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We see many articles about how social media has led to an epidemic of cyberbullying – which can sometimes be very severe and detrimental – and been the cause of a lot of drama, including breakups, firings, and sometimes even feuds that end in violence. With all of the negative buzz surrounding these outlets – which allow you to take all your personal business and blast it to computers and mobile devices everywhere via Tweets, status updates, YouTube clips, and more – it can be easy to question exactly what the benefits of social media are to individuals and society as a whole.
But for all the damage social media and the Internet can do to an individual’s reputation, it also has the ability to transform the fundraising landscape and help thousands of causes get the positive attention they deserve – and this is happening every minute of every day. According to SocialMediaToday.com, as many as 90 percent of the nonprofits in the world use some form of social media networking (and that figure may even have increased since they released it in 2011). They also found that using common social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter increased fundraising results by up to 40 percent.
By now, we’ve probably all heard about bullied 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein, the bus monitor taunted by nasty middle schoolers. The YouTube video featuring the bullying went viral; fundraising efforts started by a Canadian man who saw the video and felt sorry for Klein aimed to raise $5,000 dollars for her to take a much-needed vacay, but ended up earning her more than $700,000 when donations poured in from around the world – ah, behold the power of social media! And there are tons of stories like this – people with serious illnesses, victims of fires and disasters who have lost their homes, students trying to earn money for a cause, and more – who raise big bucks that never would have been possible had they not caught the attention of Net surfers and social media users.
One area where social media is particularly impactful is in the world of animal rescue – something I’m intimately familiar with. In the Unites States alone, millions of unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized every year (sorry for the sad but true fact). Shelters in particular regions – especially those in the south, where far fewer people opt to spay or neuter their pets – are overflowing and many had a less than a 5 percent adoption rate meaning most animals that entered shelters never made it out alive. The use of social media by those organizations that have chosen to embrace it has helped to turn these dismal places around and led to a huge increase in the number of animals adopted to loving homes – often by people in totally different parts of the country that would never have seen their future four-legged companion otherwise. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I highly recommend you check out the book “Little Boy Blue” by Kim Kavin.
I stumbled upon my own dog, a shepherd mix aptly named Chance, in March of 2011 on Facebook. I wasn’t even actively looking to take on the responsibility of a dog at that time but when a picture of the then-three-month-old puppy in a basket with his siblings popped up in my newsfeed, I couldn’t get him out of my head. I’m in Rhode Island and the pup was hundreds of miles away in St. Pauls, North Carolina, at the overcrowded Robeson County Animal Shelter. He only landed in my crosshairs as the result of major social media cross-posting efforts with volunteers across the country sharing animals in need regardless of whether they’ve ever been in the state – nevermind set foot in the shelter – where the animals are waiting on a literal death row.
After spotting Chance (then only named D1619) I kept a vigilant eye on the shelter’s Facebook page, seeing updates as his siblings got scooped up one by one. Finally, when he was the last one of his litter left and put on the dreaded “urgent” list as space and time ran out for him, I made the decision to fax in an adoption form and began the process of arranging quarantine and transport for him to my humble home. Today, I couldn’t be happier with my decision, even though at the time it seemed a little scary to make that kind of commitment based on a Facebook photo – however, more and more pets are increasingly being saved this way!
On a similar front, as I’ve gotten more personally involved in using social network to save animals, I’ve seen just how quickly funds can be raised for a particular cause or needy animal just by sharing it on the right social media outlets. And pages like Pet Pardons save the lives of tens of thousands of pets a year just through social media networking – pretty amazing!
On one hand, I think people should actively engage in their local communities to take a hands-on approach to causes that interest them, but I think that social media and the Internet has created a wonderful national (and even global) community where causes anywhere can get the attention and raise the funds they need if they’re able to reach the right demographic of cyber-supporters. In addition, for people who aren’t willing or able to actually physically get involved, it provides a simple and virtually effortless way for people to get involved with causes, promote them, and donate.