Social Movements 2.0


Donor fatigue is a reality we face all too often. Charities constantly struggle to develop new ways to engage the public and boost donations. One teen is changing this.

Stephen Sutton
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Through social media, Stephen Sutton is revolutionising the way charities look at fundraising. Whilst terminally ill, Stephen set up a bucket list that went viral.This digital native has proved that we need to start thinking differently about the way we approach charity fundraising. 

Stephen originally set out to raise £ 10,000 and has become the Teenage Cancer Trust’s highest individual supporter of all time. The statistics are impressive: over 123,000 donations from 94 countries.Having mobilised thousands of people around the world, Sutton has raised over £3 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Thousands, including Coldplay and Simon Cowell, have been touched by Stephen’s positive attitude and inspiring outlook on life.

There is no doubt that Stephen’s success can be attributed to the power of social media but what garnered him the most support was the emotional connection he was able to make. Having a personal story to share is an advantage. People seem to be more willing to help an individual rather than an organisation.Stephen’s story epitomises the power of youth-led action. 

Lucy Hooberman, professor of digital media and innovation at the University of Warick stated:
"The kicker for this [Stephen's] campaign is of course the young man himself, his ideas, his spirit and his strength to transform a horrendous experience into a historically important act of generosity towards the future.
Young people often fight to have their voices heard. Social media has provided a platform for youth to do this. They have protested against austerity measures in Greece and Spain and toppled dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. They are leading change.  

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon explains that:

“the world’s young people are a major human resource for development.” “Young people… bring fresh thinking to longstanding development concerns.”  
Indeed, there are many reasons why youth-led action needs to be taken seriously, here are ten:

1. Young people have nothing to lose
2. Young people are unconstrained by the way things ‘should’ be
3.Young people aren’t desensitised to injustice
4. Young people are fluent in modern technology
5. Young people are accustomed to learning new things
6.Young people are used to asking questions when we don’t know something
7. Young people are optimistic
8. Young people are energetic
9. Young people know what it is to be marginalised
10. Young people love and forgive

Youth-led action has tremendous potential to revolutionise social movements. Campaigns such as Stephen’s prove that donor fatigue can be addressed and young people can help. 

References [Accessed 30 May 2014] [Accessed 30 May 2014] [Accessed 30 May 2014] [Accessed 30 May 2014]

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  1. Wow.
    This teen is certainly impressive and inspirational. His story is very moving. It is interesting looking at this teen and how he completely surpassed all expectations of fundraising that anyone would have had, to raise that much funding for such a personally connected cause showcases the power of the human story. The authentic refreshingly young face of the hear-wrenching issue of youth cancer connects deeply with everyone throughout society.

    I am very much interested in how Sutton's story will progress, and how his narrative and ultimate legacy might change the charity landscape with his resonating voice. It is another great example of the freshness of the youth perspective.

  2. Thanks for the comment Victoria. Sadly, Stephen has now passed away, but it is interesting how the fundraising landscape has changed in the days since his death. The popularity of the ALS ice bucket challenge is another striking example of how the web can power social movements.