Tao Takashi reports on his blog that this year's Second Life "Relay for Life" benefit for the American Cancer Society raised more than $38,000 this weekend! That's a tremendous increase from the $6,000 raised last year!
I was super busy this weekend, but stopped in briefly to check out all the fun and drop some Linden dollars. The work and detail that went into creating simulations of France, Mexico, England, Australia, Japan, Canada and more was so beautiful I was often stopped dead in my tracks. Kudos to Aimee Weber and the rest of the volunteers who threw this together in short order.
Tao put together a sweet video describing the event and the work it took to build the enormous series of linked sims that show the diversity of the Second Life universe.
This kind of virtual fundraiser will do a lot to raise the profile of Second Life as a tool for non-profits and charities everywhere. This reminds me of the web ten years ago, when most associations initial interest in the internet was for fundraising purposes. The other educational, advocacy, and membership development applications came later. But in the early days, all any non-profit wanted was a "click here to donate" button.
MUVE's are probably going to have to go through a similar phase, where most NGOs and non-profits only start paying attention to them as another means to raise revenue. Then again, we have already had a number of virtual demonstrations, educational and awareness-raising events, and even political campaigns that have moved into virtuality. So maybe the learning curve won't be as steep as in the 1990s on the web.
What these events have already started to show is that virtual environments don't have to simply replicate the same old strategies and activities done by non-profits, just with avatars instead of humans. Instead they are evolving new ways of organizing, education, fundraising and membership development that couldn't be imagined before.
So this weekend's excellent "Relay for Life" not only raised funds for a very worthy cause, it seems clear to me that it will push civil society deeper into the virtual world.
Update 7/28: Apparently the amount raised is now $40,000!!!