Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions – Part Three: Using Social Media to Help Others

*Note* This entry is part three of my blog posts in the 2010 series, Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions, as explained in this post.

So you’ve made a resolution this year to help others – good for you! You’re not alone, either. E-Philanthropy is on the rise (it grew 4% in 2008 and is growing each year) and it’s no surprise why – social media provides nonprofits, charities and other organizations or causes the ability to tap into a large, focused and connected network. Whether it’s donating your money or your time, social media can help you connect with the charities and causes you’re looking for.

 

Some tools you may find useful:

Good search: If you’re anything like me, you use Google (or Bing if that’s your fancy) on a daily, nearly hourly, basis. Wouldn’t it be great if searching online actually helped someone out? It can – check out GoodSearch.com. A do-gooder friend of mine showed me this site in college, and I’m glad to see it’s still up and running. It’s easy too – you choose a charity you support, search the web as usual, and they donate to your cause each time you search. You can add a Good Search toolbar to your browser to make searching (and donating) even easier.

Facebook Causes: Facebook describes its Causes Application as such: “Causes provides the tools so that any Facebook user can leverage their network of real friends to effect positive change.” Causes is a Facebook app that allows nonprofits (any U.S. registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit or Canadian registered charity) to raise money and alert Facebook users about the issues facing their organization today. If you’re looking to use social media to directly learn about a cause, hear what your networks or saying and/or donate directly, I suggest you browse the causes available.

If you’re sick of Facebook, there are other social networking sites that you can use to show your support and talk with others about a cause. Check out Care2 and Change.org to learn about issues and raise money for the charity of your choice.

YouTube: YouTube is so much more than laughing babies and drugged children coming home from the dentist. [Check out my post entitled YouTube…Why You Should Take It Seriously for some proof] If you’re a visual learner, why not use YouTube to get involved with a charity?  If there’s a charity you’re particularly interested in, you can search YouTube to see what they say about themselves. You may learn something you didn’t know about them or find out about a new campaign. Or, check out the full listing of Nonprofits on YouTube and see which ones interest you. Some YouTube channels even let you donate to them right on their YouTube page via Google Checkout (see the pages of Autism Speaks and the ONE Campaign for examples).

Get Involved! There are some great sites that can let you know where help is needed and how you can help. Check out DoSomething.org and VolunteerMatch for an ever-growing list of local volunteer opportunities. Idealist.org also has a listing of volunteer openings, in addition to its record of paying jobs at non-profits.

Beware:

Because of the lowered transparency level that comes with social media, you’ve got to be careful about donating your money – you don’t want to be scammed. Never ever give your credit card information (or any other private info) to an organization or a cause you’ve never heard of – and always be wary of providing personal information you wouldn’t need to give out in real life (e.g. social security number, etc.). [Sidebar: Check out this post I wrote about a common Money Order scam on Craigslist] If something feels wrong, it probably is – trust your gut. The San Francisco Chronicle just did a nice piece on what to look out for when donating to Haiti relief funds, but the tips apply to all charities.

Speaking of Haiti relief funds, the use of social media for the recent Haitian hurricane relief is a great case in point. Stay tuned for a post about that!

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