One part of the Ferguson story that hasn't received much attention is how this unhappy episode has engendered not only outrage and compassion, but the desire to do something—both to ease the pain of a reeling community, and to prevent these sorts of tragedies from happening again, even if people aren't sure how to help.
And we have a great example of how social media can channel that desire, especially when the right person gets ahold of the right story.
It all started when the Ferguson library let the community know it would stay open as long as it was safe to do so, and would host activities for the kids who couldn’t go to school. The library’s posts on Twitter and Facebook quickly spread beyond the community, inspiring people to share the story, and to donate.
Before long, the story found its way to a few people who made it go viral; Newsweek and other outlets picked up the story, and Netscape cofounder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen asked his Twitter followers to join him in donating. In less than 24 hours, more than 7,000 donations poured in.
In another interesting twist, one Twitter user posted that he wished the library accepted bitcoin, a virtual currency, so the library could receive one hundred percent of his donation without Mastercard taking a transaction fee. Within a few hours, the library was accepting bitcoin.
While it’s nearly impossible to replicate this sort of outpouring of generosity on demand, we can learn a lot from how the story unfolded, and particularly from the responsiveness of the organization on the receiving end.