There's no question most people are committed to giving back — in 2010, the average Canadian donated $446 to charity. And with so many of us spending an increasing amount of time on our computers and smartphones, it's becoming easier to skip on our physical support and click our way to giving.
As companies recognize the trend toward donating online, NGOs and big organizations are utilizing social networks to make themselves more visible and attract more support. So with savvy research and a few keystrokes, it's becoming easier to find charities that align with our own interests.
"For charities, digital tools and platforms are becoming the key channel to the public to encourage fundraising, action-taking or awareness," Karina Brisby, the head of interactive campaigns for Oxfam, told the Guardian in 2011.
Even though it appears that online giving has surpassed real-life giving as the chosen method, the onus is still on the public to ensure that we are investing our money with the same care as if we were doing it in person.
When The Royal Canadian Mint announced it would stop distributing new pennies this month, a number of initiatives, including Free The Children's We Create Campaign, and Ottawa resident Steve St. Pierre's Twitter account, used social media to begin collecting the six billion or more Canadian pennies still in circulation for charity. And every penny counts (as they used to be able to say).
This week also marked the third Bell Let’s Talk Day. With Canadian cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes leading millions to end the stigma behind mental illness, the day was a huge success. Canadians' response to the one-day campaign yielded more than 96,000,000 calls, texts, tweets and Facebook shares, with Twitter leading the charge at 1.5M tweets and retweets. And with Bell donating five cents for each of these communications, an additional $4.8M was raised for mental health programs, according to the press release.
National Bank is also giving Canadians the chance to take part in their online “One For Youth” Program, an initiative that costs you even less than a penny, but will see a total of $100,000 donated to eight youth organizations.
The initiative, which launched earlier this year and ends on February 24, ensures that up to $4 will be given to a favourite charity each week, selected from the offering on their Facebook page. You can also follow their progress on Twitter.
Ranging from food security, to medical assistance to confidence, the list, which includes Scouts Canada and the Junior Achievement, covers a wide range of interests as it relates to children's well-being.
Smaller organizations have also found success with their Facebook contacts. The Pakistan Youth Alliance was able to secure volunteers and raise money for flood relief through their campaign.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the top 10 major charity gifts donated in the United States totalled $5.1 billion. While it's not clear how much is raised online, social media has found its place in charitable giving, proving that with a little effort, the reach can go far to garner huge support for deserving organizations.
21,000 children die per day due to poverty. Matt Jones, managing director of Poverty Resolutions, got four friends together to demonstrate the enormity of that figure by enduring 21,000 paintball hits. Read more about their project here.
Matthew Feldman, 19, broke the Guinness World Record for running a mile while "joggling" in order to raise awareness and funds for victims of last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Read more about Feldman's accomplishment here.
British engineer, Chris Todd, walked across the Irish sea from Wales to Ireland in a giant human hamster wheel to raise money for two charities: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Wiltshire Blind Association. Read more about Todd's journey here.
Oatmeal cartoonist, Matthew Inman, raised over $200,000 for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society during his fundraising campaign "Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad" that he created in reaction to a lawsuit filed by competitor website FunnyJunk. Read more about The Oatmeal's campaign here.
More than 50 members of a Western Kentucky University fraternity slipped into five-inch red heels and trekked a mile around campus to draw attention to violence against women. The event helped raise $1,000 for Hope Harbor, a nonprofit that offers counseling to victims of sexual assault. Read more about the WKU awareness stint here.
On Larry Ekstrom's 70th birthday, the septuagenarian decided to skydive 70 times as a fundraiser for the charity Leader Dogs for the Blind. The feat took 10 hours 3 minutes to complete. Read more about Larry Ekstrom's stunt here.
After his close friend died from a rare cancer, Matthew Loddy set out to complete 100 marathons in 100 days in his honor. Three hospital stints and 2,620 miles later, Loddy completed his mission. Read more about Loddy's journey here.
Robin Evans camped on top of First United Methodist Church in Texas for days this past June (she's done so three consecutive summers) in order to raise awareness for childhood hunger and urge her community to donate 50,000 pounds of food to local Tarrant County pantries. Read more about Evans' efforts here.
Gertrude Painter, 96, -- who was visually impaired -- rappelled nine times during her life to raise more than $15,000 for charity. She suffered from a heart attack and died just before she was about to tackle her 10th challenge for a charity that helps blind people. Read more about Painter's charitable life here.
Through their program "Plenty of Twenties," best friends Steven Grant and Richard Cook hide $20 bills around the Boston area for strangers to find. For every bill that's discovered, the organization donates $2 to one of five charities. Read more about "Plenty of Twenties" here.