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4 Ways Social Media is Changing the Non-Profit World

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Exceprt from Beth Kanter’s column

Beth Kanter, author of Beth’s Blog, is the 2009 Scholar in Residence at the Packard Foundation and was named one of Business Week’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media.”

When I started my blog in 2003, only a handful of nonprofit techies were experimenting with the social media. As Marnie Webb from TechSoup Global recalls, “The throw away line was social media wasn’t for organizations but people who wanted to share what their cats ate for breakfast.”

Six years later, the landscape has changed. Organizations are flocking to the social web, although most in the last two years. Non-profit organizations that have embraced social media with a “listen, fail informatively, and evolve approach” are seeing results.

Social media is beginning to transform non-profits both in the way they work as well as their relationships with constituents.

1. Deepening relationships and Engagement

Over the past five years, The March of Dimes has used social media to nurture its online community, Share Your Story. It is one of the better examples of how non-profits can use social media to empower supporters without having to control it.

A few weeks ago, the March of Dimes supporters came out in droves for a networked memorial service for a toddler named Maddie. The community raised tens of thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes in Maddie’s memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family. The organization did little to stage this event. The March of Dimes has embraced openness and inspired their stakeholders to feel empowered enough to take action on their own.

2. Individuals & small groups are self-organizing around non-profit causes

Social media is enabling individuals to create, join, and grow groups around issues they care about outside of the direct control of a non-profit. Whether flash activists or fundraising events like Twestival, activities like these are on the rise. Social software design is also helping accelerate this trend. Look no further than the Facebook Causes Birthday application that encourages an individual who is a member of a Cause to use their birthday as an excuse to raise money for a non-profit organization. DonorsChoose recently launched a similar feature called “Birthday Give Back,” with Stephen Colbert leading the charge. And keep an eye out for more social apps with a conscience that will offer even more creative ways for supporters to self-organize and take action around causes.

As non-profits begin to engage their own communities in these online conversations, they are able to reach more people than ever before, and using less effort doing so. As Maddie Grant, a partner at SocialFish, observes, “We can all be change agents and that has to be good for the entire non-profit industry, as long as organizations adapt to this new way of being part of a two-way conversation and groundswell of social responsibility.”

To read the rest visit http://mashable.com/2009/05/22/non-profit-social-media/

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