November 30th, 2011
Written by Dorothy Engelman, our Executive Producer
While #sidthekid is trending at 11:13PM on the night of Crosby’s return so is #occupywallstreet. And while technology is no doubt driving the #bieber and #kimkardashian culture to new #babybaby lows, #crowdfunding and #virtualvolunteering are changing the face of how we give and give back.
Some of the most innovative campaigns are using the web’s ability to bring people together around an issue at lightening speed. Networks are being used to educate, outreach, fundraise, volunteer and engage us as citizens. We can donate our dollars or our skills at home and across the globe.
Since Muhammad Yunas invented funding for international development projects through micro-loans in the 1970s, the internet has added rocket fuel to the equation. At Kiva.org, to deliver on their mission of alleviating poverty, online crowd funding has fueled over $260 million in loans from a million plus members to 680,000 entrepreneurs in 218 countries. And it works – over 98.93% of their loans have been repaid. It’s successful because members follow the stories of the people they help. Online crowd funding means that anyone can rub shoulders with Bill Gates, and be an engaged philanthropist, for as little as $25. Micro financing is also now being transformed by organizations like Plan Canada into a non-refundable fundraising tool for Sub-Saharan projects.
While many want to donate dollars, more want to donate their time and their talent.
A 2010 pan-Canadian study from Volunteer Canada reported that 70% of volunteers feel time-pressured to give their time, 80% said they wanted to use their skills and expertise, and many have said they wanted to see the concrete benefits of their volunteer time. Those trends are driving the rise in virtual volunteering, where the idea of volunteering in your pajamas, wherever you are, is an appealing way to engage with issues and organizations.
Virtual opportunities can take a few minutes, a few hours or a few days. At onlinevolunteering.org the United Nations sponsors virtual volunteering opportunities with international development agencies where you could write a proposal to get funding for sanitation in schools in Kenya or teach English online to students in India. Closer to home, at sites like Sparked.com or Getinvolved.ca, you can get matched to help with graphic design for Habitat for Humanity, do crisis volunteering by phone or blog for an Aboriginal wellness site in the NWT.
While many of these ideas are new, and several will fail, others will emerge in their attempt to help organizations build capacity with volunteers who want a flexible, productive, tangible volunteer experience, or with donors who want to give a little, and get a lot.
The social web isn’t so new and shiny anymore, it’s time for charities and NFPs to get onboard. It’s expected. It’s the new normal. And the resources it takes for not-for-profits and charities to update, create and engage is yet another challenge for an already-stretched sector. Technology isn’t a panacea, it’s a tool, and it can be a powerful one for charities and NFPs looking to transform and innovate.
For the 43% of you who told Volunteer Canada that you would like to volunteer but nobody asked, consider yourself asked. And for the 34% who said they didn’t know how to get started, go online and get involved.