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Millennials Using Social Media for Social Good

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The adoption of digital technology is one of the major distinctions Millennials have among previous generations. The age group in their late teens to early 30s can create a profile on the latest social network faster than you can say “smartphone.” Many might deem their ubiquitous love affair with social media quite trivial, but don’t discount all the good some of them are already doing with it. Millennials are pioneering ways to give back to their communities, sharing actionable solutions to social issues, and galvanizing others who believe real impact is sometimes only a send button away.

Social Networks Expanding Nonprofits’ Reach

Take IGNITEgood for instance, who has teamed up with The Huffington Post to give away $100,000 to 10 game changing ideas that move humanity forward. The competition dubbed “Millennial Impact Challenge,” will first select five existing nonprofit organizations/businesses that demonstrate scalable impact, viability of getting others involved, and a sense the applicants are uniquely qualified to champion their big idea. The IGNITE Team has corralled an impressive group of–you guessed it–Millennials as the selection committee to pick these winners. The second half of funding is reserved for five startup organizations or companies who get the most “likes” on Facebook during the voting phase. You see, socially-conscious Millennials are using the “like” button for something other than self-esteem boosters and virtual pats on the back.

A Houston darling of a nonprofit is also harnessing the social web to make a difference in their community. Mia’s Closet is barely a year old and is already making established nonprofits take notice with its online presence. Executive Director Chelsea Coffey founded the nonprofit to instill confidence and self-worth in students from kindergarten to high school by providing them with clothing through a personal shopping experience.

Seeing is believing in Coffey’s perspective so she tells the story of her organization through Instagram. The app allows Coffey and crew to showcase the lively atmosphere of pampering, personal styling, and all around family fun. What started out as a small project has blossomed into a steady growth in Facebook and Twitter fans, along with a full-fledged website using the easily-to-learn, WordPress platform. Quite fittingly, the 20-something founder now moonlights as fashion/social media editor for the same magazine that gave Mia’s Closet its early press coverage in March.

Social Entrepreneurs are The New Rockstars

From local zines to globally-recognized publications, Millennials are reported on as leaders in the surge of social entrepreneurship. One such brand is Forbes Magazine, which intends to bring these modern enterprises to a new audience. The magazine has publicized its search for 30 Awesome Social Entrepreneurs Under 30. Known for its lists of actors, rockstars, and  business moguls, Forbes is venturing into content that may add cachet to the young do-gooders of the world. Don’t go nominating your buddy who raised a wad of singles and loose change selling lemonade at the local block party, though. The staff is essentially searching for the dream team of altruistic innovators. The noble group who will help define this generation and their impact will most likely be fueled by Web 2.0.

One clear candidate deserving Forbes glory is Tristan Walker, who is adding value to the nonprofit sector via the social highway. The tech wunderkind Linkedin page looks more like Mashable.com’s top stories. Walker has worked for Twitter, JP Morgan, a major Boston-based consulting group and more recently served as Foursquare’s Director of Business Development (a relationship which he initiated with an email to the founders). Working 12 hour days to develop an investment portfolio so he can buy yachts, expensive champagne, and gold-plated toilet seats seem like the next steps for him, right?

On the contrary, the rising figure has opted to tackle a new venture that yields $0 in profits. Yes, Walker recently founded a nonprofit organization that is primed to give minorities a shot at taking on Silicon Valley’s biggest startups. The bold move has backing from some major players in the tech space, philanthropy powerhouses, and venture capital partners. Their inaugural class of fellows earned paid internships and gained insight from the who’s who of tech startups, as well as established companies.

Tammy Tibbetts is another under 30 community organizer crushing it at the intersection of social media and social change. Tibbetts had already scored a coveted job as Social Media Editor for Seventeen Magazine, which she reported as having the fastest growing Twitter presence in the magazine industry in 2011. She has since made the tough decision to leave that dream job to begin another as founder of She’s the First, a non-profit sponsoring girls’ education in developing countries.

Tibbetts takes social media best practices from her previous role to amplify the impact her organization makes. The site features “Map Your Impact” using Google Maps, as well as tweeting, Facebooking, and Tumbling calls-to-action that drive donors to its Razoo page. One of the most surprising, yet promising displays of support comes from its tie-dye cupcakes campaign, which has turned into social media tour de force. The video below is a taste of how sweet it is for college students to raise  thousands of dollars with a few days of baking and selling cupcakes on campus.

