Alexis Ohanian at SxSW: Charities That Understand The Internet Are The Ones That Will Survive

Alexis Ohanian has already “made it big” in the social space.  When his popular website Reddit was acquired by Conde Nast in 2006, it was only the beginning for Alexis.  Since that time, Alexis has been involved with many startups (Breadpig, Kiva, Hipmunk and Das Kapital Capital), all with the same focus: making the world suck less (which is coincidentally also the title of his blog).

At this year’s South by Southwest conference Alexis spoke at a panel titled “Harnessing the Power of the Benevolent Internet.”  The topics of this panel were how organizations are using the internet to raise money to support projects, many of which Alexis helps, as well as what the future of online fundraising really is: social media for social good.

Zach Walker, founder of was also on the panel. DonorsChoose lets teachers post the projects that they need to be funded (like classroom supplies, field trips, etc.) and then donors get to choose which projects get funded.  The teachers and donors can communicate during the entire process.

Through services like DonorsChoose, donors are able to see exactly where their donations are going and the programs they are supporting, as opposed to just donating to a general fund.  With the technology that donors have today, they want more information and want to know what they are funding.

Along these lines, donors want to feel that their donations count, no matter the size.

Alexis is a huge supporter of DonorsChoose (and for good reason). To show his support he offered to match $10,000 in donations to the website with a special code.  The code does happen to be the name of his new venture, but its a win-win deal. That was the point… everyone wins: social media for social good.

Charities have seen that incentives such as this (matching gifts), as well as prize offerings are huge drivers to donate. While it might be expensive for a charity to purchase an iPad, the increase in donations they see from that offering is multifold.

By bringing in donors in fashions such as this, charities can build a relationship with the donor; the first two years are the most critical for the charity to establish the relationship.

The unanimous concept throughout this session was that the charities that utilize the tools available to them, personalize the experience, and make the donor feel like their contribution really matters will be the organizations that thrive in the years to come.


Think Alexis is awesome? I do too. He will be headlining the #140cuse Conference on April 19 at the Schine Student Center. We will be having over 40 speakers discussing how the real-time internet is changing the world as we know it. If you are not already registered and are interested, take some time to do so today. Alexis has promised that his talk will be great…

  • My cousin is a big fan of Alexis and he’s told me a bunch of stuff about him. He also follows Alexis on Twitter.