Micro-volunteering: the next big craze in giving?

By Sal Lahoud

A few weeks into the campaign, and there is now no escaping it. The #IceBucketChallenge is everywhere. Celebrities, individuals and companies all over the world are doing it and Facebook feeds are clogged up with the latest of your friends to have been nominated. If you haven’t been nominated yet, it’s only a matter of time.

We’ve seen Arsenal football players get revenge on the referee with a nomination; Alex Salmond nominate David Cameron at a time when the Scottish independence campaign is at its height and we’ve seen Sir Patrick Stewart add a touch of finesse to his ice bucket challenge by drinking an iced cold beverage and writing a cheque.

The widespread phenomena of pouring a bucket of ice cold water over your head and nominating friends to do the same, has attracted both praise and criticism, but whatever you may think of it, the numbers speak for themselves.

Originally started by the US-based ALS Association (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), the challenge is raising money for Motor Neurone Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease which affects a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat and essentially traps sufferers in their own bodies eventually leading to paralysis then death.

The challenge so far, has raised $70.2million for the ALS Association; step back to the same period last year (July 29th to August 24th) and donations to the charity were just $2.5million.

While this is the latest charitable social media craze, others have come before it. The most recent was the #NoMakeupSelfie, which asked women to post bare-faced selfies online, raising £8million for Cancer Research UK in just 6 days.

The sense of comradery and mischief found in both of these campaigns is driving people in swathes to donate to causes they may not normally donate to.

They are also a welcomed change from the charity representative in the street who we apologetically rush away from and say “we are running late for a meeting,” because we simply don’t want to be drawn into the ‘perceived’ financial commitment of paying a monthly direct debit to the cause.

While the rise of social media challenges does not mark the death of traditional charitable giving or participation in, for example, 5K races and colour runs, it does signify the way we donate is changing as new ways to give emerge. And this is something charities are benefitting from according to the latest UK Giving Report. It recorded a rise in donations in 2012/2013, with the proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month increasing to 57% up from 55% the year before.

If charitable giving appeals, but ice bucket challenges and 5k runs do not, there is another way to give that is in vogue and where you can help change the world in just your pyjamas.

The rise of micro-volunteering

Fcancer is a new platform leveraging the trend of online social giving and attracting a community of volunteers who are pledging their skills to various cancer charities.

The concept sees you volunteer your time in bite-sized chunks, from your own home and on your own terms, paving the way for another new way to give. Essentially a social media platform, volunteers across the world create an online profile on the website, select the skill they want to donate and match with the cancer charity they want to donate time to.

Charities registered with Fcancer include: Maggies, Children with Cancer UK, and Breast Cancer Campaign amongst others, with skills for projects required across lots of disciplines including: graphic design, PR and social media.

One registered user on the platform, who recently signed up is, Anne Noble, who says she was attracted to the volunteering community because of the flexibility in the amount of time you can donate.

She said: “When I heard about it, I immediately wanted to sign-up because I’ve always wanted to volunteer but with a busy job, don’t have a lot of time, so the minimum donation of 5 hours really appealed.”

With the digital revolution extending its grip on the charity sector, the choice of how to donate is vast. Whether it’s a trending challenge or a micro-volunteering donation, it’s clear that social media is opening up a world of opportunities for individuals and charities to unite.

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