When it comes to being a “good person” – you know, making the world a better place – I am well intentioned. I am also lazy and forgetful. Three years ago, I proudly walked in a local Breast Cancer Awareness walk. It was great! I walked for an hour with neighbors and my dog and could just sense that my involvement had brought the world one step closer to finding a cure. The following year it was entirely off my radar. I should have donated the same sum of money regardless of whether or not I walked an hour long loop around downtown, but it didn’t even occur to me to do so. It’s an embarrassing confession that I would never bring to light if it weren’t to make a point.
My sense of connection to a charity directly influences my desire to donate time and money. Fundraising is crucial to charity survival. I want to be passionate about a worthy cause. Simply scribbling out a check seems detached and cold. I should be doing more, but I have a job, I have a husband. I have dog fur balling up in corners somewhere. “More” of anything is nearly impossible. And so I do nothing.
People want to feel involved, committed, and attached. It’s easy to feel this sense of camaraderie for an hour long walk. But sustaining that feeling takes work. Social Media engagement can foster individual connections to a cause during the rest of the year that’s void of fundraiser walks. Spotting posts in your newsfeed builds your familiarity with the organization and awareness of the cause. It can give a face to a disease and share the stories of someone affected.
Social Media takes the momentum of an annual fundraising event and creates a constant state of charitable activity throughout the year. One Breast Cancer Awareness Facebook page posts discussions, informs about advances in research and encourages members to involve their friends. They even feature a button where one free click helps fund mammograms. Social Media plugs people into a community and a network of caring.
Displaying your “like” of a particular charity is akin to displaying a pink ribbon on your key chain or wearing any number of colored rubber wrist bands. A Social Media connection both displays our pride in and support of a particular cause, but also serves as a status symbol, advertising our characters and our priorities. It’s not that people are inherently selfish or heartless. But they are busy. They have things to do, things that are ultimately less significant than curing breast cancer, but much more immediate. Most genuinely want to help charities, but must feel a connection to the organization first. They need to feel like they did more than just cut a check. Something as constant and immediate as dog fur. Social Media plugs participants into a continuous state of support rather than relying only on a spike in participation for notable events. It powerfully spreads awareness and keeps the message moving between 10Ks and galas. It explains why Breast Cancer Walks are so successful. For one day, participants feel like the most charitably involved people in the world. Social Media can keep that dedication going long after the pink t-shirts have been handed out.