Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Five Ways to Give Back Through Social Media

Focused as many of us are on our own companies' or clients' economic anxieties, it's easy to forget that downturns (or even the perceptions of downturns) hit non-profit organizations particularly hard. When money is tight, charitable giving is an easy, if unfortunate, area to cut. In response, non-profits are getting more creative in using social media and other online tools to provide people with more ways to contribute than simply reaching for nearly-empty wallets.

1. GoodSearch/GoodShop

One example is GoodSearch.com, a search engine that makes a donation for every search, and it's partner organization GoodShop.com, an online shopping mall with more than 700 leading retailers that directs a percentage of every sale to the user's favorite charity.

According to GoodSearch.com co-founder JJ Ramberg, with gas prices rising and the housing market already in a slump, economic fears have led to a drop in charitable contributions nationwide, making it harder for non-profits to keep up with an increased demand for their services. As donations get pinched, many are refocusing their fundraising efforts.

"GoodSearch.com and GoodShop.com...allow supporters to give to their favorite organizations without spending a dime. GoodSearch.com is the Yahoo-powered search engine that donates a penny per search to the charity or school of the users’ choice. GoodShop donates a percentage of every purchase from (participating) retailers." Over 60,000 nonprofits across the country are actively earning funds from the GoodSearch and GoodShop strategy with over 100 organizations submitting new applications daily. Success stories range from the ASPCA which has earned more than $15,000 to care for animals to the Bubel Aiken Foundation which has earned more than $8,000 to send disabled children to summer camp.

2. iBakeSale.com

GoodSearch is unique (as far as I know). GoodShop is similar to iBakeSale.com, which now has more than 300 participating merchants, and provides rebates averaging 8% that can be directed to the charity of the shopper's choice. iBakeSale was founded about a year ago by Jonathan Treiber. Where GoodShop is geared toward supporting large national non-profits, iBakeSale is ideal for local fundraising (sports teams, church groups etc.) plus larger schools and charities.

3. Idea.org

Non-profit group Idea.org is involved in a number of interesting projects relating to how people interact with the online world. For example, their Vision Simulator tool helps web designers understand how people with different types of vision impairment see the web. The organization recently published a study entitled Factors That Improve Online Experiences, which explored factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different subject groups – nonprofit organizations and cities, web designers and firms, and the general public.

4. All About Pets

As reported by Kristen Nicole on Mashable, "The Blue Cross, a UK-based pet charity, is hoping to drive some traffic to its new website, allaboutpets, with an Oddcast-powered viral marketing scheme that is sure to get some attention. The Oddcast talking avatars, which can be customized at TalkingPets.org, are being put to use in a campaign that’s quite similar to Elf Yourself, where users can choose a pet avatar or upload an image of their own pet." The Blue Cross is Britain’s pet charity, providing support, information and advice for pet and horse owners. The charity relies on donations and fundraising for its income. AllAboutPets is essentially a social networking site for British pet owners.

5. Zanby

Zanby is a group-oriented social networking site. It enables virtually any type of group—family, business, club etc.—to set up its own social networking space, but is somewhat more geared toward non-profit and charitable groups than are sites like Ning. For example, the site is used by Engineers Without Borders, a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life.

Until things improve, as Red Green says, "I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

*****

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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