With his first address to Congress, President Obama called for “a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations.” Across the country his remarks were met with rousing applause.
Since then, Congress passed a bill that is likely to have the largest effect on volunteerism since JFK called for the creation of a national service corps in 1963. In addition to motivating individuals and providing educational incentives, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act will provide tax credits to employers who offer their employees paid leave to volunteer. It will add 125,000 new AmeriCorps volunteers and social entrepreneurs will be engaged so that their good work will help the common good.
As a result of the economic crisis, as well as this national call to service, all around the country there is increased awareness and interest in volunteering and giving back—but for many, they don’t know where or how to get started.
At the same time, social networking is changing the way the average person connects and communicates with friends, colleagues, groups with common interests, and family. And nonprofits have also gotten sophisticated and created Facebook pages or other networking sites as a way to keep people informed about what they are doing, invite them to attend events, and recruit volunteers or donors. Because of their speed and efficiency in delivering communications to large numbers of users, social networks have become vital tools for community efforts—to reach out to people and help get them involved.
So, what if we took a “Facebook” approach, using their social networking’s usual suspects: profiles, friends, messaging, groups, personal blogs, and then added a designated section called “Volunteerbook,” which would provide a place for those already involved to share all the good work they’re doing, connect with other like-minded people around social change that they feel passionate about, and call out to hundreds of friends and contacts to enlist help for specific community projects or initiatives. Research shows that the #1 reason people get involved is because they are asked—so let’s use social networks to do the asking. Through this effort we could mobilize millions of new and committed volunteers, eager to be part of a “social change” movement, using “social networking.”