The internet has completely revolutionized the way we live. Typewriters, hand-written letters, and paper research are quickly becoming a part of a by-gone era. Methods we once used to obtain information, or stay in contact with loved ones are being replaced by emails, the internet, and of late, social media. There are emerging signs now that social media is even taking over some of the functions of how people connected through more recent techno-advances like emails or instant messaging. Social media is injecting new life into philanthropy and new possibilities that once were deemed too cumbersome.
The internet, and social media in particular, provide access to a whole new generation. Today’s youth operates based on this new technology, most commonly using social media outlets such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, or Twitter. These outlets, that started off as merely tools for entertainment or a way to keep in contact with a personal social network, have now become major tools for corporations and non-profits. This rising dominance of social media is changing the way philanthropy fundraises and its ability to reach a wider and newer audience base of younger people — creating new ways to inform, contact, and raise awareness for a younger generation.
Social media works fast, and can reach those from all walks of life. Lynda Mitchell, a parent of a child ridden with life threatening food allergies, got online. She used the internet to reach out to a community of other parents that were facing some of the same hardships she was facing with her son. What started as an email contact list turned into Kids With Food Allergies, now a 17,000 member nonprofit organization. Their social media involvement still results in hundreds of messages a day on their website.
Sage North America, a business software firm has conducted a survey about social media geared towards nonprofit organizations. Eighty eight percent of these nonprofits said they use some form of social media, Facebook and MySpace being the most popular, followed by blogging and microblogging, which includes Twitter, and then YouTube. Sage Communications advises that non-profit organizations should make the switch into social media slowly, claiming blogging is the most concrete of all the social media outlets. United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania has been raising $50 million for local charities. They have been using social media outlets to reach out to young professionals who may not know about United Way. Their VP of Communications, Joseph DiVincenzo, states it is getting the word out there to a younger audience, and to those they can’t reach with other communication tactics.
Social media not only provides non-profits fast access to to an audience of potential volunteers and donors; but, for those who seek volunteer work or charities to support, social media has proven to be a quicker and easier way to find information on opportunities around the globe. Interestingly, advances in technology have made some things dispensable and other indispensable. Has social media become an indispensable tool for social good?