8 Reasons Why Social Media is Crucial for Nonprofit Organizations to Engage Their Supporters, Donors and the World at Large – Part 2 of 3

We all use it. Why shouldn't your nonprofit?

Written by Tim Takechi

Last time we looked at four reasons why nonprofit organizations need to take advantage of social media.

With millions of people worldwide using social media to network with friends, colleagues and allies, we cannot ignore its potential. If you are still a skeptic, I encourage you to read on.

To recap what we discussed last time, here’s a summary:

1. Everyone uses social media

2. Social media is free

3. People do their research on social media

4. Social media shows up on Google and other search engines

So without further ado, here are reasons 5-7. Reason #8 is more Global Visionaries-centric and will be addressed in Part Three of this series.

5. Print communication is starting to become outdated

Folks in the publication business cringe whenever this subject comes up. But sadly, there is no ignoring that print media is becoming a thing of the past.

Newspapers around the country are shutting down, downsizing or converting to online content only. More people are getting their news online than ever before.

Unfortunately, this means the old methods of publicity are no longer our most effective options. Printing and distributing hundreds of posters cost money, manpower and time. Submitting a letter to the editor is a gamble. See the limitations?

Additionally, begging for media coverage isn’t as effective as it used to be.

Once upon a time ago, you had to spend thousands of dollars in newspaper, magazine, television and radio ads to get your name out. Today, social media offers a cheaper (remember, it’s free) and more efficient mode of communication. Setting up a Facebook page takes a few hours and costs nothing. Reserving a 30-second spot on the radio is time-consuming, expensive and may not reap any rewards.

Social media is great because you control the message. You can’t control what a journalist says about you. But on a blog, you have exclusive and final editorial say on all content. How cool is that?

6. Social media allows you to build a relationship with your audience

Social media is exactly that: Social. If you allow comments on your Facebook page or blog, readers feel like they have a voice within your organization. They become part of a larger community.

You may have heard the analogy that the online world is like the real world. Similar to the real world, the online world has cultures, subcultures, communities, public forums and all sorts of points-of-views.

Too often organizations feel distant. You give your money and your time to a nonprofit, but do they give anything back? Sure, you might get a thank-you phone call or a Christmas card, but does any genuine communication happen?

Social media allows for this communication. Communication is a two-way road with plenty of give and take from both sides.

Posting a message on Facebook is more fun than sending an e-mail to a faceless individual. Comments made on social media sites can be publicly viewed. By sharing your insights on a public forum, you develop a larger conversation. This in turns creates a sense of togetherness.

And “togetherness” is what fosters community. An online community is very different from a physical community. People from all across the globe can participate in a discussion thread borne out of a thought-provoking blog post. You can’t see that in the physical world unless you have a large group of diverse people together in one room.

Once you’ve developed an online relationship with your constituents, this can lead to reason #7:

7. You can fundraise through social media

Believe it or not, but many nonprofits have raised money through social media. Really? Here’s an example:

The Case Foundation, a philanthropic and civic engagement organization in Washington D.C., used social media to their advantage for their 2009 America’s Giving Challenge. They raised more than $2.1 million from 105,000 donors using social media tools like Facebook and YouTube.

To top it all off, The Case Foundation raised all this money in only 30 days!

On a smaller scale, if you’ve built a significant following on social media, you now have a direct avenue to ask for money. If you need to raise $2,000 quickly, you have two options: Call up 100 people and ask them to donate $20 over the phone, or advertise this fundraising appeal over social media and give them a link to your PayPal account.

Of course, traditional phone appeals might work best, but using social media is easy. Phone calls take time. Posting a tweet asking for $20 takes no time at all. You might not get as much money through Twitter, but every bit helps. Fundraising over social media is a low risk/high reward project.

For tips on how to raise money over social media, look into Facebook Causes or consult the Goddess that is Beth Kanter.

Blogging platforms like WordPress makes you your own publisher.

Reason #8 is more GV-specific. As a youth leadership organization, Global Visionaries cannot ignore a major medium today’s youth uses to communicate.

Check back next week to learn why we should use social media in empowering youth to fight for social and environmental justice.

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