Web showdown for charity: The battle is on!October 8, 2008: 3:14 PM ET
By Jessi Hempel
It's week two of the Bloggers' Challenge to raise money for school kids through DonorsChoose.org and the Internet's best-known bloggers are playing rough.
For her opening salvo, All Things D's Kara Swisher filmed a call to action from Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and included a partially nude photo of fellow blogger Robert Scoble. As of Wednesday morning, she had raised $6,329, just a few hundred dollars more than her nemesis, Fred Wilson (avc.com). And both of them have been left in the dust by last year's winner: Brooklyn blogger Sarah Bunting, author of TomatoNation.com, has raised $38,441 so far. She has promised her readers that if she wins, she'll dress as a tomato and tour the monuments in Washington, DC.
Last year, DonorsChoose.org raised $420,000 during the month-long philanthropy showdown. This year, the Web 2.0 charity plans to top that. The site is part tech and part business with a strong do-gooding bent. Started by former teacher Charles Best in 2000, it has grown from a New York City experiment to an efficient alternative funding source for teachers nationwide.
Here's a quick reminder on how it works: teachers register with the site and upload projects they want sponsored. Recent examples include podcast equipment for a high school journalism class in Newton, Kan. ($582 needed), basic art supplies like paint and magic markers for a fourth-grade class in Brooklyn ($370), and a bass guitar for an after-school music program in Los Angeles ($723). DonorsChoose acts as the middle man, purchasing the materials and shipping them and a disposable camera to the teachers who made the requests. Donors later receive thank-you notes from the students along with photos.
During the month of October, bloggers are competing to fund the most projects. Sure, it's all for the kids, but their antics have grown entertaining. Check out this twitter from Net celebrity Julia Allison (nonsociety.com): "Actually, how about this? You specify a prank I must do for a set $$ you donate & I'll actually consider doing it." Anything, she later specifies in her blog post, in which her clothing stays on.
Engadget is "taking a break from the Mac and PC wars" to support classroom technology requests. BoingBoing is participating for the first time this year, as is Ars Technica, which declared "we think we can beat those guys." Other first-time participants include O'Reilly Radar and This is Going to Be Big, which taunted, "Help me prove that my blog readers are just better people than TechCrunch readers... shouldn't be hard."
TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld focuses on the obvious economic imperative: "The economy might be about to tank, but why should the children have to suffer?" That may be the biggest reason to dig deep this year.