Some call it “slacktivism,” but online activism really does make a difference. With the ubiquity of social networking sites, a simple message or status update can draw thousands of eyes on your cause and raise greater awareness, in some cases, more so than an ad placed in your local newspaper or community TV channel.
Times and technology are changing, and that only increases your audience and opportunities to get involved. If you already help animals in the “real world,” try sharing your efforts online to reach more people from different locations. If you can’t devote too much of your time to activism, put a drop in the bucket with a small action, like writing a short petition or sending an eCard. The projects below should give you some ideas to get started making a difference, but don’t feel tied down to the specific websites and organizations highlighted on this list. Feel free to use these ideas as inspiration, and customize them to fit your personal style and your favorite online tools.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife eCards
The NFW’s Trees for Wildlife program lets activists purchase an eCard and send it to a friend for $6.95. For each card purchased (you can choose from one of four designs), the organization will plant a tree on the recipient’s behalf. The more trees planted, the better! In addition to improving air quality and beautifying our landscape, trees provide habitat and shade for native wildlife.
Goodsearch is a search engine that donates to your charity of choice whenever you use it to search the Web, or if you shop at one of their partner stores. Sure, its algorithm and style aren’t as sophisticated as Google’s, but it’s powered by Yahoo!, so it’s perfectly fine for most casual searches.
If you’re already shopping for textbooks or gifts online, you might as well put some of that money to good use! If you sign up with AmazonSmile, 0.5 percent of the purchase price of eligible Amazon.com items goes to your favorite charity, at no extra cost to you.
iGive works similarly to AmazonSmile, but instead of limiting shopping to Amazon.com, it allows you to shop at any of over 1,400 affiliated stores and donate an average of 3 percent of your purchase price to your chosen charity. Neither iGive nor its member stores charge you anything extra for this donation.
You’ve seen Change.org and thepetitionsite.com petitions linked on your Facebook page and all around the Web. If your pet cause isn’t represented, just create your own petition for free and share the link with other activists. If they find the petition interesting, they’re sure to share it with their network and it will go viral before you know it. Petitions are everywhere and seem like an armchair activist thing, but these success stories show they really do make waves.
Sometimes, sharing petitions and fundraisers on your Facebook profile can be counterproductive. Many visit Facebook for light entertainment, and may block your posts from their newsfeed if they’re too preachy or depressing. To avoid this problem, create a Facebook page dedicated to your cause and invite your activist friends. This lets interested people keep in touch with your activism, and could open up your efforts to the entire Facebook audience, not just your “friends.” If you’d like more collaboration and conversation with like-minded activists, you might consider a Facebook group instead.
Image source: Jimmie/Wikimedia Commons