Leverage Social Networks for Good

Edward Norton is an actor, director and philanthropist. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards, for Best Supporting Actor in "Primal Fear" and "Birdman", as well as Best Actor in "American History X."  His other notable films include "Fight Club" (1999), "25th Hour" (2002), "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) and "Keeping the Faith" (2000), which he also directed. Norton is also known for his work on environmental and social issues like renewable energy and low-income housing. In May 2010, Norton co-founded the website Crowdrise, an online platform that harnesses the power of social networks for charities.  

  • Transcript


Edward Norton: The group of us who came up with the idea to actually build our own platform came to it out of a particular set of experiences we had where something we were looking for wasn’t there.  I’m on the board of a conservation organization that I’m very committed to and I’ve worked on for many years, and we went to organize a fundraising campaign around the event of fielding a team in the New York Marathon.  We had brought a few of these young Masai Warrior guys over from Kenya that I’ve known for many years and put together a team of 30 people to run in the New York Marathon.  

Obviously we were doing all the traditional things, going after corporate sponsors and looking for a few big angel funders, but we wanted to reach out in a grassroots way.  So we kind of looked around at, like, what was out there in terms of the platforms that you could communicate on.  Over on one end of the spectrum we saw social networking platforms--with an emphasis on the social but not particularly well-engineered specifically to engage people in a fundraising interaction.  And then on the other end of the spectrum, there were, you know,  donation mechanisms.  There were things that were clearly, you know, you could set up and get people to donate, but they had almost none of the vitality and dynamism and personality and creativity of social networking platforms.  We looked at each other and said, we can do better than this and we pretty quickly in the course of a summer set up our own team site.  We raised about $1.2 million -- more with 30 people than some groups had with, like, 300 people.

That was the moment that we all  kind of looked at each other and said: we could easily build this out into something that"s . . . instead of being specific to the event we were doing, you know, we could easily just pull the specifics out and engineer a really robust template that works well for individuals, works well for an organization.  Let's see if we can, if we can build something that fulfills this niche.  

Recorded December 9, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd