"Many of you spend your days making this world a better place, and we want to do our part to help. Today, we're excited to launch Google For Non-Profits, a one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization's mission in a smart, cost-efficient way... This site features ideas and tutorials for how you can use Google tools to promote your work, raise money and operate more efficiently. And to get inspired, you'll also find examples of innovative ways other non-profits are using our products to further their causes."
I applaud the effort.
As someone who spends a lot of time in front of people who are either directly connected to a Non-Profit as a Professional, or those who give their own valuable time in a volunteer capacity, I'm constantly flabbergasted by Non-Profits lack of embracing Social Media and Web 2.0 tools to further their goals.
The general feedback I get is, "we don't have the time because of our limited staff," or "we don't have the funds to really make it work." Neither statements really hold any water if you know anything about these tools.
1. If Non-Profits did embrace Social Media Marketing tools, my guess is they would save tons of time, and as they started getting their message out there, their communities would help and, in effect, do a lot of the work for them.
2. Most Social Media and Web 2.0 tools are cheap (if not free). So, that statement alone usually signals to me that they don't even know what's available to them.
I understand the time commitment when it comes to creating and posting regularly to a Blog, but here are ten simple ways any Non-Profit can create awareness, encourage mass collaboration and get the word out there using Social Media:
1. del.icio.us - create a centralized location for every piece of content related to your cause that may interest the group. Make sure to encourage people to add their own links, tags and resources there as well.
2. flickr - post photos from your events, and encourage attendees to do the same. Everyone likes seeing those pictures in the society pages of a newspaper, leverage that vibe in the online space.
3. twitter - let people know (short and quickly) where you're at, what's happening or what you need. No time to Blog? How about micro-blogging?
4. Google Reader - centralize all of your feeds in one place - save yourself time - every day - by creating watchlists and Google News Alerts. You can even export the OPML file and give it to those who want to follow whatever it is you're looking at.
5. BarCamp - PodCamp - check out some free unconferences in your area, and copy the model for your own needs. Free events that are self-organizing might well be the best way for you to learn, and a great new event for you to introduce to your organization. Imagine the learnings you could cull from your own unconference?
6. YouTube - corporate videos, grab some cool clips at an event, video testimonials? create a channel on YouTube (or any other online video sharing site). It's free, and it could well help with getting your message out there and, if tagged correctly, there might even be some Search Engine Optimization benefits.
7. Google Grants - a small, simple process could get you some free online advertising.
8. Widgets - get your organization on the desktop of the people who matter most to you. There are tons of free tools that let you create desktop widgets for free.
9. Wikis - if anything screams "community," it's a wiki. Leverage this mass collaboration tool to work on documents, proposals or propose new concepts and future trends by working together as a team.
10. Online Social Networks - groups, fan pages, individual profiles, applications - there are many ways to get involved in spaces like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to engage your community. If you think it's possible, you can even start your own online social network using Ning.
None of these require much in terms of money. Yes, they will all take time (I know, "time is money"), but once you get rolling, the cost-benefits of engaging in these environments will not only wind up saving you time in the long-term, but will introduce more and more people to your organization and raise awareness. This, in turn (and if done properly) will raise more money and help take your Non-Profit to the next level.
The big challenge to date has been doing it properly. This is not a "build it and they will come" world. To create community you have to give way more than take. You have to provide value and information so others connect and become loyal. That being said, based on the many great Non-Profits I have seen, this should not be a challenge. It's more a question of creating the right strategy to build online community up-front, instead of trying everything and claiming none of it worked. I've been watching this space. Just because you created a Facebook Group does not mean you are using Social Media and Web 2.0 environments. You have to figure out what makes your area unique, who you are trying to reach, and what might they be receptive to and willing to take part in that will add value to their lives as well?
Social Media Marketing is a tool that is already working for big brands. Imagine what it can do for those who are doing everything they can to make the world a better place?