Tweeting for Charity

Last week, USA Today launched a “Twitter challenge” for charity, wherein the newspaper (news website?) asked Twitter followers to lay bare their hopes and dreams, along with their favorite charity, for a chance to be featured in an upcoming USA Today story.

Woo hoo!

Users were asked to tweet “My #USATODAY #KindnessChallenge goal is to help ________,” with either the full name or the Twitter name of the charity they support. The top three charities to receive the most #KindnessChallenge tweets win a spot in the paper.

The contest lasted from February 15 to February 18, and in those three days only a mere 124 charities total were mentioned, and with a little under 2,000 tweets posted total. With over 1.5 million registered charities in America, 124 is a drop in the bucket. What went wrong?

There is an inherent flaw in Twitter contests, insofar as members need to not only be on Twitter, but be active on Twitter. There is a cadre of tech-savvy individuals, and organizations, that are using this form of social media to their advantage. Yet similar to the the recent trend of “crowdsourcing” for charities, where retailers such as Target or companies like Pepsi offer money to charities that are able to mobilize the most supporters online, Twitter charity challenges inherently cater to the technologically elite.

What happens to the charities in rural America, or inner-cities, where the majority of their constituents do not own or have access to a computer? Sorry, no funds for you. This type of charitable giving has a tendency to keep money moving in the upper echelons of society, and reinforces the technology divide.

A concluding point: if I see one more celebrity donating a paltry amount of money to encourage people to follow him/her on Twitter, I’m going to scream. This type of activity cheapens what can be the very noble act of giving. At this point, you might as well just use the $1,000 to go buy yourself some followers!

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