Report: What Drives Digital Support to Social Causes?

Charities receive big support online, a study shows. It's easy, others are doing it, and the stories really pull us in.

If there’s one thing social media has given back to the world, it’s the ability of a single group to generate worldwide impact. We’ve seen it happen in a matter of hours, from the Arab Spring that led to uprisings across Africa and the Middle East to Kony 2012, a viral campaign to expose the African militia leader. Through mentions, shares, and likes, their stories received worldwide attention and influenced involvement around the world.

According to a study by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, online activity is generating the most action for social causes, especially via social media. The report found that 51 percent of respondents engage with causes by donating money, 47 percent via Facebook, and 46 percent by volunteering.

Here are some of the trends the study found:

Follow the influencer: Influence is power, even when dealing with charity. Respondents think that by influencing their followers on social media to talk about a cause, they’re making a positive contribution to that cause. Seventy-six percent of respondents said it’s important to influence others to care about the causes that they care about. “Among digitally engaged, charitable Americans today, the decision to visibly support a cause or social issue apparently has less to do with appearing knowledgeable or charitable to their peers, and more to do with influencing others to join them in their support of the cause,” the study reports.

“Like” goes a long way: The study found that social media is often the most powerful driver of the conversation about a cause or issue. More than half of respondents said they’re more likely to support a cause via social media rather than elsewhere online, with 67 percent saying it’s because social media is more convenient. One of the most popular ways to express support through Facebook. Katya Andresen, the COO of Network for Good, says that’s where the conversation usually begins. “Social media is a go-to source of cause information, especially for global and faith-based causes,” she writes. The downside: Only 55 percent of respondents said they would take further action after seeing a cause in social media.

Seeing the true story: Survey respondents indicated that stories are key for driving interest and impact. More than half said they decided to get involved after reading a story, with photos or videos, on social media. Also, who’s talking about an issue had some impact on whether they joined the cause. Thirty-nine percent said they took further action after seeing family and friends as influencers on an issue.

How does your organization generate online influence about a cause or issue?


Anita Ferrer

By Anita Ferrer

Anita Ferrer is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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