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

An individual can only do so much. But as a group, you have unlimited potential.

Written by Tim Takechi

Thank you for keeping up with our blog series explaining why nonprofits cannot ignore the power of social media.

Understandably, most NGOs operate with limited manpower and finances. Communication budgets are mostly nonexistent. This is why reasons #1-7 should persuade anyone to hop aboard.

Here is a summary of what we’ve explored so far:

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

5. Print communication is starting to become outdated

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

7. You can fundraise through social media

As mentioned earlier, reason #8 is more specific to Global Visionaries, as we are a student leadership organization who believes youth can be genuine changemakers. The numbers tell the story: 78 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 and 77 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 use social media. How can anyone ignore this?

If we honestly believe the youth of today can be the leaders of today (and tomorrow), then we should also believe this:

8. Young leaders determined to change the world can use social media to make a positive social impact

We already discussed the Egyptian youth protests and how they used Facebook and Twitter to spark this movement. Nothing more needs to be said about that. In a society where genuine free speech is repressed, social media is the only alternative.

But what about here in the United States of America, where free speech rights are more protected? Social media can serve another purpose.

We use social media for social networking. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. In short, here is the difference between the two:

Social media is a set of online tools used to communicate information back and forth to a broad audience.

Social networking is the act of using social media to build relationships, establish two-way communication and form communities.

It is the networking aspect to all this that is most intriguing.

People learn from who they network with. Take another look at reason #3: People do their research on social media. When folks research and decide to network with your organization, they can learn things they did not know before.

A quote by Bill Drayton, the CEO and founder of Ashoka, summarizes this best:

The most important contribution any of us can make now is not to solve any particular problem, no matter how urgent energy or environment or financial regulation is. What we must do now is increase the proportion of humans who know that they can cause change.”

Ashoka, a youth social entrepreneurship organization, believes spreading the knowledge of how to change the world is a critical component to actually changing the world. Problems cannot be solved by one individual alone, regardless of social or political power. Even the President of the United States or the richest CEO in the world are limited in what they can do.

Real change comes from the masses.

Drayton is absolutely right that when people know they have the power to make change, they are more likely to take the initiative. People who perceive they are powerless will end up being powerless (we call that a “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”).

But those feeling empowered to take charge can exceed all expectations.

Social media is a grand tool for empowering the next generation. Egyptian youth did not need bombs or AK-47s to stand up to the government. They used their collective will to persuade Hosni Mubarak to resign. Social media probably helped Barack Obama get elected president, as social media helped spread his message to a vast audience.

In the spirit of making believers out of doubters, social media can do just that. The trendy thing today is to be on Facebook, follow famous people on Twitter, post and share videos on YouTube and express yourself on a personal blog. If this is how young people are networking together, this is how you can get them fired up.

Social justice, environmentalism and equality are all noble causes. But there is definitely the perception that youth are indifferent to issues outside their own world. Consider the following stereotypes:

Young people care more about the judges on American Idol than the judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. They probably couldn’t locate Iraq on a map. Are they aware of China’s global power, or do they still live in the fantasy that American dominance will last forever?

This stigma causes doubt. So how can social media convert haters into cheerleaders?

Today’s generation of leaders need to embrace social networking as a means to call their communities to action. If you want your neighbors to shop for organic vegetables instead of mass produced vegetables, spread the message on Twitter. If you want a group of folks to write letters to their legislatures supporting a certain bill, create a Facebook invitation.

Who needs expensive film equipment when we have camera phones?

Duplicating a mass movement like what happened in Egypt is a great first step. I’m sure many doubters witnessed what happened over there as at least marginal proof that Facebook has other value besides wasting time.

But only if that spirit can be replicated here in the United States will doubters convert into believers. The beauty of social media is that messages can spread like wildfire. If you ask your friends to boycott a certain unethical corporation, they will tell their friends, those friends will tell their friends, and before you know it, folks across the country will heed your advice. How sweet that would be?

However, like every good-hearted effort, there will be challenges (and inevitable failure). But that should not stop you from trying. Remember what Bill Drayton says: If people know they can create change, they will. In other words, if you build it, [they] will come.

If you are a young person (or older person) dedicated to a particular cause, what are you waiting for? Don’t sit around and mope about how nobody cares. MAKE PEOPLE CARE!

Whatever you are passionate about; make people aware so that they can care. If you want your community to stop wasting water; blog about it, start a Facebook Cause, Tweet incessantly, share inspirational YouTube videos, or post important articles on Digg.

If you communicate a message often enough, eventually people will listen. And the dominoes will fall from there.

So what if you fail? At least you tried. Persistence can be a virtue.

Whew. That sure is a lot to take in. But I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. If you are a social entrepreneur determined to change the world, you have the unprecedented ability to communicate on a global scale. Don’t wait for others to take charge. Do it yourself!

Did you hear me? Do it yourself! Don’t wait for me to begin. Do it. Now!

Tweet. Blog. Film a video on your cell phone. Facebook all your friends. Do something.

What’s the worst that can happen?

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