The world of online activism is fascinating & evolving rapidly…on m-cause, I have been tracking some of the action in this space via the m-cause Facebook 15. As Facebook is one of the world’s largest social networking sites, naturally it serves as a great proxy for understanding how activism is evolving online.

As I started pulling together the latest m-cause Facebook 15 update, I did some search queries on the state of giving via online social networks. I wanted to better understand if people are actually “closing the loop” and making donations as they pass along information about causes to their friends and urge them to donate.

Online giving within social networks is still nascent:
According to the Giving USA foundation, US giving hit a record $306 Billion last year. Over the past couple of years, online giving within social networks has only generated $44 Million according to Social Actions.

Poised for excellent growth…but will it be incremental?
As online giving grows & develops within these social networking channels (with the aging of the digital natives) will the giving incremental? Or, will giving via online social networks merely replace giving done in traditional ways. The Wall Street Journal online reports that “people are 100 times more likely to donate when asked by a friend or family member than an anonymous solicitation, according to a recent survey by the blog Social Actions, which advocates for charitable networking.” So it will be interesting to observe whether or not the total “giving pie” will be increased due to more effective “social ways” of donation solicitation.

Online giving via social networks is not just happening on Facebook:
A couple of years ago, Kevin Bacon founded an online cause site called SixDegrees.org. On sixdegrees.org, people can set up a widget showing their name, picture and cause they are raising money for…and then if someone clicks on the badge, then they get access to info about your cause (you can even add video) and they can immediately donate money online.

Below are a few other online social networking sites beyond the Facebook Causes application that encourage charitable giving (taken directly from the WSJ online).

sixdegrees.org
Founded by actor Kevin Bacon and the Network for Good, sixdegrees.org lets individuals solicit donations for a wide range of charities.
realitycharity.com
The site lets people request donations either for charities or for individuals, such as a veteran of the Iraq war who lacks the money to pay all his medical bills.
chipin.com
Users can create widgets that request and process donations for a cause and that can either be posted on an existing Web site or can be set up as a separate Web site.
firstgiving.com
Users can set up Web pages on the site and steer friends there. The site provides tips on online fundraising. Note: Firstgiving has a great blog as well.
givemeaning.com
Like firstgiving, givemeaning hosts Web pages where people can solicit donations. Unlike many sites, givemeaning doesn’t deduct credit-card fees or other processing fees from donations; advertisers and donors cover those costs.
justgive.org
This site allows visitors to volunteer time and donate goods, as well as contribute cash. It suggests a different sort of wedding registry, where the couple can suggest that friends and family donate to a particular charity rather than buy wedding gifts.