Social media for a social cause

socialcauseSocial networking tools are facilitating social change in ways that weren’t possible before. These tools are uniting like-minded individuals and gathering support from around the world. A connected culture is demonstrating the ability to improve lives.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter offer many opportunities to put the power of good – charity, support, awareness, etc. – in the hands of so many. Teach For America, an organization that recruits, trains and places teachers in inner-city schools, is now recruiting both teacher candidates and donors with popular YouTube videos. Facebook Causes lets members start and join causes such as cancer researcher Eric Ding’s  Facebook Cause for cancer prevention and research. The cause has over three million members and has raised over $75,000. Beyond the promotion of charitable causes and direct appeals, social media expands some truly creative opportunities to become philanthropically involved. Ebay, with its partner MissionFish, now offers the opportunity to donate a portion of auction (or “Buy It Now”) proceeds to the charity of the seller’s choice. It’s become such an effective tool that Ebay now promotes the service as a recommended selling tool.

Kiva is the first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. As stated on their website, Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Like Kiva, Heifer International connects people to people by providing families a source of food and income rather than short-term relief. They further the social dynamic by encouraging recipients to “pass on the gift.” As people share their knowledge, resources, and skills with others, an expanding network of hope, dignity, and self-reliance is created that reaches around the globe.

Altruism aside, when you combine this kind of connectivity with powerful (and meaningful) calls-to-action, smart brands get involved. SocialVibe has created a marketplace for brands to interact with social media users who are willing to engage with brands in exchange for earning donations for the charity of their choice. The spectrum of participation is as wide and varied as the charities themselves. From supporting employees efforts to do good like Home Depot does with Habitat For Humanity or integrated online/offline marketing campaigns like Scholastic does with Heifer, one thing remains constant; consumers spend their dollars and speak more highly of brands that give back.