When 24-year-old Anne Ramsell decided to do something for the community, she looked for ways to capitalize on the social networks that are already attracting a lot of attention within her generation.
Using her MySpace.com account, Ramsell spread the word about a week-long food drive beginning early next month, and is hoping for a big turnout at the kick-off party hosted by Murphy’s Pub on Madison Street.
“I’m a firm believer that if you want people to be receptive to your message, you have to cater to their behaviors, meet them halfway,” she said. “For many Gen Y-ers the desire to help is there, but they aren’t aware of the opportunities available.”
Ramsell herself is a member of the generation she hopes will support her effort, but people born from the late 1970s through the 1980s aren’t known for their charitable contributions. According to a 1996 study, “Giving and Volunteering in the United States,” people in their early to mid 20s give a smaller percentage of their incomes to charitable organizations when compared to other age ranges. Duke University’s Charles Clotfelter speculates in “The Economics of Giving” that one reason for the generational difference in giving may be a “cohort effect,” and that some generations may be more generous than others.
By using her MySpace account, however, Ramsell is ahead of the trend for reaching that targeted demographic. An article in “American Demographics” noted that nonprofit organizations are just beginning to scratch the surface of reaching out to technically-savvy, younger donors via the Internet.
MySpace is a website where people can interact and socialize online.
“I have a network of about 180 friends through my MySpace account and I knew they would be receptive to my idea,” Ramsell said.
Ramsell sent out an e-mail bulletin and an invite to her MySpace network of friends. She also posted a blog that can be read by visitors to her page who aren’t in her network.
“The response was great,” Ramsell said. “I sent out the bulletin three months ago and right away 15 people volunteered to help with the drive.”
Murphy’s Pub will be accepting non-perishable food donations throughout the week. The donations collected during the food drive will be given to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a not-for-profit organization that distributes food through a network of 600 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to more than 91,000 adults and children every week.
As a patron of Murphy’s, Ramsell said it was an easy choice for hosting the kick-off event, and management was very receptive to the idea. Murphy’s owner Matt Mathey is donating prizes for the first food drive held at the bar since Mathey and his wife became owners in 2003.
“I think having a fund-raiser here will be very successful; socializing definitely helps [when raising money],” Mathey said.
During the day on Dec. 2, families can participate. Hot cocoa will be handed out for those stopping by to drop off food. The kick-off party, which includes a live DJ and drink specials, will begin at 8 p.m. and last until 3 a.m. Raffle tickets will be given to everyone who makes a food donation. Prizes are numerous and varied.