How Millennials Engage With Nonprofits

These new media-friendly founders help contextualize the bigger picture of how Millennials are working toward a greater good.  A valuable reference to these interactions is the often-cited 2012 Millennial Impact Report, which surveys Millennials’ relationships with existing nonprofits.

  • Connecting: The majority of Millennials surveyed stated they prefer to learn about nonprofits through their website and social media. 77% of them own smartphones, and they like having access to what an organization does, how to get involved, and shareable content, right at their fingertips. Nearly 70% of the participants have interacted with a nonprofit via Facebook. A staggering 87% of them follow nonprofits on Twitter, while 60% give compliments and retweet content from nonprofits they follow.
  • Involving: Not surprisingly, 81% of respondents prefer to learn about nonprofit volunteering opportunities through their peers. This finding warrants an added incentive for nonprofit leaders to create content people want to share, and display social network mechanisms for supporters to do so. Coming in at second and third are emails and a nonprofit’s website to learn about volunteer information. By a margin of more than two-to-one, Millennials who volunteer for nonprofits are more likely to make donations. That’s good news for organizations who can effectively engage with their audience via online and offline experiences.
  • Giving: Millennials overwhelmingly prefer to donate through the web, with 70% of respondents having made contributions through a nonprofit’s web page in the last year. This goes back to nonprofits needing to produce and feature inspiring content on their website in order to gain financial support. To encourage consistent giving, nonprofits should make it clear as to how donations will impact the organization, avoid telling donors how much to give, and stray from sending long letters in the mail for support. Millennials like to make contributions with ease and immediacy.

So there you have it. A look at innovative Millennials using social sites to make meaningful connections and bring change for the undeserved communities they’re passionate about. And a snapshot of overall trends that will ultimately drive new and interesting ways to solve human injustice and inequality. Comment below to share your story or tell us about a person you know who is using social media for social good. Even lemonade stand stories are welcomed here.

 

Kony 2012: The Power of Social Media at Work to Change the World

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kony 2012

This morning, one of my friends posted a video called “Kony 2012.” I didn’t really take notice of it at first because I’m not a super political person, but it did catch my eye because I thought, “Hm, I don’t remember hearing anything about a candidate called Kony in her state.” Then I saw another friend post it. Then another. So I decided to watch it.

Thirty minutes long, and I watched every second of it. That’s not the norm for me, especially in the morning when I’m busy answering emails and getting set up for work for the day. I usually just don’t have the time. But for Kony 2012, I made the time…and I hope you will too.

Kony isn’t a politician; he’s a war criminal that is literally stealing children from their beds to he can arm them and force them to kill. I’ve heard of that happening, but I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know his name, nor did I know that we’re talking about tens of thousands of children. And that’s what this campaign is all about. He’s able to stay under the radar because people have no idea who he is. We need to change that so he can be captured and brought to justice.

It’s a powerful message, but what I think is interesting is that we’re going to watch something even more powerful in real-time: the use of social media to make a huge change in the world. Already, through Facebook and other social media sites, Invisible Children has made a huge difference, gaining support to raise money, reach politicians, and get the world out about Kony’s crimes.

Twenty years ago, this wasn’t possible. Today it is, thanks to social media. That, to me, is chill-inducing and more exciting than just about anything going on in the new media industry.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch and pass on this video, as well as sign the pledge and consider donating to Invisible Children. What do you think of their social media campaign?

7 Habits of Effective Personal Fundraisers

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… by Rob Wu

You’re an influencer. You’ve built up a strong following on Twitter and your blog readership is increasing every day. People listen to you and want to hear from you. What you say changes opinions and spurs people to action.

You’re also passionate about a non-profit and the work that they do. Many of you want to raise funds for your non-profit or cause, but don’t know how to approach it. How can you leverage your influence for good? We’ve seen lots of people spin their wheels to figure out how to get more donations to their cause.

We’re with you and want to help you become the best fundraiser possible. The 7 Habits of Effective Personal Fundraisers is a free ebook we wrote to help you become the best possible fundraiser for your non-profit.

To do that, we combed through the thousands of individuals that used our platform and selected some of the most successful to study. We examined what and how much they raised, and identified seven habits that they all had in common; a few non-profit experts weighed in also.

As an influencer, you’re in the perfect position to leverage an audience for your cause. We can’t guarantee that you will raise a ton in donations easily, but if you follow these habits, you’ll be on the right track.

Here’s a quick overview of the seven habits.

1. Personalize your fundraising
The most effective fundraisers use their personalities to promote their campaign as well as personal stories. Your relationships are compelling enough reasons for your network to give to your cause.

