Social networks nurture giving

Social networks nurture giving

February 5th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in News

GROUP INVOLVEMENT

* Non-Internet users: 56 percent

* Adults: 75 percent

* Twitter users: 75 percent

* Internet users: 80 percent

* Social media users: 82 percent

Source: Pew Research Center

HOW TO HELP

The United Way of Greater Chattanooga connects nonprofits with the volunteers they need. Volunteers can visit www.uwchatt.org

Social media may be making better citizens, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.

About 82 percent of people who use social media such as Facebook participate in groups such as nonprofits or religious organizations, compared to just 56 percent of non-Internet users, the monthlong survey of 2,303 adults shows.

And those oversharing friends who Tweet about their favorite toothpaste? Eighty-five percent of them are sharing their time, as well.

Kent Callison is senior strategist for Williams Web. About a quarter of the Chattanooga Web design company's clients are nonprofits, and Callison said the survey results make a lot of sense.

"People who are frequent users of the Internet -- whether it's for research or social networking, what have you -- they're more engaged people anyway," he said. "They want to feel connected, not just connected to organizations but connected to other people."

Kelley Nave, the woman responsible for United Way of Greater Chattanooga's online presence, said the agency recruits volunteers using one of Callison's websites, a monthly e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

"I'm on it all day long," she said as she worked with Twitter client HootSuite to schedule the release of messages to United Way followers. "When it comes to the Internet, we're trying to promote volunteers in a variety of ways."

So far, Nave said, the nonprofit charity coalition's online campaign has been successful. The website attracted 4,696 unique viewers in 2010 -- a significant number of whom likely were among that year's 7,316 volunteers, she said.

And those volunteers make a huge contribution. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a government agency that supports volunteer efforts, the average volunteer in the Chattanooga metropolitan statistical area gives 44.6 hours of work a year. That means that in 2010, Chattanoogans spent a total of more than 37 years working for charities through United Way alone.

Laurel Sapp was one of those volunteers. Sapp needed to find volunteer work for a group of teenagers, so she jumped online and quickly found United Way.

"I just Googled 'Volunteer work for teenagers' on the date I was looking for and it popped up," she said. "With more technology, more and more people are finding stuff."

Since then, the Internet has been key to Sapp's further involvement.

"If there's something that comes up, they put me on the alert list," she said. "If it's something I can help with, I get involved."