Social media may dominate the conversation when it comes to Web 2.0, but there is untapped potential seen by corporations and organizations, who are left asking: how can I use this to raise funds? There are several websites now aiming to combine the powerful networking capability of social media and the fundraising capabilities of independent web sites. These sites enable individuals and organizations to reach their donors directly at little or no cost, giving them an alternative to mailed-in donations of years past. Through online fundraising sites, individuals have the power to not only support their favorite causes, but to spread the word about them virally.

One of the first major players in online fundraising, has led the charge in online giving since 2004, gathering “$18 million in funding to more than 1,000 grassroots projects in over 90 countries”. Organizations can post projects to the site such as “Nurture 15 at-risk children for a year” or “Make college an option for 70 Congolese students”. Globalgiving, founded by former World Bank executives, takes a 15% share of every donation to cover the costs of finding projects and credit card processing. They also provide a giving channel for large corporations such as Nike, Ford and HP.

Offering a more personal version of giving online, and with a similarly long track record in online fundraising sector is With a simple premise, “What do you care about?”, the site is a platform for groups and individuals to create events and campaigns, manage donor relationships, raise funds, create publicity through social media and track fundraising results. Founded in 2006, was one of the first personal online fundraising options and had 20,000 members by 2009.

One of the newest online fundraising options is Crowdrise, led and supported by celebrities such as Edward Norton and Will Ferrell, oddly enough. It works like this: you sign up on the site, and start a project. It could be anything, from a personal cause fundraiser, to an event, or a volunteer opportunity. You then use other social media sites like facebook or twitter to gather donations or volunteers, and then spread your cause through your page on Crowdrise to gather supporters that can either donate to your cause or use their own networks to spread the word The site is focused around making philanthropy cool, with the tagline: “If you don’t give back, no one will like you” and a points system that rewards project leaders with gifts like Northface Jackets and Apple laptops.

Sites such as these are only one way the Internet is fundamentally changing personal giving. Stay updated on how other forms of social media are shifing the definition of philanthropy and the nature of fundraising with the Bivings Report’s “Fundraising 2.0” series.