2. Use multiple ways to raise awareness
Reach out to your network, especially friends, family, and co-workers. A personalized email is the best way to get donations. Social media is helpful to augment your message.

3. Keep up the human connections
Help other people connect with the cause and need by focusing on being human. Meet people face-to-face to help them understand your passion for and commitment to the cause.

4. Emphasize how everyone can make a difference
Show that even small contributions will amount to big, tangible results. Let donors know exactly where their money is going and how much of a difference it makes.

5. Your cause is worth the effort
Getting donations for a cause isn’t easy. You’ll have to persevere through some dry spells and be assured that your efforts matter (because they really do!).

6. Remind others to contribute
Update and share progress. This is an opportunity to remind others of your fundraising progress and how they can help.

7. Be appreciative
Always thank your donors and supporters! They want to be recognized and your appreciation goes a long way.

Check out our video with Rob prior to the BWENY event, where he talks about why he attends conferences, and the question he gets asked most:

View more videos from BlogWorld on the BlogWorld YouTube channel.

For more details and to hear directly from experts and the most successful fundraisers, download the free 7 Habits of Effective Personal Fundraisers ebook.

Rob Wu is a Founder at CauseVox, an innovative online fundraising platform that empowers non-profits to easily design and personalize their own fundraising tools and site. Most recently, Rob co-created SXSWCares, a campaign that raised over $120,000 in 10 days. His work has been recognized by the Mayor of Austin and featured in the NYTimes, CNN, Forbes, and NPR. Previously, Rob consulted for the Department of Defense and the US Federal government. Rob spends his free time helping NGOs abroad solve social problems more effectively. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.

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#Blogchat, Social Causes, and Responsibility (part 2)

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In the middle of writing about this topic, I realized that the post was MASSIVE, so I decided to break it into two parts. You can head to Part 1 to read about cause fatigue and branding in relation to using new media and blogs to promote social causes. In this part, I want to talk about hypocrisy and responsibility.

As I’ve noted on the first post, I do realize that this is a highly emotional topic and not everyone agrees with me. In fact, my opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other members of the BlogWorld team or BlogWorld as a whole. I welcome comments on this topic, even if you don’t agree with me, because I think there is merit to many facets of this topic.

Hypocrisy

How many people retweeted a link to some social cause out there? Almost all of us have at some point or another. Now, how many people have actually donated? That number will likely be much smaller. Does that mean that we’re a society of hypocrites? Maybe…but not necessarily.

We all have our causes, causes that are close to our hearts. For me, it’s TWLOHA, an organization that helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. When I have extra money to donate somewhere, that’s where it goes 99 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about other causes. There are some great charities out there. Even if they are causes close to my heart, I can definitely appreciate movements like #sxswcares, for example.

So, I pass on the link, just once, to followers who might be interested. I don’t want to get to the point where I hit cause fatigue for my followers, so unless I’m passionate about the cause, I don’t send multiple tweets about it. But I don’t think I’m a hypocrite for passing on the link even if I don’t donate myself. One of my followers might be passionate about the cause and wouldn’t otherwise know where to donate. (I’d like to note that I do think that if you want to support a cause, you at least need to explain it by passing on a link. I talked about the whole “changing your avatar” thing before – it doesn’t make sense to me to follow a trend without actually being vocal about the cause.)

Responsibility

I personally grapple most with the concept of a responsibility to use social media or your blog to promote causes. On one hand, if you’re someone who carries some kind of clout on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, it seems like the least you can do to promote a good cause. On the other hand, why should anyone be responsible for anyone else? It’s a very Ayn Rand way of thinking, and I’m definitely not her hugest fan…but this is a concept that definitely makes sense to me. I work hard for my money and I don’t like being guilted into thinking that I have to give it away to those less fortunate.

Not that there’s not something to be said for karma. Whether or not you believe in karmic forces, I think we can all agree that it’s a pretty scummy thing to rely on the charity of others when you’re dealing with a tough time in life, but then refuse to contribute to others when you’re in a position to do so. I’m just suggesting that it is okay to keep the money you make or spend it on yourself and your family. I don’t believe that anyone has a responsibility to donate to charity or even promote a cause, no matter how influential they are. Choosing to do so (or not) does not dictate whether or not you are a good person and it definitely does not dictate whether or not you do anything of value.

