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Student perceptions and experiences of charity on social media: the authenticity of offline networks in online giving

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Recent reports have cautioned that charities are behind the curve in taking advantage of the potential benefits of digital technologies and social media, a problem that particularly affects their engagement with young people. This article assesses the data from a series of focus groups, including a participatory digital element, with students and recent graduates (aged 18‐25), examining participants’ current engagement with charity online. The focus groups show that while the right celebrity or organisational backing helps charity messages cut through, overall it is those causes and requests for donations that come through family and friends that are still the main drivers of young people’s engagement with charity on social media. Supporting findings from similar studies, this shows that, despite the global connectivity digital offers, we should think carefully about what can be expected from the charity‐digital relationship, and the continued importance of existing offline relationships for students and new graduates.
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Keywords: digital charity; giving; social media; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Publication date: March 2020

This article was made available online on January 8, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Student perceptions and experiences of charity on social media: the authenticity of offline networks in online giving".

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  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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