Several weeks ago, I wrote a column on how social media is influencing our buying habits. However, that is only one part of the story of social media’s reach into our homes. It is also being used as a tool in fundraising for charities. Consider the recent email I got from a friend of mine:
"Hello my trusted friends. Yes, you. The charity I represent, Help a Mother Out, is conducting its annual Mother's Day fundraising campaign. I need help spreading the word and I am hoping you can share the message below with your readers and followers so that we can raise money and diapers....HAMO is still just a tiny scrappy group with a tiny operating budget and no compensation for any of the organizers. It's truly a labor of love, which is why I am reaching out to you - bloggers I love. I've put together everything you need to assemble blog posts, sharing, etc.
What followed was more or less a social media primer that detailed all the avenues we could choose to publicize the charity, with the appropriate links and lines of code needed to illustrate them. The pitch was short, sweet and ready for replication:
- 1 in 3 families in the U.S. struggle to buy diapers for their children
- Most free/subsidized childcare programs require parents to provide disposable diapers
- You cannot use Food Stamps or WIC for diapers
- For many families in crisis this can mean being forced to choose between buying diapers or other basic needs like shelter, food, and medicine.
Help A Mother Out (HAMO), a non-profit dedicated to providing diapers for homeless and low income families, has launched a national Mother’s Day Call To Action with a goal to raise $30,000 to support the work to get diapers to families in need.
I was shocked at the need—why can't you use Food Stamps for diapers? At the same time, I was intrigued by what I thought was a relatively new idea of charitable fundraising via the internet. When I explored further, however, I found that I was a little late to the gate. According to my friend, Kim Tracy Prince, “social media used to be much more effective but everyone is doing it now. The larger charities with bigger budgets and celebrities attached to them have entered the scene, so they can make a bigger splash than a grassroots org that has little to no operating budget and works on passion alone.”
Still, Kim and another HAMO blogger sent out about 150 pitches to other bloggers like the one I got. “We got less response than I had hoped for, actually,” she said, “which I attribute to the huge glut of Mother's Day-related charitable causes that pitched bloggers at the same time. The response we did get was passionate and well appreciated—lots of Tweets and Facebook posts, a handful of blog posts.” And an Elk Grove Patch column.
What makes this relevant for our city is not only that we could host our own HAMO drive, but that what Forbes.com called “Democratizing Online Giving” is so readily available to local projects that are near and dear to our hearts. HAMO uses Razoo, which bills itself as “[m]ore than a Website...Razoo is a movement of people who want to make generosity a part of everyday life.” They enable donations to “1 million officially registered nonprofit organizations” and they provide a platform for groups to fundraise money for their own cause. There are, however, other charitable exchanges, such as Network for Good, a joint project of AOL, Cisco and Yahoo.
I know that complaining about the ubiquity of social media is popular, but it's that very democratizing effect that makes it such a vital avenue for all of us. The fact that the big players have entered the social networking scene doesn't mean that the smaller fry should give up. Before this, only the big players had anything to say. Now we all do, and that can make all the difference.
HAMOs drive for diapers doesn’t end officially until the end of May, so there’s time for them to reach their goal. If you want to help, click here. What Elk Grove causes could you see sponsoring an online fundraising drive for? Tell us in the comments.