Philanthropy Redefined by Social Media

faisalahsan    October 7, 2012

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Social Media & Philanthropy

It was inevitable. Thanks to the increased connection with people across the globe via social media mediums such as Twitter, Facebook & YouTube, the strategy has changed for charitable organizations and philanthropists to interface dramatically. Although more traditional mediums are still prevalent and carry a lot of weight, social media is increasingly taking center-stage. According to Visceral Business’s Social Charity 100 index, charities are making an active effort to use social media especially Facebook and Twitter.64% of charities are primarily based on Facebook and 26% on Twitter because as one charity said followers on Facebook do more with the information than on Twitter.

“Facebook provides us with the most direct connection to our supporters and our clients. As a result, we see lots of participation in our Facebook page – likes, comments, messages, wall posts. Our main aim with social media is building awareness of the cause and engaging existing supporters, Facebook gives us versatility and choice in how we do this, be it through text, photos or videos.”

Making social media the primary focus, however, is not with its own fair share of problems. Charities such as UNICEF have huge Facebook and Twitter followings but it is difficult to see how well their reach is translating into donations. There are also lower levels of deeper engagement and they require rich media to increase awareness (Such as videos and real-time collaboration). It is also important to note that perhaps the aim has changed altogether from just raising large sums of money to raising awareness on a global scale.

Previously foundations had to work very hard to raise awareness for their causes and the reach was more restricted. This meant that larger donations were needed from fewer donors. The math has now changed with gigantic mediums such as Facebook to utilize and raise awareness. Take Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” campaign and its astounding virality this year (the video has reached over 90 million views on YouTube alone). It also interesting to see the “Causes” foundation within Facebook and that is has around 100 million registered users who are active with various causes. The numbers are there, the question now is to see how effective the engagement can be.

Lesson to learn

The progressive use of social media by non-profit organizations has primarily focused on increasing the reach for their message. This has led to a connection with their followers which can be harnessed to do great things. It also allows social media to be used more effectively for social causes.



Submitted By: Faisal Ahsan, SMBP, University of Waterloo

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