Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Web 2.0: Ten Ways Non-Profits Can Start Leveraging Social Media

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Unless non-profits start using Web 2.0 tools from the bottom-up, and by first exposing themselves to what it takes to work with social media, their attempts to upgrade and optimize their communication efforts will only appear a utopian dream that finds little match within their organizational culture.

Photo credit: Pnrphoto

by Marnie Webb

Here's the thing: when non-profit staff start thinking about using web-based tools, they often think about doing it themselves. About starting a blog. About making a section of their site dedicated to photos. About creating something where there was nothing.

That's not really necessary.

Sure, you can start a blog or put up a wiki and invite your volunteers to start editing your outreach materials.

But there are a lot of things that you can do to tweak what you are already doing and use social tools to push you further along the road to achieving your mission.

Photo credit: Konstantinos Kokkinis

This is presented in order. I think of it as a progression. By the time you get to the end, the items will make more sense.

  1. Find people

    Photo credit: Tomasz Trojanowski

    There are people out there who are interested in what you are doing. Find them. Technorati has a blog finder. Don't worry too much about how it works (dig into that on Technorati's site if you're interested). Plug in keywords associated with the work you do and see if you can find people who have identified their blog as being about a topic that is near to your organizational heart. For me, this has turned into an effective recruiting tool.

    When I'm looking to fill new positions, I use Technorati to find people who already working on and thinking about the things I need to get done. And then I try and hire them. In two cases, it's resulted in really amazing people who were already doing things they loved and I got a chance to offer to pay them for it.

  2. Find out opinions

    Photo credit: Konstantinos Kokkinis

    People are sharing what they think. Tap into those opinions. Same tool: Technorati. This time, just use the main search interface and find out what people are writing about on issues near to your organizational heart. This isn't the same thing as finding people. Sometimes, something will move a blogger to share something that is relelvant to you but not something they normally write about. Something that's off topic for them but on topic for you. Find these things.

    This can inform the way that you are already doing marketing and outreach. An example? You are probably spending organizational resources writing outreach letters to your donor pool. Read what people are writing about in your topic area and use that information to inform your outreach effort. You aren't doing something different - same staff, same tasks - but you are doing it a bit differently. Adding a new data point to it.

  3. Scatter a breadcrumb trail of comments on the internet

    Photo credit: Rui Vale de Sousa

    You don't have to blog to use them. When you find the people and you find the issues, participate. Leave a comment on a post. Let those writers know that they've found a reader in you. Be thoughtful and be real here. If all you want to say is "Good job" drop a private email so that your comment doesn't get confused with spam.

  4. Make sure the API is open

    Photo credit: Michael Osterrieder

    Don't even worry about what it is yet. But if you are purchasing a database or Content Management System, find out if the API is open. It shouldn't be the most important consideration but, if you have the option, it should be a deciding factor. Looking at using some of the free tools on the internet? Check to make sure they have an open API.

  5. Share the face of your organization

    Photo credit: Darkwing

    It's okay to take pictures. It's even good to take pictures. Share them on your site or, ideally, in a place where you can connect to others. Use Flickr. Yes there are others way to do this. But Flickr lets you tap into a stream of people who are caring and committed. An example? Go through this series of photos and tell me you don't want to connect to the mission of March of Dimes.

  6. Make yourself link friendly

    Photo credit: Alex Bramwell

    You know those situation where you want to share some information with someone and you have to describe where to look for it? Try not to be that website. Make anchor links. If you don't know what they are, find someone to help you.

  7. Use RSS

    Photo credit:

    You can't keep up with these by trolling the web and using your favorites or bookmarks as the jumping off point. There are a lot of good resources (Alexandra Samuel, TechSoup, Fagan Finder) about RSS find them and use them.

  8. Check out the third-party tools

    Photo credit: Ryan Pike

    There are a lot of things that are built on top of other tools. They don't stand alone but work specifically with other software services. If you start really using a particular service, find out what others have built to make it even more useful. This is where the open APIs come in. If you've been following this as a progression, you know which you are most interested in, which is most useful to you and your organization.

    You made sure it had an open API (right? you did that, right?). So now, go to Google, plug the name of the tool in and the words third party. One of the top three results is going to point you to some enthusiast who is maintaining a list of useful add-ons. Go through them and see if they work for you.

  9. Share your path

    Photo credit: Pnrphoto

    Now, your moving around the web in meaningful, deliberate way. Your are responding to people, leaving comments, sharing the face of your organization. You are using RSS to track it all. You are a web 2.0 god-in-training. Share your path. When you find something interesting enough for you to click take the two extra steps necessary to share it with your friends and supports.

    Do this with, okay? Yes, there are other ways but once you get past the minimalist design I don't think there's anything that works better to save URLs in a social environment. There are some good tutorials (Beth, BeelerSpace, Ben Bishop) out there to help get you started.

  10. Engage the developers community

    Photo credit: Daniel Vineyard

    By now, you should have some idea of what you want that (you think) doesn't exist. Tap into the network of people who are really interested in building things and ask them to help you out.


Originally published on July 11, 2006 by Marnie Webb as "10 ways to use Web 2.0 to change the world" on

About the author

Photo credit: ICTlogy

Marnie Webb is the Vice President of Knowledge Services for CompuMentor, the home of TechSoup and is a part of TechSoup's NetSquared project team. She works at the intersection of serendipity and social change as evidenced by the NetSquared project, TechSoup and her own blog, She can be reached at marniewebb (at)

Marnie Webb -
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posted by on Thursday, October 12 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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