SocialVibe and Oxfam’s Charity Gifts are innovative concept websites aimed at not only raising awareness of global social justice, welfare and environmental issues, but also providing unintrusive ways for people to contribute toward addressing these issues financially.
SocialVibe, utilises sponsored advertising to raise money, like Google AdSense with a clever gimmick: the money that would normally be sent to the viewer after they had accumulated a certain amount, is instead donated to a charity on their behalf. This means that viewers do not need to hand over their personal information, bust measurements, and bank details and then raise a minimum dollar value in clicks before they receive their reward. Instead, they can simply browse the site, watch a few short advertising videos, answer a couple of creative questions about specific products, and see instantly how much money will be donated to the charity of their choice on their behalf.
For the charity The Nature Concervancy, points are displayed as pounds of carbon emissions offset. Other charity donations are measured in hours of social justice training, trees planted in Haiti, school meals provided for children in poverty, special meals for abused dogs, cancer research and so on. Individual members can choose the charities that the activities on their page support. The donation for effort rates seems quite reasonable. In the process of simply exploring the different options available for this essay, I offset my own weight in carbon and provided one meal to a child living in poverty.
With big name brand support like Dove, iTunes, Colgate, MTV and Sony,
SocialVibe gives the impression of legitimacy. The viewer gets the sense that these large companies would not get involved with a scam site that was just pocketing the money, and this seems to be a reasonable assumption.
Something that really sets SocialVibe apart from similar advertising companies is, as the name suggests, the social aspect. Additional donations are made on behalf of members who upload personal photos and share information about the bands and movies they like. Members are actively encouraged to engage with each other on the forums and talk about things that matter to them. There is one forum specifically dedicated to people encouraging others to “do the activities on my page and I’ll do the activities on your page”.
As well as internal socialising between members on the site itself, SocialVibe has partnered with other social networking sites to bring in more viewers. Site members are given extra points for their charity for using the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to tell their friends about their charity, providing a link back to the site. The blogging community site WordPress has also partnered with SocialVibe, providing a tool allowing its members to display an image on their own blog pages encouraging people to support their charity of choice through SocialVibe and showing how much of a difference the viewers of that blog have made so far.
If you now take a look to your right you will notice such a link. Click it.
The Oxfam Unwrapped site is taking a slightly different approach with a similar goal, to raise awareness and also get money to where it is needed to help deal with a variety of environmental and social justice issues. The concept is quite simple: instead of buying granny another set of salt shakers or a lawn ornament for Christmas, you buy her a clean water well, but since she lives in a country which already has plentiful tap water, you have it installed in a small Sri Lankan village where clean water is hard to come by and give her a card with a picture of a well. Granny doesn’t have to find somewhere to display another hideous garden ornament that she was vengefully going to leave to you in her will, you get to do all your Christmas shopping in one place, you both feel like heroes, and some people you’ll never meet have their lives significantly improved. Everybody wins.
Oxfam Unwrapped stock isn’t only limited to wells. Customers can also purchase toilets for refugee camps, livestock, working animals, bridges, literacy classes, hygiene kits, mozzie nets and so on. These presents are produced and purchased in bulk and delivered unwrapped directly to the people who need them most, the customer gets a nice card explaining the purchase which they can give to their loved one who will be generally relieved that they don’t now need to look after the cow they have just been given.
Most aid organisations understand that giving people the tools they need to break out of poverty is generally more beneficial than giving them monetary hand outs. Oxfam Unwrapped has taken this a step further in their marketing by quantifying specific donations into specific aid purchases, allowing the customer to choose exactly how their money is used and receive a tangible product in the form of a card which they can then give as a present. This maximises the social currency for which the purchase may be exchanged, which is often lost when providing anonymous charitable donations.
Both of these sites provide practical ways for people in developed nations to support a variety of charitable organisations all over the world without any noticeable disruption to their daily life or finances, by utilising either their casual internet time or their gifts budget they were going to have to spend anyway. They provide an important step in the development of a sense of global community.