Behold the Power of Digital
Digital engagement and activism is creating myriad opportunities for social good and expression. From texting a donation aiding disaster relief to signing an e-petition on Change.org, 21st-century tools are radically altering the way we communicate with each other. “Slacktivists”—those engaging in online activism—are faulted for being lazy, and not making real change. The truth is quite the opposite. Here are just a few ways digital is powering real life change.
Social good. When comparing data from last and this year’s Q1, my organization, Network for Good, found that in 2012 digital giving is up across all channels—charity websites, portal and social giving—noting a 16% increase overall. The dollar amount per donation is rising too. For example, in Q1 2011 the average donation via social giving was $51. In Q1 2012, that same number jumped to $97—that’s a 90% increase!
Why such a large jump? One reason is social giving sites such as event-based personal fundraising pages (e.g. Crowdrise, SixDegrees.org) allow users to leverage the power of their own social networks to elevate their cause and increase donations.
Disaster relief. The aftershocks of the 2010 Haiti earthquake were felt emotionally in the U.S. Americans wanted to help, and gave in droves. This giving, however, was different. A whopping $43 million was donated via text to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.
One key finding from a Knight Foundation report is, “The ability to send small donations using mobile phones facilitates ‘impulse giving’ in response to moving images or events.” This couldn’t be more true in Haiti’s case.
In just 48 hours, the American Red Cross saw $4 million donations pour in…all through SMS. Though the Red Cross had been utilizing social media sites such as Twitter since 2007, the Haiti crisis completely changed the digital giving game.
Legislation. In late 2011, a relatively unknown piece of legislation—Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—slid its way through Congressional procedure, and readied itself to become law. The bill had backing from many members of Congress, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America, amongst others. Supporters noted the bill protected intellectual property, and penalized online theft.
Not so fast (and there’s irony there, if you’ve ever worked on the legislative process).
Upon getting wind of the web-focused legislation, internet companies such as Google, Firefox, and Wikipedia joined forces in a massive outcry against the bill. Citing innovation stifling and general toxicity, thousands of websites protested online through blackouts, petitions, and “Stop Censorship” labels. Social media sites erupted with anti-SOPA sentiments. In January 2012, the White House came out with a statement in opposition to the legislation.
The bill was killed.
Instead of backroom deals and legislative whipping determining whether or not the bill would pass, the united digital activism turned a dry and wonky bill into a breathing issue that would affect any and all internet users.
Social good, disaster relief, and even legislation have each been rocked by the rise of digital engagement and activism. Digital communication certainly isn’t a panacea for addressing social issues, but it is fascinating to watch how it’s changing many facets of our daily lives. When you next participate digitally in an issue you care about, remember that just a few years ago, you may not have had these tools to do so.
In conclusion, slacktivism rocks.
Allison McGuire is the Partnerships Program Associate at Network for Good and a Truman Partner. You can read more of her blog posts at www.CompaniesforGood.org.
(Image Credit: World of Soren)