Donating in the Digital Age
The rapid growth of technological innovation and the widespread use of social media are changing the way society communicates and behaves. As technology evolves, the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors of a society change with it. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) must adapt to these technological advances in order to stay relevant and be effective in the digital age.
Evolution in the Field of Social Cause Communications
In his book, Communication and Social Change, Thomas Tufte comments on the vast growth of communication practices brought to society by social movements and uprisings, especially in the past decade. In the digital era, society has an endless amount of information and choices and because of this traditional NGOs have to change the way they operate and communicate with their audience. “NGOs have a presence in social media with three purposes: to make themselves visible to the population, to raise awareness about the issues they defend, and third, to turn those media into conduits for channeling donations from citizens” (Barbero, García-Galera, & Muñoz, 2019). Before the digital boom, organizations heavily relied on incentivized opportunities to entice participation whereas now society has increased choices and the ability to dictate their own participation. NGOs are now needing to provide ways for individuals to engage on open platforms and creative ways to spur contributions.
Communication Adaptions by the UNCHR
The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) has been changing the lives of refugees since the 1950s. With over 70 years of experience, UNCHR has been striving for a world without refugees. Recently, the organization has helped over 50 million refugees resettle and helped raise over $346,729 in funds, and provided 2,730 winter kits that included thermal blankets, winter clothes, and bedding to those desperate in below-freezing temperatures. The UNCHR has been able to provide these life-saving changes by keeping its effective website relevant. UNCHR’s website is easy to navigate first and foremost. The front page offers the ability for individuals to choose how much they would like to donate and whether they prefer a monthly or a one-time payment. Since individuals are wanting to choose how they participate, there is also an area where you can donate to a specific emergency and even specific winter items.
Alongside its celebrity sponsors, including Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, and Ben Stiller, UNCHR has been able to keep up with the digital era by being active on all the most popular social media platforms in multiple languages. UNCHR has social media accounts in English, Spanish, Arabic, and French. Its English Twitter has more than 2.6 million followers, Facebook has an astounding 4.1 million and its newly established TikTok even has 1.2 million followers. Not only does the UNCHR have a social media presence, but it also creates original content to spread awareness.
Another avenue The UN Refugee Agency has been able to keep up is by utilizing the sudden popular emergence of podcasts. Forced to Flee is a podcast where you can “hear the incredible stories of refugee, internally displaced people and humanitarians who were directly impacted by some of the world’s most tumultuous events over the past 70 years” (UNCHR). Cate Blancett and Andrew Upton also host a radio show in hopes to spread awareness of the #IBelong campaign and statelessness.
One way I see how innovative and forward the UNCHR is the directed sponsored ads I have been receiving ever since I started researching the topic. During my breaks on YouTube, I started noticing ads in between my music choices compelling me to donate or learn more about a particular issue. This is definitely a way this INGO has adapted its approach to communication in the digital era.
As technological advances and changes the way society behaves, NGOs must adapt to the ever-changing landscape if it wants to continue helping those in need. The UNCHR has been able to adapt for nearly 70s years since its inception and its ability to grow with technology has made this INGO successful since the 1950s.
Barbero, D, O., García-Galera M.C., Muñoz C. (2019). NGOs’ communication and youth engagement in the digital ecosystem. Science Direct. Digital Ecosystem — an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Marmillion, V. (2022). Lecture 1 Video.
Tufte, T. (2017). Communication and social change: A citizen perspective. Polity Press.
UNCHR. (n.d.). Projects and campaigns. UNHCR. UNHCR — projects and campaigns.