December 16, 2011

In Its Fifth Year, an 'Awesome' Video Challenge to Aid Charities

John and Hank Green are on a mission against the bad in the world. And they have an eager legion of supporters who are more than willing to help the cause—in part by raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity and helping worthy groups get more visibility on YouTube.

Their Project for Awesome video challenge, celebrating its fifth year this Saturday, sprang out a series of video messages from the Greens, who call themselves the Vlogbrothers on YouTube. Their followers call themselves "Nerdfighters," after a joke in one of the brother's videos. "The idea is that they fight for nerds, like freedom fighters fight for freedom," says John Green, who is in the video above.

The brothers, who are professional video bloggers (John Green is also a novelist and Hank Green is also a musician and an environmental writer) raised more than $100,000 for charities during the event last year and attracted 10 million views to videos about charities. Their campaign became the most popular topic on YouTube for 36 hours.

The Project for Awesome has similar goals for the 2011 campaign.

"It's supposed to be fun," John Green says. "All of my fulfilling experiences with philanthropy have been fun."

On Saturday, the brothers and fans of their video blog will upload videos supporting their favorite nonprofits to YouTube and donate to the charities through the Web site starting on Friday night.

The brothers, whose parents are both nonprofit workers, created the first annual Project for Awesome in 2007 and "hijacked" the YouTube home page. They have conducted the event every year since, and YouTube is now a supporter.

This year, the brothers have made the event more formal, creating a new nonprofit organization called the Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck to collect and distribute donations to the organizations featured in the best Project for Awesome videos. The brothers also encourage viewers to donate directly to the charities featured.

Beyond the money, the videos could be the biggest benefit to nonprofits, John Green says.

"We're always trying to get the video quality to a point where nonprofit organizations will use it, where it's not just about reaching out to your own viewers [on YouTube] but about reaching out to the charities you feel passionate about," he says.

In the video below, Hank Green explains this year's Project for Awesome.