Bringing the Noise
YouthNoise is an online, youth-based social network that aims to bring young people ages 16 to 22 together to form a network for social change. Its unique mission, as it appears on its Web site at www.YouthNoise.com, is “to inspire and empower young people everywhere to catapult their passion and idealism into movements to sustain the planet.”
The site was launched in 2001 as a program of Save the Children, an international children’s relief organization, as a kids-for-kids effort that focused on how young people in the United States could get involved in Save the Children’s humanitarian-aid efforts around the globe, says Ginger Thomson, who began her relationship with YouthNoise as a member of its advisory board and is now CEO. In 2004, YouthNoise became independent of Save the Children. The Web site, with content generated by and for young people, has registered more than 113,000 youths from the United States and more than 170 other countries and sees an average of 500,000 visitors every month. Here, Thomson talks about the funding sources for YouthNoise, the work it does and the fundraising challenges when dealing with a youthful constituency.
FundRaising Success: Where do you get funding?
Ginger Thomson: The primary source of our funds has been foundations. We also have a small and very invested group of individual donors.
FS: What fundraising challenges does your constituency pose?
GT: In terms of targeting that group, they do not perceive themselves as having funds to give away. So while they’re spending a good deal of money on themselves, they don’t think of their money as money that’s disposable towards charitable organizations. And YouthNoise serves youth. It doesn’t serve hungry children or sick children specifically. We really serve young people who are an intermediary between the causes and issues that young people care about and themselves. So they might give a contribution to a relief effort, but they don’t see YouthNoise as the place they would necessarily give a contribution because we’re an infrastructure for them. They see us as a service, but not as a charity. I think that’s challenging.
Presenting YouthNoise as a cause to the youth that we serve is a challenging proposition. They don’t see us as a cause; they see us as a tool, which is so different from a cause. However, they’re very eager to see the site grow and thrive and are willing to take certain actions to support the organization — just not give their specific dollars and cents. We feel like we’re really a portal, in a way, for [youths] who have a cause they want to pursue. We encourage them to make donations elsewhere and to connect with the causes that they specifically care about.
FS: In what ways does your Web site serve and engage youths?
GT: We’re really hoping that young people will identify YouthNoise as the way they can support the causes that they care about, so we’re in the marketplace with the concept of causes and we’re working with social networks to encourage young people to adopt a cause and to find the information, the resources, the connections to those causes on YouthNoise. We work with VolunteerMatch to provide a resource for young people to find volunteer opportunities in their communities, and we developed a program to allow young people to start projects through YouthNoise and actually invite other community members to participate in those projects.