If you know me, then you know I’m addicted to traveling. Also, if you know me, you know that I have a slight obsession with my belief that social technology will save the world. Both of these are, in part, thanks to my great fortune to travel to South Africa and research for a video game that is working to stop violence against women. It’s only gotten stronger over the years, having worked with multiple non-profits and following stories of incredible companies doing things I could have only dreamed possible. In August of last year, a few friends and I attended a tech event in Boulder. This one was different from the many others I had been to in the past, however. This was the first COMMON Pitch: A Party To Fix The World. Catchy name. But little did I know that this event would push me even deeper into the void of my “social technology can change the world” thought process.
As the night went on, eleven companies pitched their ideas to change the world to an array of panelists and a sold-out audience. These ideas ranged from designer condoms, to direct fair-trade chocolate, to public shower systems for those in need. But for me, one idea stood out above all the rest. That idea was MediaCause.
Before the pitch even took place, I knew this was an idea that I would not only get behind, but would become a part of as soon as I got the chance. The idea was simple: Bring together nonprofits in need of social media, SEO and SEM expertise and a group of professional volunteers willing to give them free counsel in the fields they knew best. It was love at first sight & an answer to my burning desire to help the world. (Which is great because I can’t afford a plane ticket back to Africa any time soon.)
But while MediaCause is perfect for a social media do-gooder nut like myself, it might not be very appealing to everyone out there wishing to make a mark on the world via technology. Luckily, it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are dozens of ways you can make an impact on the world from the comfort of your Macbook. Here are a few of my favorites:
First up is the closest to tradition: the online donation. There are plenty of sites out there where you can make a donation; most (if not all) major nonprofit organizations accept donations on their websites, if not via text message. If you’re looking for something a little more suited to your personal interests, you might try Indiegogo (Kickstarter for great causes), Kiva (microlending to those around the world in need of it) or Boulder’s own KULA Causes (the “currency of giving”.) Then, of course, there’s the donation via purchasing goods. A few of my favorites are Hydros Bottle (because sustainable development is sexy), KUTOA Bars (buy a bar, feed a child), the overwhelming popular and successful TOMS (buy a pair of shoes, give one to a child in need), and my newest find: SelflessTee, (beautifully designed cause-inspired apparel), and supporter of the I Am Vermont Strong fund, something that, having lived in Vermont for five years, hit me very close to home. These are just a few examples, but there are plenty of companies out there that will, in exchange for their products, donate part (if not all) of the proceeds to a worthy cause.
But, some of you are low on funds and still want to save the world. I get it. If that’s the case, why not play some games? That’s right: there are even online and mobile games out there that, if you simply spend time playing them, will donate money, crops, dry goods, even livestock in your name. Personal favorites include Raise the Village (like Farmville, but what you buy actually gets donated to a village in Kenya), FreeRice (answer questions, donate rice; it’s that simple) and, well, any of the 100+ other games on GamesForChange.org. (Yeah, there really are that many.)
And finally, we’re back to the realm of online volunteering. Remember before how I mentioned MediaCause and their focus on donating SEO, SEM and Social Media skills to nonprofits? Well, they have a parent company. It’s called Sparked and their microvolunteering network targets a much broader audience: busy people (like you.) Based on the same concept of pairing “challenges” with volunteer’s skill sets, someone in any field: HR, web development, research, operations, IT, design and more, can be paired with a nonprofit’s challenge for mutual happiness and world-saving power. They even have an engagement platform for entire companies to join!
Well, there you have it folks. You want to save the world? Get out there (and by out there, I mean the internet) and do it. Now that you know there are seemingly endless options, why not? And the best part is, in most cases, all it takes is a few clicks and you can change a life.
There are so many amazing companies out there changing the world with social technology and as they say, this is just the beginning. That notion couldn’t make me happier.