With social media, nonprofits have a slew of new opportunities to do everything from spread awareness, rally volunteers, find those in need and raise money – not only does it make it possible to reach millions of potential individuals with a few keystrokes, but in many cases those who are the target of the message can take all the action they need without leaving their chair.
The days of the average donor mailing a check or the typical volunteer researching opportunities at a state agency are, largely, coming to an end. The Internet, in particular social media, offers more direct and powerful ways to achieve all of the same goals.
However, it is also a new era for corporate/non-profit partnerships. It is a time seeing more and more companies, who are often developing products and services for individuals or other corporations, retooling their efforts to enable non-profits to achieve their goals faster and easier than ever.
This has given birth to a wide array of tools unlike anything nonprofits have had before. Itâ€™s given smaller organizations the chance to reach audiences larger than even the biggest groups could have before and itâ€™s created fundraising and volunteer opportunities, without cost, that would not have been possible just a few years before.
Though the Internet is moving fast in this area and new opportunities are being created every day, here are six of the more revolutionary and important tools out there today. While not every tool may be right for your organization, these are some of the tools all nonprofits need to be aware.
Within hours of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Red Cross set up a donate via text system that let users donate $10 simply by sending a text message. The tool raised over $5 million in the first week alone.Â Unfortunately, most nonprofits donâ€™t have the the resources to set up a campaign like that so quickly to respond to their emergencies and immediate needs.
However, RT2Give, the non-profit arm of TwitPay, offers a very simple way to organize a similar campaign using Twitter.
The way it works is that your organization puts out a call to action via Twitter, asking users to retweet (RT) the tweet to donate a certain amount of money. Those who do are then asked to confirm their donation and then, when they do, the money is transferred.Â Since the retweets are shown in the userâ€™s Twitter streams, this gives the chance for the action to go truly viral and spread from person to person as they each give the desired amount.
The only caveat is that it requires donors to be a member of RT2Give, which only has a few hundred members are at this time. However, as the service grows, it may become a much more powerful way to solicit donations quickly using the power of Twitter.
Connect to Charity
Connect to Charity attempts to solve several of the most difficult problems for someone eager to donate or volunteer for a charity.
First, the site makes it easy to search for relevant charities, letting users locate nonprofits by location, cause and other information. Second, through a partnership with Guidestar, Connect to Charity makes it simple to research a charity and make sure they are legitimate. Finally, it lets users make donations or share links to the Charityâ€™s information, all without leaving the site.
Users can also rate charities, write reviews and link causes to various charities. Connect to Charity also offers a customized Facebook app that lets users promote their favorite charities direct to their friends and promote their personal causes.
Nonprofits can use Connect to Charityâ€™s tools to promote their causes and help spread information about what they are doing via Facebook. Itâ€™s also a great place to encourage others to review your organizationâ€™s efforts to entice future donations.Â It is also a powerful tool to research and connect with other, related charities, including those that might be in other areas or in similar fields.
Though Jumo may not be the first tool for nonprofits to use Facebook as its center, Jumo doesnâ€™t merely aim to help spread information or encourage donations over the social network. Instead, it aims to create a social network within Facebook targeted at nonprofits, those who work for them and those who wish to support them.
By creating a profile using their Facbeook account, users can seek out relevant organizations to follow, other users who share common interests and get updates on news that might interest them. In short, it is a way for users to connect with charities the way they already connect with their friends.
Any and all non-profits are eligible to set up an account with Jumo, thus creating a new way to both connect with those who support your organizationâ€™s goal and attract new individuals to their cause who might not otherwise find out about them.
One of the more powerful tools that businesses have used social media to exploit has been game theory. Sites such as Foursquare and Waze have gotten others to do everything from visit bustling stores to drive down lonely roads all to earn points and prizes.
Non-profits can register as charities with Crowdrise and then create â€œprojectsâ€ for specific needs or events. They are then encouraged to use other social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to get the word out.
Crowdrise lets charities take advantage of the game theory trend by trying to make donating fun. Donors earn points for their generosity, are entered into contests and are encouraged to spread the word to receive more points.Â Users earn points every time they give, prompt others to donate, or get votes, encouraging greater community interaction.
Best of all, projects on Crowdrise donâ€™t have to be solely about receiving donations, but can also be aimed at getting volunteers, making it a good fit for almost any nonprofit.
The â€œbig ideaâ€ behind Causes is that anyone should be able to create a change for the better and Causes does this by allowing users to create â€œCausesâ€ and attempt to rally support via Facebook. According to the site, all Causes have the same playing field, whether a multinational non-profit launching a major campaign or an individual wanting to renovate a small park, and they live or die based on their leadership and support, not their financing.
As a Facebook app, it has a great deal of viral potential and it allows nonprofits to connect with other organizations, known as affiliates, and then send messages to their members as well.Â As Causes, no matter who they are created by, gain momentum, its users can solicit donations, pass around petitions or organize users via bulletins and memos sent both via Facebook and email.
Members within a Cause can take initiative and post bulletins and attract new support for it, enabling anyone to become a critical member of a Cause, though only those approved by the Cause creators are able to become administrators and send out bulletins or take official action.
Turning the social Web into a promotion tool is still something thatâ€™s being explored and driven by businesses. But as they develop techniques and methods that work well, nonprofits have been quick to line up and apply the same techniques.
The social Web provides opportunities never seen before in the field of marketing and promotion and that goes for all organizations that need public attention, not just charities. However, given the way charities build upon communities and grassroots efforts, it is a much more natural fit for nonprofits than most businesses.
So even though businesses may be pioneering promotion on the social Web, itâ€™s charities that may reap the greatest rewards, in terms of dollars collected, awareness grown and change affected.
Guest author Lior is a marketing consultant for iAdvize, a live chat support software company.Â