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Social Media and Not-for-Profits: The perfect marriage?

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I’ve had several conversations with leaders at local not-for-profits lately and one theme continues to emerge: How can we use social media tools to further our organization’s vision and help us make a difference in the communities we serve?

I currently consult with two not-for-profit organizations and for both social media can and will play a key role in their marketing and communcations mix in 2009.

Why?

The tools are cheap or relatively inexpensive–key for not-for-profits with little to no communications budget. They’re usually easy to set up. Also important for organizations who usually have one do-it-all communicator on staff. And finally–and most importantly–most social media tools can help build stronger communities. Isn’t that what not-for-profit organizations are all about?

Think about the not-for-profit organizations in your town. Maybe you volunteer with a few. Are they taking advantage of these new tools and resources (in addition to their existing PR and marketing tools) to connect with donors, volunteers and community members? If not, maybe it’s time for you to intercede and lend your valuable time and talents to help an organization you believe in further its mission. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

* Communicate more effectively and efficiently with volunteers through a blog. Instead of communicating with your volunteer base through one-off and group emails, communicate one-to-many through a blog. Using this tool, you can also share photos and video with these important stakeholders. And best yet, they can share with and learn from each other by posting comments and information.

* Enable photo sharing (and spread your message) by creating a FlickR account. Most not-for-profit organizations hold events–whether it’s to raise money, engage new audiences or recognize volunteers. Why not give your members and stakeholders the opportunity to share these photos with their friends, families and colleagues through their own social networks like Facebook. After all, who doesn’t like to see themselves in a photo? It will spread your message and mission to audiences you’ve never reached before.

* Build stronger communities and engage your champions through a Facebook “fan” page. Set up a playground where your members and stakeholders can interact, share and connect. Give them the resources they need to tell your story (photos, PDFs of donation forms, brochures, etc.). Provide video testimonials from people your NFP has helped. Find new ways to engage this “fan base.”

That’s the short list of my ideas. I know there are many others out there. What’s worked for you? How are NFPs using these tools to build stronger communities?

Photos courtesy of American Red Cross and kmxphoto.

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Social Media and Not-for-Profits: The perfect marriage?

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