Social Media’s role in Charitable Fundraising

Social Media’s role in charity – Many years go and my first ‘proper’ job out of university, I worked for Barnardo’s children’s charity. My role was a Student Fundraiser, I encouraged students from college and university to fund raise for Barnardo’s, mainly by shaking a bucket in a town centre.  I can’t help but think how much has changed since then and how the role of fundraising has shifted very much to digital. More specially social media campaigns.

Charities have always relied on content marketing, whether this is online or offline. The need to engage a lot of people by telling the story of why their charity deserves donations to do their vital work is not new. But this is content that, once read, was aimed to create the immediate desired response i.e. Donate.

Social Media’s role in charity fundraising is slightly different. A campaign is launched not just for consumers to read and donate, but to actively encourage others online to take part in the donation process. This has been very well executed in the resent ALS Ice bucket challenge.

The challenge originated in America (the charity is American) where participants would either pour an ice cold bucket of water on their head and donate $10 or just donate $100 and nominate other people to do the challenge in 24 hours and nominate new people – and so on.

The challenge dominated social media though out the western world with high profile celebrities, sports stars and the rest of the countries participating. The ALS Association which raised $64 million in the whole of 2013 reported to have raised $10 million on Thursday, August 21st 2014 alone.

A massive success right? I for one was amazed by the way the campaign had clearly made an impact on society and was raising money for a good cause.

But, here lies the downfall of social media. Campaigns only work if the public ‘own’ the campaign. This means the direction by which it goes once launched into the world of social media is never 100% predictable, and so the backlash started.

Many posted that the waste of water used recklessly by this challenge showed a massive lack of empathy and understanding towards the 3rd worlds struggle to have clean water. Others criticised ALS Association for taking more chartable donations away from other charities (people who normally donate what they had to a different charity have given to ALS).

Other critics said it was self congratulatory, rather than concentrating on the what the charity does and the seriousness of its role. A humorous criticism came from Willard Foxton, writing in the Daily Telegraph describing it as “a middle-class wet-T-shirt competition for armchair clicktivists”.

Since the launch of the craze I have seen on my social feed people addressing many of these concerns. Re-using water from the sea or lake; Donating to other charities local to them after the ice bucket challenge.

Despite all the criticism one can only think that anything that gets the public talking about charities and donating to charities is a good thing.