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Aug
05

How Can Non-Profit Organizations Use Social Networking

How Can Non-Profit Organizations Use Social Networking

The use of social networking by non-profits is not particularly new. For as long as social networking sites, like Facebook, have been popular, non-profits have been utilizing these models to disseminate message. The typical model involves non-profit organizations teaming with a social networking site in order to share the message of need and to convince their audience to lend support. Social networks give non-profits a number of tools including blogs, messaging, and petitions that allow information to be shared more easily and efficiently. Essentially, social networking sites can help non-profit organizations to create a forum to discuss various issues, to gain support from a wider audience, and to conduct more effective internet-based outreach.

Social Networking and Non-Profit Organizations

Let’s first discuss a brief definition of social networking. In the simplest possible terms, social networks provide an environment where people can connect and share information. The most popular social networks are open to a vast audience because they offer features that anybody can enjoy: you can share pictures, videos, or messages; reconnect with old friends; and even meet new friends. However, as social networks have become more popular the model has changed to a certain degree.  Initially, Facebook was designed as a site where college students could meet and interact but it has developed into a major world player in the business of social networking. Nevertheless, there seems to be a return to simpler social networking models that provided a focused service to the users. As such, non-profit societies can benefit from these networks because they provide a means through which like-minded individuals with similar goals or aspirations can connect. The bottom line is that social networking is a platform for non-profits to reach their target audience. They can replace traditional mail or advertising campaigns as inherent in social networks is not only a meeting place but a message delivery system and a system for reaching a larger audience as well. Members of your social network share information with each other, disseminate important messages, and invite new members into the fold. Therefore, social networking is a powerful tool for expressing your core values and for attracting greater support.

Current Examples

While many of the benefits of social networking for non-profit organizations have yet to be seen, there are a number of current examples where non-profit organizations are putting social networking to work. Leveraging social network to accomplish real goals is something of a departure from the typical model which limits social networking as an entertainment tool.  Nevertheless, social networks can be used by non-profits to increase their visibility, accomplish their core goals (like helping individuals find jobs or raising money for animal shelters), and also to increase awareness about major issues.

Social networks can be used in one of two ways by non-profit organizations. First, you can rely on already existing networks, like Facebook or Myspace, where you can start a group or petition and encourage new members to join. A non-profit organization that attempts to find good homes for animals might, for example, post pictures of these animals on Flickr in an attempt to gain the support of Flickr users. Likewise, a non-profit organization looking to stimulate support for their goals might use Facebook to organize an open event that invites individuals to come and learn about said goals. As you can see, online communities provide a powerful method for networking so it is easier than ever to find people who share similar values and want to achieve the same goals.

On the other hand, non-profit organizations can also invest in the development of their own social networking site. At the moment, there are already a few of these sites that attempt to connect people in a more focused environment. Instead of relying on an already existing social networking platform, creating your own gives you the opportunity to shape all the information that is shared between users. In addition, users of a focused social networking site are already motivated to give support and to attract new members who are likewise motivated.  In the case of social networking site developed specifically for the needs of the non-profit organization, the site can be designed to share very specific information about events, donations, or services that are directly related to your organization.

The Challenges of Social Networks

Despite their benefits, there are still a number of challenges to social networking. While you can organize individuals and information with social networks, many non-profit organizations do not have the resources to develop focused sites. Similarly, these organizations may not have the resources to even learn the ins-and-outs of existing options. Moreover, social networking sites do not guarantee that your message will be received or that your audience will grow. Some work needs to go into building a representative client base that can achieve the kind of self-growth of which social networks are famous.

Still, dedicated or focused social networks will have a unique user base that can easily include all potential volunteers, donors, and supporters. The first step is building a small, dedicated audience that will be likely to want to share their message.  Whatever tools or benefits come from social networks, it is clear that they will play a major role not only for non-profit organizations but other business and social communities as well.

Moonrise Productions is a custom web design company specializing in custom web development and design. Whether you’re in San Francisco, New York or you need social network web design – we’re here to help and we have the team to do it right.

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