In other words, whether or not someone donates to charity does not tell me much about how good they are at their job. At the same time (I told you, I grapple with this issue), I like giving my money to someone who is a philanthropist, since it means that some of the profits they made from me will go toward something good in the world. So, even if we don’t have a responsibility per se, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good business decision.

Which brings me back to the “profiting from tragedy” issue. If you’re only donating because you want to look good to your fans, is that a bad thing?

Maybe…but does the charity really care? A dollar is a dollar, whether you gave it just to feel good about yourself and didn’t even tell your followers or you gave it to help build your brand in some way.

Is there an easy way to wrap up these two posts? I don’t know. I struggle with how to best use my new media accounts and the small amount of online influence that I have. I like how it make me feel to promote great causes, but I always want to make good business decisions and use my money wisely. One thing is certain – I do not like how so many people lump others into groups when it comes to causes. The “if you don’t donate, you’re a bad person” argument doesn’t sit well with me. Nor does that “the least you can do is promote this cause” argument. We all have our reasons for supporting or not supporting causes, and it usually isn’t black and white.

#Blogchat, Social Causes, and Responsibility (part 1)

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On Sunday nights or Monday mornings, I usually post “Overheard on #Blogchat,” a weekly feature that pulls some of the best tweets from a popular Twitter chat where people share blog tips. This week, I wanted to do a special edition of Overheard on #Blogchat because I have more to say than usual…and some questions that are not easily answered and require all of us to do a little soul-searching.

Also, before talking about this topic more, I wanted to make something exceedingly clear: My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else working for BlogWorld Expo or BlogWorld Expo as a whole. One of the awesome things about Rick and Dave (the duo behind BlogWorld) is that they encourage people writing here to voice varying opinions. People on the BlogWorld team often disagree, and I think that’s awesome. The BlogWorld blog also loves posting guest posts from people who don’t always agree with the opinions of writers here – and I’d definitely love your comments on this topic whether or agree or not!

Last night, the theme of #blogchat was using your blog and social media accounts to do good. With the recent natural disasters and nuclear meltdown in Japan, there have been pushes across Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more to donate to the Red Cross or other organizations. One of our own, Deb Ng, got heavily involved with fundraising efforts at SxSW, and what they did was nothing short of amazing (I think totals are over $100,000 raised at this point). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people come together on social media sites to promote donating money or use their blogs, even in unrelated niches, as a way to filter news and pass on relevant links.

I struggle with this concept, though, using blogs and social media to promote causes so others donate money. Part of me thinks it’s great. Another part of me thinks that it is problematic at best.

Cause Fatigue

At any given time, there’s some tragedy somewhere that needs help. Whether it’s a one-time disastrous event (like what happened in Japan) or a cause like breast cancer or autism, there’s always a hashtag for you to learn more about a cause that’s close to someone’s heart. There are just not enough hours in the day to promote everything, and there are definitely not enough dollars in my bank account to send money to everyone.

But I think a more important problem is that it starts to become white noise to your followers. People (hopefully) follow you because they are interested in your blog, your projects, your life, and while promoting a cause occasionally can easily fit into that, if you promote every cause out there, you start to lose relevance to your fans and readers. I’ve unfollowed people in the past because it seemed like all they did was hit me up for me (albeit, for causes, but it’s still someone asking for money all the time without providing much value).

Causes and Branding

I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about companies using a tragedy to promote a brand, to somehow profit off of the situation. The idea that someone is making money from what’s happening in Japan right now creates a knee-jerk feeling of disgust for me, and I bet it does for you too. But thinking critically, looking at the bigger picture, just because something bad happens in the world doesn’t mean that your business should stop. It’s ok to consider your brand in this context, in my opinion.

Here’s an example of what I mean: Let’s say that you’re a day care facility. One month, two high school groups approach you at the same time asking for money. The first group asks for $100 to support the local food bank. The second group asks for $100 to go toward renovating your community’s children’s library. As a small business owner, you only have enough money to give to one group – which do you choose?

Clearly, the library project fits more closely with your brand. Both are excellent causes, but one just fits more with what you’re doing. If you were a restaurant, it would make more sense to donate to the food bank.

Or, let’s say that you’re a hair salon and two high schools groups approach you with these requests for me. Except with Group B, you’d get your name on a plaque at the library if you donate. It just makes more sense to go with that cause. You’re technically “profiting” from the situation, but you’re not a bad person. You just haven’t turned your business mind off for the sake of a cause or tragedy. That’s different than saying that you’re collecting donations for a cause but actually pocketing most of the money for yourself. Yet, so many people don’t really draw a line in the sand between the two. If you profit or consider your brand in any way, you’re automatically bad – something I think is a problem.

