Is social media creating a new kind of philanthropist? Some commentators, including Geoff Livingston on Mashable, see something different happening when people tap into direct ways to speak out and give on-line.
This kind of social activism may not take as much effort as marching on Washington or pasting flyers around town, but it has the advantage of engaging what Livingston calls a “citizen philanthropist,” a person who now lets his or her network know what they care about and what they give to, using Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
When Twitter accounts turned green in unity with Iranian protestors last year, participants aligned themselves with a cause and began influencing others simply by changing the color of the icon on their account. When texting became a quick and easy way to send aid to Haiti, these independent-minded donors had an immediate impact on raising dollars. If you’ve received a request to mark someone’s birthday with a donation through a Facebook cause, you have been part of the same phenomenon at work on a smaller scale.
Yet social media remains only a small part of overall fundraising efforts. Reaching out on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn is, for most traditional nonprofits, just another way to stay connected to people whom they hope to ask for larger dollars through another kind of fundraising effort or one-on-one visit.
If the important thing is to feel part of a cause and to do that quickly, social media is a great way to plug into an effort that is bigger than any of us can do alone. And starting somewhere – at any amount, on-line or in person – can be an opportunity to begin a relationship that can make a real difference.