Nitin Rao

Less than Four Days Left to Vote on American Express Members Project

American Express recently unveiled the top 25 projects selected as semi-finalists for Members Project, the online initiative that invites Cardmembers and the public in general to come together and submit, discuss and vote for projects to make a positive impact on the world, which American Express will fund with $2.5 million.

Since July, people from across the country and the Members Project Advisory Panel helped choose the top 25 projects from the more than 1,000 that were submitted. In less than 5 days (this round of voting ends 9/29), cardmembers will determine which projects advance to the top five.Over the past month, cardmembers came together to share their ideas that may help shape our future. Photos and videos were used to enhance project submissions on the site and tools were available to help promote projects and spread the word, including online badges, widgets and banners to post on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Participants rallied their own personal networks to get behind the projects that mean the most to them and the blog buzz and social community posts and discussions grew week after week, encouraging project nominations. Whether a cardmember or not, everyone was invited to participate by commenting on and nominating their favorite projects online.

The top 5 projects that receive the most votes will advance to the next phase and, ultimately, the organization associated with the project with the most votes as determined by cardmember votes will receive $1.5 million in funding, and the organizations associated with the remaining four projects will receive $500,000, $300,000 or $100,000 in funding from American Express.

Last year’s winning idea, which received $2 million in funding, involved providing clean drinking water to children across the developing world. The funding has allowed UNICEF to provide clean drinking water in four African countries: Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Guinea.

The 25 projects remaining impact both national and global communities and range from education and public service programs to health and environmental issues. Currently leading the race is a project that addresses Alzheimer’s disease; by motivating Americans to seek diagnosis early, the project hopes to give people options for treatment and a better quality of life.

In second place is’s Loans That Change Lives, which we have discussed in the past on This project is an Internet-based platform that allows anyone to become a “social investor”. With $25, a credit card and an Internet connection, anybody can invest in the life of a deserving entrepreneur. With $1.5M, Kiva hopes to “expand its selection of businesses to fund.” (Editor’s note: Matt Flannery’s latest entry at his Social Edge blog is about AMEX’s Members Project.)

InternetLender, the California-based user who submitted this idea, beleives that this project is different from short-term fixes, by helping families have a sustainable livelihood.Other projects include funding school lunches for 1 million children in India and providing 100,000 American children from low-income communities the books, art supplies, technology, and other materials that they need for a rigorous education.

It’s interesting to see how voters view that the most efficient way to do good is through non-profit programs of large foundations that provide subsidized or free access to very basic products and services for low-income communities.

American Express has done a great job in building this platform and is driving its members to become aware of and compare the impact of a number of social initiatives. Which project would you vote into the Top 5?