Facebook and charity

I logged into Facebook earlier, and immediately saw this:

After my initial thoughts – why am I bothering to sign in to Facebook? Which woman? – I couldn’t resist having a look at this “causes” website.

At a quick glance it looks like someone called Eyen Retiro created this “cause” over 10 months ago, and it currently has 1,406 members, none of which appear to have donated to it. At this point, the woman/women HILARITY is a little less funny. I could very obviously be wrong, but based on her name, Eyen’s first language may not be English, and I’ve spoken with enough people from around the world to know that that sort of error is quite common when English isn’t your mother tongue.

This information did, however, get me thinking about something that happened on Twitter (yes, again) a while back: Just before the BBC’s Children in Need appeal started, an account in the name of Pudsey Bear appeared and began asking for followers, with the aim of reaching a set number, once this has been reached they would donate a billion pound (or something) to the charity. Obviously, some people starting following right away, but a few others began questioning the motives of this generous offer; surely if whoever was in charge of the account had that sort of money to give away, they should give it to the charity without demanding some arbitrary number of followers first?

After requests to verify who was behind the account were ignored, cynicism began to creep in, and before long the account vanished. Dave Gorman was one of the people requesting those responsible give a little more information, and he received a lot of messages asking what harm it could do –  if someone is willing to donate this money, who are we demand any more information? – but it can do harm, especially if the person responsible has no intention of giving any money. The account had gained several thousand followers, all hoping that they were helping to give some money to a good cause, but they hadn’t, and if just a handful of these people decided that following this account was enough of a good deed to help the charity and did nothing else, then the charity has lost out. And for what, someone’s vanity?

This is the problem I have with Facebook Causes; Some charities and causes need to raise awareness, so in principle it’s a great idea, but on a social networking site where, if the groups I see on occasion are anything to go by, the average IQ is in single digits, it can do more harm than good. Secondly, some people seem to use these “causes” as an excuse to raise awareness for problems that, in all likelihood, have plenty of awareness but persist because, well, we live in a fucking horrible world at times.

Obviously, I’m not saying that the site is useless or A Bad Thing™; it only takes a brief look at it to see all the money that the site has helped raise, for what I’m sure are very worth causes, but the fact that out of the 1,406 people who were disgusted enough by domestic abuse to “like” the cause and comment on it’s page, none have donated even a single dollar to the group. There could be lots of reasons why, of course, but one of them could easily be that, for some, “liking” the group was enough.

On the subject of charity, I haven’t actually mentioned the JustGiving and SocialVibe links on the sidebar for a while – since I started, in fact – so I am now. If you can’t afford to give anything via JustGiving, SocialVibe will donate funds to a good cause if you complete a few easy actions. No excuses!

Leave a Reply