11 Ways to Use Your Online Skills for Good

According to Yahoo! News, Americans spend on average 23 hours per week online – emailing, gaming, poking, prodding, crushin’ candy, blogging, farming, blocking, tumbling… you get the point. We spend an incredible amount of time in our digital society.

What if a fraction of this time was directed towards making a difference? In this post, I’ve included 10 different social action websites that are worth looking into. Do you have ten minutes to put your phone down? Did you know answering a trivia question allows you to (freely!) donate ten grains of rice? Having used a few myself, I can vouch for the simplicity of these good deeds.

And to think you just keep refreshing your Twitter feed.

1. DoSomething.org

This website is geared towards involving teens. It calls us to various campaigns – fighting sexism, cracking down on texting and driving, donating jeans for homeless teens, conserving water, even finding homes for shelter pets – simply by completing the challenges they suggest. And, if you take a picture of yourself completing that challenge, you’ll be entered into a $4000 scholarship drawing. Pretty simple, right?

One really great DoSomething challenge I participated in was sending a Valentine’s Day card to a lonely senior. DoSomething sent me an address, and all I had to do was make a card. This may sound like something small, but can you imagine the ripple effect of a million teens sending a million cards? It doesn’t cost anything, and it could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

2. FreeRice.com

This is a cool one! If you’re like me and your family is tired of hearing you yell out the answers to Jeopardy trivia, check out FreeRice.com. This website allows you to answer trivia questions and win rice. Yep, win rice. For every question you answer correctly, FreeRice sponsors will donate ten grains of rice to the World Food Programme. The site even keeps track of how many bowls, bags, and tons of rice you’ve generated with your trivia answers.

“But I’m awful at trivia!” LIES. We’re talking: “holy means: A) gentle B) not many C) accurate D) sacred” here people! You can even change your subject – humanities, geography, English, science, math… there is even SAT prep. Seriously.

This is a great site to play around on if you’re just laying in front of the television. Hardly any effort, and rice gets donated to hungry earthlings. Win-win. And, if you’re into this kinda thing, you can even form groups to work together or work your way onto the rice leader score board.

3. UNICEF Tap Project

I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes I think I may have a cellphone addiction. So, this UNICEF Tap Project is good for my soul – my desire for good outweighs my desire to refresh Instagram. The Tap Project is a smart phone campaign. For every ten minutes you don’t touch your phone (and believe me, it senses if you’re trying to sneak it – I’ve tried) you provide a child with clean water for the day. And, if you keep going, more and more children can have more and more clean water – something that is TRULY an essential.

Once you finally crack (just kidding, we know you have to take calls from your mom sometime) you can make a donation to UNICEF for as little as $5 – an amount that provides a child with clean water for 200 days.

This would be a great way to spend a dinner, whether it’s with your family or out to eat with your friends. Not only are you providing children with clean water – or multiple children, if everyone’s doing it at once – you’re also getting some real relationship time.

4. Apathy Is Boring

Canadians, this one’s for you! The Apathy Is Boring page invites Canadian citizens to immerse themselves in politics to be aware of what they’re supporting. Instead of being one of those people who kinda knows what’s going on, you can be the one that people always refer questions to at the dinner table. The site gives unbiased information on different political parties, allows you to make your very own “call to action” petition, and gives election reminders.

The page also encourages individuals to encourage the youth in their communities, providing training tools, videos, and media to bring up a generation of culturally-aware young’uns.

5. Earthjustice

Earthjustice is an international, non-profit law firm speaking up for our sweet Earth. This organization is dedicated to creating a healthy living environment for all people, protecting the Earth’s natural resources, and defending organizations such as the Wilderness Society at no cost.

So what can you do? The Earthjustice page allows individuals to get in on the action. The site shares information about the various projects on which they’re working and then creates petitions that you can sign, depending on how you feel about saving the coral reef. You can also subscribe to the Earthjustice page to keep up with what’s going on.

6. Groupon Grassroots

I know I love Groupon. Groupon Grassroots is like Groupon for social causes. You can create your own cause, find local causes around you, and choose where your loyalties lie. So far, Groupon Grassroots has kickstarted over 1500 campaigns raising over 8 million dollars in support. You can “purchase” donations to support campaigns you care about locally – many of which go directly back into your community. There’s even a Groupon Grassroots blog where you can tell your story, share your experience with an organization, or rally support for your passion. Grouponning for change, for the win.

7. PifWorld

Similar to Groupon Grassroots, PifWorld allows you to choose a cause you feel strongly about, donate or support this cause, and share the cause with your friends. However, it’s on a much broader scale. Instead of your local school, PifWorld allows you to support across oceans.

Essentially, it’s a platform that allows you to garner support for what you love. If there’s something you’d like to begin, start your own fundraiser and create a non-profit page. And, if you want, PifWorld will even tell your Twitter followers about it. There is a blog, but I can’t read Dutch.

8. Spot.us 

Communication majors unite! Spot.us is a website dedicated to community-funded reporting. The public works with Spot.us to choose topics that may be under-reported or overlooked, and this community of journalists with open hearts and sharp typing skills can pursue the story for themselves. Currently, the site has over 22,000 contributors and over 110 publishing partners.

This site is funded partially by American Public Media and partially the public, but is currently not accepting any new proposals or contributors. I’ll post more when Spot.us is refreshed!

9. Help From Home

Hopefully you’ve stuck with me this long, because this site is one of the coolest things I’ve ever stumbled across on the internet. Help From Home is a site based on the concept of microvolunteering – small volunteering projects performed by millions of people. 100% Pajama pant friendly. Help From Home lets you choose your choice of action. Do you want to play games that donate money to charity? Do you have a minute to send a free eCard? You can even put an add-on to your Firefox browser that’ll save printer ink –> paper –> trees (and indirectly money) and takes literally 30 seconds.

There are hundreds of these little tasks that allow you to volunteer from your bed at virtually no cost to you, taking anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Of course, donating to your favorite cause is always an option.

10. Kiva

Whoever came up with Kiva is brilliant. You’re looking at a site that empowers people globally through as cheap as a $25 loan. How does it work? You lend to someone in need, and when they reach their goal, they pay you back. It’s beautiful.

Let me share an example:

Elena is a 42-year old widower from the Philippines. She is looking for a loan of $350 to restock her small store with basic commodities so that she can provide for her four children. She is 7% on the way to her goal – someone’s already donated $25 to her cause. Kiva provides a repayment schedule, and Elena works towards saving up for future consumption so that she can build a sustainable lifestyle for herself and her kids. If you’d like to donate to Elena’s Kiva loan, click here.

If you have $25 sitting in a bank account somewhere that you could share with someone in a third world country, Kiva is definitely the route to go. And, you get to become a part of these awesome life stories.

11. Social Actions

Finally, the motherload. Social Actions is a site that provides the links and information to all the other sites you may be looking for. Browse campaigns, webpages or fundraisers. You can even create petitions, give loans, and discover social action apps.

I hope you found something that interests you! Whatever you choose, remember that those ten minutes (and all those definitions you learned in 8th grade) could better our world. Be proactive.

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