Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

January 25, 2010

Haiti relief shows digital giving’s potential

By Todd Cohen

The massive charitable response to the devastation in Haiti should be a wake-up call for the charitable marketplace.

Using text-messaging and other digital applications, givers quickly have donated millions of dollars to relief efforts

Givers also showed social media can be powerful tools for charitable giving.

Just as online giving came of age in the days after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunamis in Asia, the Twitter generation has shown through its Haiti relief that texting is a strategy all nonprofits need to understand and put to use.

The challenge for nonprofits is figuring out how to do that.

The recession has hit the charitable marketplace hard, stressing nonprofits with rising demand for services and greater competition for shrinking donor dollars.

And in the face of the recession and a tradition of struggling to do too much with too little, too few nonprofits truly have taken full advantage of the Web and email, which these days already seem like “old” media.

Nonprofits tend to be slow on the uptake in adopting new media and fully integrating new digital tools into the way they do business.

Seeing the outpouring of Haitian relief using social media, nonprofits that truly care about connecting with givers using the means of communication their givers prefer should invest the time and effort to truly understand how to build digital tools into their overall operations.

Beyond just being cool and easy to use, social media actually can make a big difference in the way nonprofits raise money, recruit volunteers, deliver services, and communicate with constituents and supporters.

The huge question for nonprofits is whether they actually will do what it takes to plug into new media and put it to productive use.


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