Using Facebook to Get Funds and Volunteers for Flood Relief in Pakistan
In July of 2010 an unprecedented rainy season hit Pakistan with floods that submerged roughly one-fifth of the country’s total land area. The flood directly affected about 20 million people, with a death toll of roughly 2000.
From the get-go, the government’s response to the disaster was inadequate, and soon youth groups that were formed during the 2007 pro-democracy lawyers movement stepped into the void. Their was to provide the basic relief services that, in their opinion, the Pakistani government was neglecting to furnish. The Pakistani military’s response had been deemed sluggish and disorganized.
Their biggest obstacle would be finding the financial support to pay for regular trips into Pakistan’s rural areas and the food and water that they would be delivering to affected populations.
1. Potential volunteers - especially other students.
2. Potential funders, especially wealthy Pakistanis within the country and who were living abroad. They knew this group would probably want to help relief efforts and would not trust the government or the army to disperse funding without corruption. These would-be funders were looking for a civil society group to support.
Only about 11% of the population in Pakistan is online (with approximately 3.7 million on Facebook out of a population of nearly 170 million) but the groups they were interested in engaging, both their constituency of younger more educated Pakistani youth and their target of wealthy, older Pakistanis, were more likely to have regular net access.
The Tools and Tactics
PYA started as Facebook group, so it was only natural for them to turn to Facebook in order to replenish their resources, build awareness about their work and launch a fundraising campaign. “Facebook as been the main source of creating awareness: we use it to raise funds, arrange meetings, it’s our lifeline” says PYA founder Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi.
They began to send Facebook messages through a network of groups and fan pages. “The beautiful thing about internet and Facebook is that you don’t have to directly contact anyone. Groups can serve as proxies so that you dont have to worry about offending a certain part of the population” - this is important in Pakistani society considering its polarization, especially around religious issues.
They made it as easy as possible for people to donate, sometimes they would even personally picking up checks from peoples’ homes and depositing them in the bank.
Once they received money, they made sure to document the contact information of every funder and keep them abreast of how their money was being spent. But they didn’t do this by contacting each one individually, which would have been more time consuming. Instead they used Facebook to be 100% transparency about their relief efforts.
“We put everything there,” says Syed, “photos from the journeys into rural areas, preparing the trucks, hanging banners, doling out water - everything.” Everyone had access to live feedback on what was happening on the ground with their money, and every aspect of their relief efforts were documented as live status updates that went up on YouTube and Twitter as well as Facebook. These updates were shared, their following grew, and their fundraising efforts were accelerated. The Facebook page was the nucleus of their campaign. Whenever they went on traditional media they directed people to it. All of their printed information (posters, pamphlets, T shirts) pointed people to Facebook.
View photos of the PYA's relief work here.
In the end, they raised 120 million Pakistani rupees - 90% of which came from Facebook.
Facebook, which was banned in Pakistan in May of 2010 during an uproar over content deemed blasphemous to Islam, continues to serve an important role for Pakistani youth activists, because so many of their peers (especially those who wouldn’t identify as activists) use the platform regularly. “We use Facebook for everything,” says Syed, “everyone spends so much time on Facebook it would be really hard to get volunteers if we didn’t use it."blog comments powered by Disqus