You may have heard the term “social good” being thrown around, with businesses and organizations, as well as entire summits dedicated to the word. Social good can broadly be defined as any action that provides some sort of benefit to those around you. The action may be taken by a business or non-government organization that seeks to give something back to the general public or be the initiative of an individual in expressing their support.

It may mean the provision of fresh water in communities that have traditionally gone without or the education of children who don’t have access to government-run schooling systems. In other cases, it may be the act of sharing information and bringing greater attention to a particular cause.

Social GoodSocial good organizations, businesses and individuals tackle a vast array of challenges facing our world at this time, from political corruption to environmental destruction and the immense wealth gap that exists in many societies. It may address how we can use technology to deal with health crises or housing shortages, or how to create initiatives that will assist those who are most vulnerable.

Power in the hands of the people

While governments and multinational companies once had a monopoly over the resources needed to initiate change or create advertising campaigns to influence the public into taking action, now it is in the hands of each and every individual. Social media has created a platform for us to share information, engage in socially good actions and bring people together to act on issues of shared concern.

Fundraising platforms have also allowed the wider community to decide on the causes that resonate most with them and appeal to like-minded individuals in achieving their common goals.

Social good summits have been held around the globe in recent years and aim to unite a dynamic community of leaders and grassroots organizations who are all seeking to make a difference in their own way. They provide a forum to discuss the impact of social good initiatives around the world and how they can reach as many people as possible.

Turning clicks into action

Social GoodToday so many businesses are getting on board with the social good movement, particularly through online advertising and the share-ability of their campaigns. An engaging piece of advertising or show of support from a company to a particular cause can easily make its way around the world in a matter of hours through social media platforms, translating into increased business for them.

But one cause for concern is the ease with which we can like, share or tweet our support for social good campaigns without engaging further. Yes, it may bring attention and awareness to others (and soothe our own conscience), but it needs to be acted upon if we want it to have a practical effect. Just clicking or sharing an act of social good often doesn’t stimulate the offline action that is really needed to drive change, and it’s easy to become complacent that we are “doing our part” by supporting from our device.

What to look for when supporting social good organizations

Social GoodWith so many social good organizations out there, it can be difficult to know where to spend your money or time. Add to that the occasional report of falsified stories designed to pull on the heart strings and attract more support, you want to be sure that the organization or cause you are supporting is legitimate.

First and foremost, if you’re donating money to a social good organization, you should understand a bit about their financial position and how your money is being spent. Most reputable organizations are transparent about what percentage of donated money gets spent on what (projects, advertising, staff salaries), and if they’re not willing to share, then you should consider directing your support elsewhere.

It’s also important to identify if the organization is really addressing the needs of its cause or community. Do they have data and statistics to support the work they are doing or are their successes in stories alone? It’s also vital that the work is being done in collaboration with the community’s wishes and not being imposed on them. This is of particular concern if the beliefs of the organization differ from those of the community they are working with. The ethics of the organization should be scrutinized to ensure they are being religiously, culturally and socially respectful.

The sustainability of the program is also vital, ensuring the benefits are not just short-lived and to appease supporters and donor money in the short term. Follow-up programs or community training may be needed to ensure installed infrastructure is maintained and continues to function for its purpose well into the future. There’s little gained in building a water pump that falls into disuse the first time it breaks down because no one has been trained to fix it!

Inspiring platforms for social good

So you want to get on board with the social good movement in an actionable way? Here are three social good platforms that are linking like-minded people and organizations to drive action on the ground:

change.org is an online activism platform that raises awareness about important social issues both locally, nationally and globally. It’s not just about building a network of people online who have like-minded beliefs, but connecting them with opportunities to make on-the-ground changes that will really have an impact.

For those who want to get hands-on, Sparked is an online platform that connects willing volunteers with non-profits. They have more than 1,000 affiliated non-profit organizations who post requests for the people and skills they need, allowing you to find a project that suits you and your availability.

OpenIDEO is where great minds come together to discuss the challenges of tackling social issues. Community members help design and evaluate solutions to issues presented by non-profits, and the open forum allows them to provide feedback along the way. Perhaps you have the brain power and the ability to think outside the box (but not the time to assist on the ground), then this is a good option for you.