For businesses today, you’re either using social media or losing it in the great arms race. Philanthropic causes are no different. In fact, social media provides great value for philanthropy because it gives causes the opportunity to share their stories from the field, reach out to greater audiences, and gain more financial and volunteer support. Social media has evolved the way philanthropy works, creating platforms solely based on the greater good. Though Facebook and Twitter are leaders in promoting a cause, a whole movement is popping up to make a difference and raise awareness. With social media, causes are able to share, promote, and update their followers at a faster and more connected pace, creating stronger philanthropic relationships.
Mulu (www.mulu.me) provides a new shopping social network that helps a good cause, ranging from big to small, with your purchases. Imagine a Pintrest-like site solely based on shopping that allows you to ask any questions and get feedback about products. Users shop based off recommendations from close friends, celebrities, and their favorite fashion designers and retailers. The kicker is that 1-10% of sales goes to a charity of the retailer’s choice, meaning you as the buyer can make a difference while indulging in your favorite products.
Believe.in acts as a personal social site for charities and those who want to do some good. This platform connects people, their charities, and their friends in a network that creates a philanthropic presence online. Believe.in allows users to post updates, leave comments for their supporters, browse and follow charities of personal interest, and sync content with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Signing up is completely free, but the site offers helpful add-ons like personalization, performance tracking, and advanced data at fair costs for charities. Teaming up with company Stripe, an easy payment API startup, charities are able to receive direct payments at a faster rate than other services, and unlike other charity-oriented sites, Believe.in doesn’t charge any fees on donations, meaning 100% of donations goes to charity.
Change.org serves as a global community focused on making a difference through petitions, demonstrating that doing something as little as signing your name counts. Users are able to browse topics of interest, such as animals, education, environment, health, human trafficking, and more to find a cause they care about. The site allows users to find and sign petitions or create a petition of their own for a cause they feel passionate about. To inspire users when they start a petition, the site provides a section called tips and guides, as well as another section called victories, which posts accomplishments that have come from petitions. Another neat feature is that Change.org also helps organizations to create their own campaign, providing them with information and resources they need to be successful.
Though social media platforms with philanthropy in mind have evolved into its own social space, mainstream social sites like Facebook and Twitter still play a major role in philanthropic movements. Take the Show Your Hearts Campaign, launched by Justin Bieber in 2011 with the support of other celebrities such as Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, and Lady Gaga (before she so rudely shut down her Twitter). Show Your Hearts helped the Berry children who were partially paralyzed from a car accident that left them orphaned. Bieber and other celebrities reached out to their fans on Facebook and Twitter asking them to text $10 donations for a profile avatar. In a single day, the social campaign was quite a success, raising over $98,000.
As inspiring as Show Your Hearts is, charity campaigns can still be successful without a celebrity motivating people to join. Take the Amnesty International campaign, Trial By Timeline, which uses Facebook to make a point that freedom isn’t a liberty for everyone. It’s eerie sentence-me sequence analyzes your Facebook content and comes up with charges based on what other countries consider crimes. Going to unauthorized public gatherings, socializing with unrelated males if you’re a women, blasphemy, and being involved with media are just a few violations on the list. Through Facebook, Amnesty International’s campaign has over 20k likes, reaching an audience worth impact.
Awareness is one major pedestal that philanthropy uses to gain followers and donations, but there is one concern that arises when it comes to raising awareness through social media. The argument is that Facebook and Twitter users only like or follow a cause because it looks good for their image, they don’t get involved further than a like. Charity organizations call this idea slacktivism. Though this may be a struggle for philanthropic causes, some organizations are using this concept to their advantage. Consider the Unicef campaign, Likes Don’t Save Lives, which calls out slacktivists and encourages them to dive deeper into a cause more than just a Facebook like.
Unicef’s campaign makes a valid point that social media involvement needs to be more than clicking a button, but it’s not fair to completely condemn slacktivists for they do help campaigns bring attention to an issue, which is sometimes all a campaign needs. Look at the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT, which made a post that asked Facebook users to change their profile pics to the HRC’s logo in red to show support for marriage equality while the Supreme Court was discussing DOMA and Proposition 8. In a twenty-four hour span, according to newsfeed.com, the HRC post encouraging people to upload the red equals sign avatar resulted in 78,000 shares and more than 25,000 likes, demonstrating mainstream awareness for a once little supported cause. These numbers don’t include supporters’ posts encouraging their fans to do the same, like George Takei’s red equal sign profile picture, which got 40,000 likes.
Social media has done amazing things for philanthropy projects through expanding awareness and fundraising opportunities. An article from guardian.com sited findings from a YouGov survey that showed 13% of people bought something after seeing it on social media, and that 5.5% are now donating through social networks. Think that social media isn’t helping the cause? Think again. Social media is a leader in philanthropy.