Online technologies helping to better the world

online tech charity

The online world has a bit of a split personality. On the one hand, the advancement and development of new online technologies help make our lives more productive and efficient. And then there is all the stuff that fuels the fun side of life like the development of games, silly apps and social media. But there are other areas in which online technologies can play a very important role. One of these areas is as an enabler for charities and non-profit organizations.

In 2006, Scott Harrison founded Charity: water, a non-profit organization that aims to provide safe drinking water to every person on the planet. Before starting up the charity, Harrison was used to being in the club promoter scene, so he knew he had to do something big to get his charity noticed. And the best way would be social media. He cold-called the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) and Tom Anderson (MySpace founder) but it was Michael Birch from Bebo who came on board.

Michael Birch coded the Charity: water website, donated $1 million to the cause and introduced Harrison to other high-profile tech entrepreneurs. What makes this project significant is the way that social media and technology has been used to its advantage. Social proof of every project is provided through interviews with fund recipients on the charity’s blog “The Water Log” and photo updates that show what the money is being used on. Each project is tagged with a GPS monitor that makes the GPS coordinates available to view on Google Maps, showing donors that their donations are being used appropriately. They are even working on monitors that will show how much water their wells produce and then the data will be sent via social media channels.

Through this tech visibility, many of Charity: water’s donors travel overseas to view the projects and even get hands-on with them. Harrison found out the value social media can provide to a charity organization of any kind since social media is accessible and free, a great benefit for organizations that do not have money to spend on marketing.

At the end of 2013, Google Glass also got involved in the mission towards solving real-world problems. They provided Google Glass to five charities, including the World Wildlife Fund and Do Something, to provide them with the technological means to close the gap between donors and the people that they help with their donations. Google Glass helps these charities to show what they are doing around the world and introduce the means with which they are being helped to inspire others to do the same. Many people see Google Glass as something that are used by tech geeks to improve their work and social lives but wearables now have a role to play in changing the world for the better.

Many people on Facebook may have seen those links that say, “If you share this, one child in Africa will receive a glass of water” or “Save an animal by liking this page”. As most of you would know by now, this type of charity is both nonsensical and will only get that person a like, not give a child a meal. Also, it’s against Facebook’s rules to do so. There are so many other ways one can use online technology to help others worldwide. Take the company Network for Good as an example. They provide charity organisations with online fundraising tools to create events with, keep donors updated, grade the quality of donor pages and get fundraising training.

Digital giving has made it much easier for people to donate to charities. Many times there are excuses such as being too busy to give back but online donating has eliminating anything time-consuming. Google has even set up an initiative called One Today in which users get an app on their mobile device, learn about new charities and then only have to give one dollar a day (approximately R10.86) to help that initiative. The app tells you what that one dollar will do. For example, giving one dollar will provide an HIV test to a pregnant woman and potentially save both the lives of the woman and her unborn child.

The new trend in transparency may help to give charities a much-needed boost in terms of the number of donors they get. Many people do not know where their money goes to and some people are suspicious of how the money is truly being used. Who says that the money donated is being used for a different purpose than initially said? If frequent updates are given via social media and one can see the real-life people getting the benefit of the donation, it provides comfort to donors that they did, in fact, do a good deed.

Charities not only get donations through online giving but provide resources as well. Take the Beat Bullying charity that provides online mentors and peer support through their website to anonymous victims of bullying. Age UK is providing pensioners with the great IT skills that young people already have by sending volunteers to old-age homes to teach them about technology. Through this pensioners can become tech-savvy while the young volunteers do their bit for the community. The Do Something charity organisation helps people to volunteer online with initiatives that utilise people’s creativity, that do not take up a lot of time nor money. An example would be the Get Trashed initiative that allows people to simply save clothes from landing in the trash so it can be given to homeless people. No money is spent and very little effort has been made by the people who volunteer.

Why not start this New Year by doing something for someone else? Technology has made it extremely easy for anyone to become involved in charities and give back to the community so why not take your tech-savvy self to the World Wide Web and see the many opportunities that one can become involved with.