There’s a lot of buzz these days about using social networking on the Internet as a way to increase support and awareness for non-profits and their causes. The area is constantly developing and evolving. It’s incredibly dynamic and full of potential for non-profit organizations.
Mailing campaigns and asks are certainly still valid and vital ways to reach a non-profit’s support base. There are people that want to see and touch something tangible from the non-profit they support. It’s a matter of knowing someone actually licked the envelope and went to the post office to mail you a letter asking for support or to make you aware of the good work that the organization is currently doing in your community.
However, it is also vital to realize that many older adults are using the Internet and social networking sites more and more. I e-mail an 85 year-old man everyday as a way to connect with a person I’d normally not talk to. He shows no sign of falling behind the current technological fads! Also, a friend of mine on Facebook recentlycommented that he was both impressed and a little frightened that his grandfather had found Facebook and opened an account. My nearly sixty year-old cousin has recently established himself on Facebook, too. So, why shouldn’t a non-profit?
Another way to use social networking for non-profits are blogs. Some non-profits write about issues and concerns their organization deals with, work they are doing, and other topics as a way to connect with and educate potential supporters. I recently read that the average blogger is a middle-aged male making about $50,000 per year. If a blogger with a high-ranked and followed blog mentions a specific non-profit or cause, imagine the exposure it could generate!
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, and more are all creative and cost-effective ways to increase awareness and financial support. Some non-profits are even creating full-time positions for individuals to keep up with their social networking needs. There are no stamps to buy, no ink to pay for, and no gas to use to take a mass mailing to the post office to send out to supporters with social networking, but there is a lot of time necessary to invest in keeping up with the various sites, trends, and tools used in social networking. Another problem is finding out how to train and encourage staff to utilize social networking in their everyday contacts with supporters, especially if there is no budget for a person who does it full-time.
Relationships are the key in cultivating and maintaining support for a non-profit. Eating lunch with someone who just wants to know more about the organization and its work, no matter whether that person has a few grand to donate or not, is the best way to establish positive, personal relationships in a non-profit’s community. Social networking establishes other kinds of positive relationships that can be beneficial to an organization in different ways than a personal phone call or handwritten thank you note.