Gilchrist: Vote online, fish for funds

Tracy Gilchrist / Kamloops Daily News
November 30, 2012 01:00 AM

It's funny that Canadians can't be bothered to vote in elections - municipal, provincial or federal - yet we're enamoured with voting on all manner of other things.

A former Miss Teen Kamloops is raising money for cystic fibrosis and looking for online votes to support her cause.

Despite she and 300 other students at UBC having amassed $40,000 already, they also produced a video for an online contest sponsored by Nuance Leadership Development Services.

If they receive the most "likes" in the competition against other Canadian universities they'll
receive $1,000.

A local school will be the happy recipient of $10,000 after a mom snapped a photo of her child and entered it in a contest sponsored by Lysol.

In this case, the online voting wasn't the deciding factor.

Another entry received more votes, but it fits the trend.

The Kamloops community is being asked to support an insurance company's online voting competition so that Pavilion Theatre might receive $100,000 in improvements.

In last year's Aviva Community Fund competition, the volunteer-run People in Transition group (PIT Stop) at Kamloops United Church gained $80,000 to upgrade its 50-year-old kitchen.

"Voters" from across the country, not just locals, must have felt the hot meals the PIT Stop cooks weekly for hungry people was worthwhile as it became one of a dozen community projects chosen.

This year, in a show of paying it forward, the church is encouraging people to support Western Canada Theatre's bid, reminding voters that last year the theatre dropped its bid to encourage votes for PIT Stop.

It's unusual to see an insurance company giving back in such a big way - it's the fourth year Aviva has offered $1 million for community initiatives in Canada. According to the company website, Canadians provided more than 6,000 ideas for the competition and cast six million votes in the last three years.

That's some big uptake but those are big dollars for small projects and it's pretty easy money, too . . . just click "like."

Of course, in addition to dangling this attractive bunch of carrots to communities across the country, Aviva builds major brand recognition. I know I picked them out of a list of unknowns when considering home insurance. Why wouldn't I want to choose a company that might invest in improving our community?

But I wonder how far this love affair with online contests will go. Will old-fashioned fundraisers like hotdog sales, silent auctions, golf tournaments and car washes, where you connect with live people, be abandoned in favour of liking projects from our computers?

As governments tighten belts and taxpayers complain they're tapped out, will companies
become a community's Sugar Daddy to cover off our wish lists?

Will it stop at theatre and kitchen upgrades or will we eventually vote online to gain funds for hospital equipment, an MRI at a private clinic, road and sewer improvements, ice time or household needs that people

use to finance themselves?
Overall, it's a sad state of affairs that worthy non-profits are having to compete with each other for funding in a popularity contest sponsored by the for-profit sector.

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