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Social “Networkanthropy;” a New Movement

A revolution in giving has exploded on the internet as celebrities, politicians, organizations, corporations and ordinary “Joes” grasp the power of social networking to benefit worthy causes. Celebrities are building upon their popularity to get their fans hooked on their personal causes. Imagine what Elizabeth Taylor, a classic Oscar-winning legend and a huge champion of charitable causes, could have done if she had the power of Twitter on her side?

Not only do celebrities use their social pages to promote charitable interests, but they are also sending messages about funding opportunities. Take Hugh Jackman’s recent appeal on his Twitter page to find a deserving charity for his $100,000 donation. In case you are not a Twitterer, let me fill you in on a few things. You can only post notes on this social networking site that are 140 characters or less, so if you want your charity to get that donation, you’d better figure out a way to state your case using very few words.

And have you heard about celebrity Ashton Kutcher’s race to 1 million Twitter followers against news organization CNN? As Kutcher continued to push people to register for his site, he sweetened the deal with a charity donation. He offered to purchase 10,000 mosquito nets for World Malaria day if he won the race and 1,000 if he lost. CNN agreed to do the same. In the end, Kutcher won, and so did the charity Malaria No More, who received the donation.

If charitable organizations learn how to use the power of social networking, they too can connect with their constituents and find unprecedented opportunities to identify and encourage new supporters.

For instance, say “Mary Smith” joins a social networking site to keep in touch with her friends. Mary has amassed a large list of friends who receive regular updates about Mary’s life. Then, Mary gets breast cancer. She details her battle on her social page, and gets constant support from her group of friends. Once Mary has recovered, she decides to volunteer with the local breast cancer group and registers to walk in a charity event. Mary, who has detailed her personal battle, now reaches out to encourage her friends to support her and help raise money for the cause. She places a link to the charity on her social page so her friends can check it out.

What do you think happens next? I’ll tell you – because Mary’s plea for help is a desperately personal one, and because she’s reaching out to an already sympathetic audience, Mary’s friends donate on her behalf in very large numbers.

UNICEF took great advantage of this during its annual Trick or Treat for UNICEF campaign last October when it enabled individuals to encourage donations through social networking sites. The Salvation Army did the same thing when it took its annual Red Kettle Campaign online. And Kevin Bacon, with his sixdegrees.org fundraising website, makes badges (links) available for a number of charities. Grab a charity badge and place it on your social network site and your friends may also choose to get connected to the same charitable cause.

The power of the internet has given new meaning to philanthropy as it reaches out to the world in unimaginable numbers. I call it “networkanthropy,” and it’s going to drive charitable giving from this point forward. Charitable organizations have got to learn how to harness this power, or they’ll be left behind.

As you embark on your journey to learn how you can get the most out of social networking for your charitable organization, check out the following basics. And, as my last bit of advice, I’d go to Hugh Jackman’s Twitter page first to see if you can earn that $100,000 donation. Good luck!

Social Networking Tips for Nonprofits from Network for Good
My Space Impact Channel for Charitable Causes
Facebook Resources
Twitter
Six Degrees
Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship
You Tube’s Non Profit Channel
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