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Facebook Helps THON?

The money THON raises has increased almost three fold in the past decade from around $3 million in 2000 to close to $8 million this year, and some people wonder what has caused such a dramatic increase in donations. Most wouldn’t say students are working harder (because they’ve always worked hard). Maybe more students have gotten involved in the past ten years. But how can one explain why, despite the recession, during which one study says 94% of non-profits reported negative effects on fundraising, THON has managed to raise its donations?

Daniel Victor, a Harrisburg area newspaperman, thinks that the use of Facebook might be at least a contributing factor, as evidenced by a February 21st tweet in which he wrote, “Theory: Could #Thon’s economy-bucking success since 2005 be correlated to rise of Facebook? Maybe it created more consistent peer pressure?”

Facebook is used to communicate many different things in many different ways. Different people have posted events to raise money FTK, to create THON groups, even just to raise awareness – think of everyone who changed their profile picture to the THON 2010 logo last week.

Victor claims that, as Facebook has become the main way to social network and matured to allow for status updates and photo albums, people have become more and more inundated with THON images and messages, not just from friends but also from acquaintances. This is a far cry from the ignorable nature of THON in the 80’s when all THON information was from The Daily Collegian and Stall Stories, and even from the 90’s when AIM was the hot thing. Sure, people were just as passionate and put in their buddy profiles, but the only people that looked at their profiles were friends.

Now, as Victor explained in an email, “every canning trip, every piece of THON news, every visit with a THON family, random FTK status message, and so on and so on” is up there for you to see from nearly everyone that’s participating. “It’s year-round, it’s coming from many sources. It’s inescapable….This kind of round-the-clock exposure to everyone’s consciousness, and the student-run nature of THON means it’s all concentrated on Facebook, where every student’s consciousness lives.”

While Victor’s theory is plausible and interesting, it is just a theory. He himself admits he hasn’t really crunched the numbers for any concrete, statistical evidence. He also doesn’t mean for the theory to be an insult or imply that contributors are motivated solely by social gains. Victor simply believes it’s human nature to respond to incentive and “Facebook created a wholly new social incentive that didn’t exist before.” Whatever the reason, THON has continued to not only sustain, but grow in success while other NPOs try to stay afloat. I’m glad it has, FTK.

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About the Author

Caitlin Silver

Caitlin is from a small Pennsylvania town called Unionville, which is by West Chester, which is by Philadelphia. She is a sophomore in the Smeal College of Business and will probably major in accounting. Caitlin loves "How I Met Your Mother" and dougnuts.

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