Head to Part 2 to read more. (This post was just getting too massive to be a single post!)

Why Changing Your Profile Picture Means Nothing

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Over the past few days, I kept seeing my Facebook friends change their profile pictures to cartoon characters. I’m a huge geek, as are many of my friends, so at first, I notice a few Pokemon pictures. I thought it had something to do with a new video game coming out or something. Then Disney princesses and Sponge Bob started showing up. Yet, I had no clue what was going on. Apparently, this was another Facebook trend that you had to be one of the “cool kids” to understand, like when everyone was shouting out their bra colors a few months ago.

Finally, I saw someone post about it. Apparently, everyone on Facebook is supposed to change their profile picture to a cartoon character from their childhood for the weekend to show support for the prevention of child abuse.

Cue me rolling my eyes.

Let me say right now that I 100% support an end to child abuse. I used to work at a day care and saw first hand how horrible the effects of abuse can be. Most of the cause-related memes that hit social media are for issues that I fully support.

But how exactly does changing my profile picture change anything.

The “Raise Awareness” Argument

Whenever I bitch about these types of social media campaigns, the most common angry response I get is this: It raises awareness. Even if you aren’t out there stopping predators from abusing children, you’re reminding people that this is an issue.

Ok, I agree with this in some cases, but most of the time it just makes me roll my eyes a second time. Is it an issue that isn’t widely known? Then, that makes sense. Child abuse? Breast cancer? The extinction of *insert your favorite cute animal here*? I already know that these are huge problems in the world! I don’t need you to remind me.

If your cause is for something that most people do not know about, then by all means, start some kind of Facebook craze to raise awareness. As you’re changing your picture, ask yourself this: is doing so actually going to inform someone who had no idea that the problem exists?

Where’s Your Call To Action?

The “raise awareness” bull is only enhanced by the fact that people aren’t voicing their concerns over the issue. It took me THREE DAYS to figure out why everyone was changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters. If you honestly want to raise awareness, why aren’t you using the weekend to post often about why you changed your picture? Talk about the issue if it is important to you!

One of the silliest things I saw was a few months ago on Twitter when people were refusing to tweet for the day – I believe that was in support of autism. It makes no sense to me to refuse to talk about a cause in order to show your support of the cause. Instead, it should been a campaign where if you want to support autism, for the day you’re going to do nothing by tweet about autism – stats, links to how to donate, etc.

Most of all, what I hate about these cause memes is that there’s no actual call to action to help most of the time. Raising awareness is great – but who cares if every single person in the world is aware that child abuse exists? If no one actually does anything, it doesn’t matter. If you change your profile picture, give your friends/followers/fans a link where they can go to donate. In looking on Facebook for an answer as to why people were changing their profile pictures, I saw ONE link to a child abuse charity where I could donate.

And it was from someone who basically said, “Changing your picture is stupid. Here’s a link to donate instead.”

You can even get creative with it! For example, I think the “social media death” campaign that’s going on with a bunch of celebrities right now makes a ton of sense. Until fans donate however much money to a cause, you won’t be on Twitter/Facebook. Now that’s a call to action. You can even support if you don’t have the means to donate by passing around the link for others to do so. But just changing your picture doesn’t actually get anything done.

Abuse is not Trendy

While trying to figure out why avatar pictures were changing, I asked a few people what was going on. Three of them – THREE – said, “I don’t know. I just saw that people were changing their pictures, so I decided to do it too.”

Ok, I understand that showcasing your favorite cartoon character is cute, but child abuse should not be trendy! That’s the risk you run when you have no explanation or call to action. People just jump on the bandwagon because they want to be one of the cool kids, but at that point you’re not raising awareness at all!

I especially resent the thought that people are somehow going to think I’m a bad person if I don’t change my picture too. It’s not that I don’t support the prevention of child abuse. I just don’t like changing my profile picture. Beyond that, crap like this is going on constantly. It becomes white noise if I’m constantly asking people to donate to this cause or that cause. So, I’ve chosen the issue that is extremely important to me, and I focus on that.

A Final Thought

If you want to change your picture, awesome. Just tell me why, and give me something I can do to actually make a difference.

Right now, people are talking about child abuse, but the issue that is most important in my life is suicide prevention. So, to end this post, my call to action is this: Please consider learning more about my favorite charity, To Write Love On Her Arms, and consider making a donation to this or another charity this holiday season.

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