources ready to go. We lack financial support.”
Being a big fan of the New Hampshire lake region, I can certainly sympathize with their goal, but then, shouldn’t the good citizens who actually live in the lake region—especially those whose livelihood depends on the continuing beauty and water quality of the lake—be sympathetic as well? Maybe even more so than a visitor like me?
Should we question WHY they lack financial support, given their apparent organizational and promotional skills? And while we’re at it, suppose they did get $5 million? No doubt, it would help with their various outreach efforts, but it is still quite unclear how enlightening the public will actually clean up the lake and slow down development.
At best, the increased public awareness—assuming that those who live there presently don’t notice what’s going on—might affect the political climate. Then again, their own organization could simply lobby the very accessible New Hampshire state government for far less than $5 million.
Most of the other semi-finalist projects proffer good intentions. A few, including one promoting universal use of solar energy—submitted by an apparently delusional electrical engineer who claims that the technology “exists today” even while acknowledging that the very necessary accompanying battery technology “needs to improve”—are entertaining.
What is clear is that the big winner in all of this, no matter which project wins, is American Express.