Ending online segregation is about using online tools to leverage your social network of friends and contacts in order to advocate for social justice. Every person can help bring thousands of dollars of resources to at-risk communities with just a little effort toward ending online segregation. Andrew Sears, founder of TechMission, offers a few simple and important ways you can help end online segregation on your own Web site, blog, or Facebook page.
- Blog on social justice issues. Start your own independent blog on social justice topics using a blog hosting platform, such as Blogger, Blogspot, Wordpress, or Typepad. You can apply to be a social justice blogger on UrbanMinistry.org. On your blog, feel free to write on topics you feel passionate about such as environmental justice, poverty, human trafficking, etc.
- Use widgets for social justice in your blog and social networking profiles. ChristianVolunteering.org has widgets for blogs & personal Web sites and applications for Facebook, so that every click that comes from your profile or blog translates into $5 of volunteering to serve the poor. To do this, you need to be registered on social networking sites like Facebook. Other popular applications on Facenook are Causes and Change.org. If you participate in a social networking "cause," it’s best to really get involved and get your friends to give their time and money. Avoid "slacktivism" at all costs, which is a new term for when people join online causes but never actually do anything.
- Get your church or ministry Web site to include prominent links to social justice organizations. ChristianVolunteering.org makes it easy for churches to "embed" volunteer opportunities to serve the poor into their church Web site (similar to how YouTube videos are embedded). See an example at: http://www.bostonvineyard.org/getinvolved/neighborhoodreach/volunteer. Each click from your Web site on average translates to $5 of volunteer time serving the poor.
- E-mail campaigns and causes to friends and group lists. As you come across important social issues or causes, send a message to your church e-mail list, Facebook friends or post it to your profile. You can find current issues on Sojo.net and UrbanMinistry.org, or you can invite your friends to volunteer through ChristianVolunteering.org or to learn more. Help your church small group learn more about social justice on UrbanMinistry.org using their online audio, video, books, Bible studies & articles including the Poverty 101 Video Series.
- Use your social network to fundraise for ministries serving the poor. We have just launched iSupport.urbanministry.org which enables individuals to raise money for ministries using social networking tools. Our goal is to get all of the 4,000-plus ministries in our online directory to be registered, so that you can help raise money for them. Other tools that are helpful include the following FaceBook applications: Kiva, Changing the Present, Razoo Speed Granting and ChipIn. Another great way to lend your social network to serve the poor is to use LinkedIn, and "friend" both your resourced friends and those ministering to the poor, and let these ministries know that you have contacts in corporations and foundations that could provide them with grants.
- Ask Christian businesses to start corporate social responsibility initiatives that support ministries serving the poor. Corporations like Microsoft and Google give millions of dollars worth of grants each year, but there is no equivalent ethic of corporate social responsibility among many Christian companies. The most significant change to end online segregation would be for mainstream Christian online media companies to donate advertising to serving the poor. If there were grant programs comparable to Google's at Salem Communications, Christianity Today, Zondervan, Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network, that could translate into one million dollars in donated online ads and ten million dollars of resources serving the poor.
- Get your company to give grants to ministries serving the poor. Research whether your company has a foundation or grant program and find ministries in your area that fit their grant guidelines. Then, contact social justice ministries and encourage them to apply while simultaneously emailing your community relations department to advocate for that specific ministry.
- Push your company to give to Christian ministries. While Google gives grants to many organizations, they have repeatedly not given grants to Christian social service organizations even when those organizations were non-discriminatory. Our estimate is that 80 percent of corporations will fund Christian social service organizations as long as they do not discriminate those they serve. If you are in a corporation that represents the 20 percent of companies that do discriminate against Christian organizations, it is time for you to take a stand for your faith, meet with your corporate social responsibility office and get other Christians in your company to sign a petition advocating a change. How do you find out if your company discriminates? Look at their list of grantees. If you don't see any Christian organizations, then there is a good chance that they discriminate against Christian organizations because Christian organizations make up close to one-third of the social services sector.
- Develop a Volunteer Campaign in your Church. Talk to your pastor about developing a campaign in your church to mobilize volunteers to serve the poor or advocate for social justice issues. There are five main options for that: ChristianVolunteering.org provides free resources for churches to launch a volunteer campaign; purchase toolkits to launch a campaign from World Vision's Faith In Action program; join Sojourner's Faith and Justice Network; join Evangelical's for Social Action's Word & Deed Network; or join the Externally Focused Churches Network.
- Invite your Christian small group, friends, and family to volunteer serving the poor. Just search for a local volunteer opportunity on ChristianVolunteering.org, and then send them an e-mail or FaceBook invite through the site asking them to join you in volunteering.
- Register as a virtual volunteer on ChristianVolunteering.org to work remotely, donating your professional skills to ministries serving the poor using your technology, legal, accounting, writing or other professional skills. Ministries can then contact you to ask for help.
Andrew Sears is executive director of TechMission (www.tech mission.org), a Christian nonprofit that uses technology and the Internet to help serve under-resourced communities. To read his commentary on online segregation in the January 2009 issue of Sojourners, click here.