Chase embarked on the largest social media contest to date with the announcement of its Chase Community Giving initiative. The contest was supposed to crowd source their philanthropy, allowing Facebook users to vote on which charities would receive their $5 million.

But as Beth Kanter writes, they changed the rules mid-course. When a few charities they didn’t like made it into the top 100, they added new rules to exclude them.

The twittersphere and blogosphere are buzzing like a swarm of angry bees. Chase has definitely violated an implied agreement and people are upset.

Beth gives some suggestions on how Chase could’ve avoided this gaff in her post Charities Cry Foul on Chase Facebook Charitable Giving Contest. This is well worth reading for any nonprofit looking to run a contest.

But since Chase didn’t do it’s homework, is it doomed to be the gadfly at the social media party? Not necessarily.

Back in June, Caroline Dangson wrote about JetBlue’s use of social media to apologize for it’s mistakes. (She even show’s images of my tweeted complaint about them and then my excitement that they called!)

Chase has done damage to its image. But one of the things the social media universe loves is authenticity. If I were working for Chase, I’d recommend they come clean about what they’ve done. Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to change the fine print without someone noticing. So why not just come out and say something like:

“Wow! While we’re overwhelmed by the response of our fans to this initiative, we’ve realized we didn’t make our corporate values clear. Those values are x, y, and z. Given these long-standing values, we will not be awarding gifts to certain charities, including those that do this, this, or that.

Rather than changing the terms in a shady sort of way, this would allow Chase to take the highroad. “Yes, we’re changing the rules, but it’s because of our principled approach to busines.”

What do you think? Would that help Chase salvage some credibility? Do you think they even can at this point?

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