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On the Internet, Charity Begins With Animal Causes

On the Internet, Charity Begins With Animal Causes
Photograph by Vasiliki Varvaki/Getty Images

Individual Americans are a philanthropic force, contributing $217 billion to a variety of causes in 2011, or nearly three out of every four charitable dollars donated. The generosity and volunteerism is even more mainstream in this era of Facebook fundraising drives, Kickstarter campaigns, and hashtagged do-gooder charity events.

But for charities, fundraisers, and rights campaigners, the rise of promoting social good through social media has led to unexpected challenges. For starters, campaigners rallying the public to support, say, press freedoms in totalitarian regimes must compete online for support with funding drives and e-petitions for the local animal shelter. It’s a mismatch—cuddly kittens win that contest every time.