Social Media-Driven Charity Initiatives—Better Than You Think
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem that, when given a choice between negative and positive perspective, mainstream media will usually choose the pessimistic spin? The headline last week in an article from The Washington Post pronounced that charitable giving via social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace was a bust. But in the daily rush of doing business and trying to stay current with the news, often times the headline is all we read. In the story regarding online giving, the unfortunate headline skimmer would come away woefully misinformed. In fact, much of the story tells of the success of online fundraisers as opposed to the failures. True, what I deem successful and what someone else calls a success may be different, but the fact remains that whether twenty dollars or one million dollars, any money given toward a worthy cause is better than nothing. The article laments that “just 185,000 members have ever contributed” through a popular Facebook application, with the median gift being $25. Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, or does that amount to over $4.5 million?
The digital uproar over the article resulted in a toned down headline in the online edition as well as a substantial correction and clarification regarding some of the statistics.
My own experience with online philanthropy has been overwhelmingly positive. I was recently involved with a social media-driven event that grew from a chance meeting with a goodhearted acquaintance into a multi-city and international event involving hundreds (if not thousands) of participants on three different continents. Not only were valuable funds earned for a worthwhile charity, but countless hours and gifts-in-kind were donated as well. Most importantly, people took the opportunity to step out of their own stressful and demanding lives to spend time helping someone else. And it was all planned and promoted via social media. So who gained from this event? Not only the recipient of the funds, but every single person who took part. Not only did hundreds of front-, middle-, and end-users receive tangible and non-tangible benefits, but the event was planned and promoted solely via social media.
Examples of successful fundraisers are plentiful online if an honest search is made. From millions of dollars raised on a Facebook fan page to myriad Chip-In type widgets and gadgets found on web sites, charity is alive and well on the internet. Beyond the dollars and cents, blogger Allison Fine makes the point that success should also be measured by awareness not money alone. She writes that today’s connected world “means that each one of us is can be more than an ATM for our causes.”
Beyond awareness and financial giving exists the chance to actually do. Sites such as DoSomething.org and GoodTurnForAmerica.org list ideas and opportunities in local communities for volunteers to simply show up and serve. If you’re unable to spare a dime, surely you can spend some time.
So cheer up, America. Despite what you may read there is still plenty of good in the world. And if you’re unable to see it sometimes the best thing to do is to put on some gloves and make it.
Jyl Johnson Pattee is the founder and president of Mom It Forward, a service-based online community with offline chapters throughout North America. Jyl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.