The Convergence of Social Activism, Donations, and Social Media: Episodic Giving In A Post Truth World | Beth's Blog

The Convergence of Social Activism, Donations, and Social Media: Episodic Giving In A Post Truth World


Here’s the latest evolution in episodic giving, WeCanResist.It, developed by Allyson Kapin and colleagues, the app turns Trump’s tweets into donations for social justice orgs like Black Lives Matter, Clean Water Action, National Center for Transgender Equality, etc.    This newest example of rage fundraising in an era of post truth is focused on helping less high profile nonprofits that are doing important social justice work and need funding to sustain their efforts to fight for democracy.

Our world – politically, economically, socially, technologically – is changing before our eyes.  According to Trend Watch’s piece on “Truthful Consumerism” it is a world with polarized societies, the emergence of new populism and a huge dose of anger. They point to a new word introduced by the Oxford Dictionary, “Post-Truth,” “which means relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Trend watch summarizes key global trends that make this time in history seem uncertain, chaotic, and toxic beginning with online and the rising numbers that exist inside a filter bubble that serves them information, ideas and news (some of it fake!) that serves to confirm what they already think. The result? Rising polarization.  Adding to this we have and quoting from Trend Watch:

  • Massive inequality. A popular sense, shared by millions, of being shut out of the gains created by globalization. And yes, that sense is made more acute by the relentless visibility of one percenter lifestyles in all their Instagrammed ‘glory’.
  • Mass migration. From Syria to China to Mexico, mass economic and politically-driven migration and refugee crises are triggering social tension, the rebooting of nationalisms and the emboldening of old prejudices.
  • Future shock. Vast, ongoing changes to economies, patterns of work and lifestyles, brought about by technology. Millions are aware that even greater change is coming, via automation, AI and more. And that means an uncertain – and perhaps less habitable – future.

In the US, we have witnessed the emergence of what has been dubbed “Rage Fundraising,” a surge in episodic giving to nonprofits after the election and it continues in reaction to the current US President’s policies, actions and tweets. As my colleague Steven MacLaughlin wrote, earlier this year, “Good by slacktivism, hello actgiving.” It is no more the debate about how to get from a click to a donation, they are donating.  But more about how to retain those donors, especially new donors.

Steve describes this new phase as less of a revolution, but more of an evolution in “episodic” giving or giving in reaction to current events, much like a disaster fundraising efforts.  And, there are also examples of this type of giving happening as self-organized efforts by supporters without the institution coordinating or generating it or linked to political activism.     A few examples from the past few months in the US:

  • Mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned down and the local synagogue handed the community the keys to their template.  In addition, a GoFundMe campaign was launched and raised over $1 million towards rebuilding from donors of many different religions from around the world.  This not only shows solidarity, but harnessing collective rage against racism and act giving.
  • Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated .  Muslim leaders across the state have raised more than $60,000 in a LaunchGood fundraiser to repair the tombstones.
  • During the Super Bowl, a conflicted fan wanted to cheer for the Patriots, but because the star quarterback supported Trump, he started a Twitter hashtag: #AGoodGame and pledged $50 and $100 donations to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund for every Patriots field goal and touchdown, respectively.
  • To protest the Secretary of Education’s Cabinet Nomination,  citizens banded together to launch a GofundMe campaign to “buy their Senator’s vote.”   They raised over $60,000 and donated the money to charity.    Independently, another citizen group ran a similar campaign on GoFundMe for their senator’s vote, also donating the money to charity.
  • When the current President’s senior adviser used the “Bowling Green Massacre” a fictitious incident alluded to during several interviews as justification for a travel and immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, supporters of the ACLU quickly created this fundraiser, The Bowling Green Massacre Fund

Steve points out that the essential mechanism for “actgiving” to accelerate is connectivity and networks that we have access to through social media channels. Combining fundraising with social media can be like lighting a match to gasoline.   Think about how  The Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 helped the ALS Association raise over $100 million.   Viral videos, social media, and mass media coverage ignited unprecedented donations in a short amount of time.   It also marked one of the first instances of  episodic giving shifting from disaster fundraising to supporting a social change movement.

Questions remain:

  • Is this new evolution of online giving that merges social activism, social media, and philanthropy sustainable?
  • How can nonprofits embrace this fundraising style while maintaining loyal donors?
  • What is needed to transform episodic donors into regular donors?
  • How to capture attention for your organization’s cause given this backdrop of “post truth,” and transform their passion into informed action and consistent giving?
  • Giving the these are global trends, are there examples in other countries of episodic giving to support a social movement or an expression of rage?

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