Facebook Philanthropy

Article by: Sarah Kim

Facebook philanthropy is a phenomenon wherein social media users become virtual benefactors by “liking” and “sharing” myriads of information on world crises. By sharing or liking photos and videos, many believe they are proliferating valuable information on their social media sites. However, there are also some who think that liking such photos and videos provides no benefits or actual help.

Save Darfur, a movement against the genocide within Sudan, drew more than 1 million members on Facebook between the years of 2007 and 2010. This garnered a huge amount of attention to the atrocities committed against human rights in Darfur. Despite the fact that it had a million supporters on Facebook, a striking number (99.76 percent of the people in the group) did not donate a single cent, as well as 76 percent of the same group did not invite any family members or friends to the group. This campaign illustrated the inability of social media to influence or make an impact on the plight itself.

However, a more recent campaign to combat ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as  Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has resulted in viral posts of people taking on the “ice bucket challenges” and nominating friends to raise awareness and money for the ALS foundation. The ice bucket challenge was an effective way of promoting donations with solicitation of a limited number of friends and families who are directly mentioned in the video to either donate money or to post an ice bucket challenge within 24 hours. The time restriction and incorporation of family and friends have made the challenge spread like wildfire, which the Save Darfur campaign failed to do so. Just within the past month, the ALS donations from the ice bucket challenge has topped $100 million, a 3500% increase in donation during the same time period last year. This kind of success is an anomaly; the brilliant idea of the catchy video has proven to be an enormous triumph. Thus, illustrating that promoting awareness campaigns via social media does indeed reap positive benefits if structured in an effective yet simple manner.