Idea #10: A TV series in which charities compete


Shows like Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice, and American Idol (as well as all the other Idol shows)  all have massive appeal, and I’d like to think that it’s because they have the elements of competition that people can connect to.  Watching somebody go from rags to riches in this way is the 21st century’s equivalent of a Horatio Alger Jr. novel. Whether it’s a singer getting a record deal for his musical talent or an entrepreneur scoring a business deal for her startup’s big idea, viewers appreciate seeing somebody succeed. However, I think that there’s a subgenre missing in this mix. Why not introduce competition among charitable startups?

The Concept:

First, assemble a team of successful individuals who want to donate and act as judges, like the equivalent of Simon Cowell et al, but with money like Donald Trump. Have nonprofit entrepreneurs compete, in a method that blends Shark Tank with The Apprentice, to secure funding from the judges. During the first few rounds, the contestants must pitch successfully in order to impress the judges and viewers. After that, they must successfully complete tasks, The Apprentice-style, to avoid elimination. The last nonprofit standing gets the most money as well as an advertising campaign with the network the show airs on, as well as other benefits that the investors designate beforehand.

Competitors can be split into two categories: those with nonprofits (such as a person trying to promote literacy in a certain part of the world), and those with ideas that nonprofits can use (such as a new way to encourage the public to volunteer for any cause). Each competitor with an actual nonprofit provides information on how to donate, and that information is broadcast along with his/her time on the air.

To ensure that these startups have higher success rates than most, each judge must agree to contribute a minimum amount to each cause that is presented. As contestants are eliminated, that minimum amount is raised from episode to episode, raising the stakes as well.

The Pros:

  • First, the obvious. This show helps charities. Charities are usually for a good cause, which makes the world a better place. In conclusion, this series will help to make the world a better place.
  • The unfortunate fact is that a large number of people just aren’t inclined to donate their money or time, even to good causes.  Something like this can help bring charitable acts to a more prominent position, and the peer pressure this puts on the Scrooges of the world can go a long way towards making them donate.
  • Because each nonprofit’s’ information is broadcast on TV, charitable ventures get both money from the judges and publicity from the network that airs the show. They benefit by obtaining donors almost immediately after the episode airs, unlike for-profit startups on Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank. In essence, this show can serve as a platform for new charities to get much-needed publicity.
  • The split between those with charities and those with ideas for charities can be used to create group dynamics among the contestants and give the show more dimensions. All of this lends the series a little bit more appeal to viewers who like competitive reality TV.

The Cons:

  • Understandably, to some people it might be upsetting to think of the idea that charities must compete to earn funding. After all, isn’t it just some greedy producer capitalizing on the help needed for urgent causes? However, charities must compete for donors today, anyway. Additionally, with this idea, people calling it kitschy might actually help the causes identified in the show. Those who support it are likely to donate even more money in response to social adversity.
  • There is an issue if this series is recorded beforehand, and it is related to the idea of emergencies that require immediate response. If this show had been in the middle of a season when a catastrophe like the Haitian earthquake occurred, charities for Haiti wouldn’t be able to have as prominent a role as they needed.
    • A solution to this might exist in only pre-recording the first few rounds, and creating the tasks from week to week, tying them to current events.
  • Some nonprofits are politically polarizing, so it might not be a good idea to feature them except in pairs. This fact either leads to the omission of important causes that need money or bickering between contestants pushing for opposite causes. Neither option is very desirable.

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