This afternoon at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits Annual Conference, I attended another great session called “Social Media Technology: How to Raise Money, Recruit Volunteers, and Spread Your Message” by Chris Meade, COO of NPower, Charlotte Region.

NPower is a nonprofit consultancy that helps other nonprofits with technology. It has 13 affiliates around the U.S. Chris did an amazing job covering a huge topic in a little over an hour.

He opened the presentation with some general definitions and examples of what social media is and how it differs from traditional, linear communication. After going over some of the implications of using social media, Chris reminded everyone that social media is not a replacement for traditional forms of communication, but an add-on.

He broke down the field into four categories: Communications (podcasting, vlogs, blogs, rss, listservs), Organizing and Networking (event management, mapping, aggregators), Knowledge and Collaboration (wikis, bookmarking, discussion forums), and Hybrids (mashups, social shopping).

He then described the three ways that nonprofit can use social media.

(1) Raising Money: Friends asking friends for donations (sponsors for a 5K run), affinity shopping

(2) Recruiting and Engaging Volunteers: Friends getting others involved, self-service scheduling and participation (invitation management, meeting handouts), where knowledge is the volunteer’s contribution (support groups sharing stories and creating a body of experience and knowledge), training for staff, volunteers.

(3) Spreading the Message: Campaigning and advocacy, marketing and storytelling about mission and programs.

Next he shared some specific examples.

Komen effectively uses the “Friend to Friend” fundraising model for its walks/runs/events. You as a volunteer can use their template to ask friends to support you and you can chart your progress, including an honor roll of givers. You set a limited goal and your personal relationships help you meet it. They also do a ton of affinity shopping (all those pink products, the Garth Brooks Pink CD, etc.)

Kiva, the microlending network, lets donors lend to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world in very small amounts. At end of the loan period, you can get your money back. Default rate is less than 1%. It’s a very good way of taking wealth and helping other people on a one to one basis. The social media technology allows these very personal investments and connections to be made between people who are worlds away from each other. Volunteers have created a whole community around microlending.

wikiCancer — Allows people to create and edit the content of the site with stories and “what to do when diagnosed” tips. Wikis allow you to bring others in and compile resources and the latest thinking on an issue. You don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you the answer, because you are creating the answers yourself as a group.

Volunteermatch — A match-making site for nonprofits and volunteers that has grown into an online community, so you can hook up with other people who are interested in the same things you are.

NPower uses Sharepoint as a portal for its board, so they can share documents, calendars, etc. You don’t have to mail that board packet if everyone can easily access it online. Npower also uses Sharepoint as the CMS for their website.

Greenpeace is doing great work with viral videos on YouTube. (The hotel wireless blocked YouTube, so Chris couldn’t show the videos he wanted in the session, but I found them.) Share your message in 1-2 minutes. Well-linked videos allow you to dig deep and explore.

In closing, Chris offered these questions for nonprofits who are thinking about social media:

Is your audience online? More and more people will be, so it’s good to start now, even if your audience isn’t really there yet.

Are you willing to let others shape and morph your message?

Are you willing to share the “secret sauce?” You have to be willing to share strategy before it’s fully baked.

Do you have the time and interest to seed the process?

Chris suggests experimenting with social media as a new means of communication or volunteer engagement before using it as a fundraising tool. Move in slowly. Explore the various free sites, then procure and explore paid tools and technology that you can manage, once you have a good feeling for how it can work for you.

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