Charity 2.0: The social side of giving

 
Children in Need 2011 Children in Need 2011 has so far raised £26,332,334

The economic climate could hardly be more harsh, they say, with youth unemployment hitting new highs and household budgets under mounting pressure. Yet it seems Britain is feeling more generous than ever. The BBC's annual Children in Need telethon raised record amounts on Friday - and new technology, in the form of the social web, may provide the explanation.

It's hard to remember what fundraising looked like just five years ago before social networking went mainstream. How did we tell our friends and the world about the cake sales, half-marathons, bungee jumps and all the other schemes to raise money for good causes?

There were of course all sorts of ways for big charities to spread the word, from television extravaganzas to radio appeals and full-page adverts in the national newspapers. But for individuals it was a case of knocking on doors, shaking a tin in the local shopping centre - or perhaps an email round-robin if you were really sophisticated.

Now various organisations, from Justgiving to Virgin Money Giving, have made it easier to organise online donations, while new charities like Help4Heroes and Kiva have shown how it's possible to use the web to promote a cause and get funds flowing rapidly and efficiently.

But it's the social networks, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, which have given individuals the tools to promote their charitable efforts.

Sonic the Hedgehog £620-worth of Sonic

Inside the BBC offices, we've run various fundraising efforts- from slimming contests to cake sales - to raise money for Children in Need. People have been generous, but by using social networks to reach out to a wider audience we're finding we can raise far more.

For instance, this year I've organised a gadget auction, run on eBay and promoted on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. So far, more than £3,000 has been raised from bids on 19 items.

The most startling success has been a Sonic the Hedgehog 20th-anniversary figurine, given to a colleague when he attended a Sega press event. When he turned up at the office with the Sonic statue, I was dubious - who'd want that? But he assured me that he had seen them fetching good sums on eBay. So it proved - after vigorous bidding, Sonic was bought for the princely sum of £620.

We hear plenty about the negative aspects of online communication, from cyberstalking to racial abuse. But social networks are also helping to bring out the better, more generous side of human nature.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    2. BluesBerry

    All of the money raised by Children in Need is given to those who need it, it's why it's so special that this year has earned them a bumper crop. Congratulations to all of you who contributed, you helped raise the highest ever single-day total CiN have ever gotten.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    the £26m+ figure is a credit to ordinary people but it is only about 1/200th of the bonuses paid in the City of London in 2010.

    if only we could tick a box to mandate our taxes being spent on charitable causes rather than on financing war.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    8 Graphis
    Surely charity has to have an element of personal decision to it, otherwise the local donkey sanctuary wouldn't be entitled to anything until everyone in the world had access to clean drinking water. I agree that there are some services currently provided by charities that should really be provided by the state, but why is it any better to absolve ourselves of the moral responsibility?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 8.

    The very concept (as it exists in our modern society) of 'charity' shouldn't exist. Its existence exposes the deep flaw that our governments are not providing the basic needs they are supposed to, and are happy to let us take up the slack as it absolves them of the moral responsibility. CiN's £26m could have been easily doubled if all the 'celebrities' involved had dug into their own pockets...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    Another good example of this are live streamed charity events. There is actually one on right now called "The Desert Bus for Hope" which supports child's play. They have (as of writing this) raised $160 000 (CAD) for the charity this year, and totalled over $500 000 (CAD). It has all be made possible through live streaming technology combined with great content. Check it out.

 

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