There is a paradigm shift has happened because of social media. Organizations are flocking the social web and more so over the last two years. Non-profit organizations have also embraced social media with a listen, fail informatively and evolve approach and are seeing the results. Social media is transforming non-profits both in the way they work as well as their relationship with constituents.
An example of this is The March of Dimes which has used social media to empower supporters without having to control it. Their supporters came out in droves recently for a networked memorial service for a toddler named Maddie. Tens of thousands of dollars was raised by the community in Maddie’s memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family. Individuals are creating, joining and growing groups around the issues they care about outside of the direct control of a non-profit. Social software design is helping accelerate this trend and an example is the Facebook Causes Birthday application which encourages an individual who is a member of a Cause to use their birthday as an excuse to raise money for a non-profit organization.
As non-profits begin to engage their own communities in these online conversations, they are able to reach more people than ever before and using less effort to do so. The social web allows people who work in non-profit organizations to connect and collaborate informally across institutional boundaries quickly and inexpensively. These non-profits also collaborate with their supporters by sourcing ideas, feedback and content for programs. Lights, Camera, Action Help Film Festival was created to promote the idea of films-for-a-cause and was a collaboration that happened across different non-profits by individuals connecting on the social web.
Another example is WeAreMedia. This is a wiki project where over 100 non-profit technology professionals pooled their knowledge resources and developed training materials to help non-profits learn how to use social media effectively. The initial content was facilitated through discussions on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Presentations are now being remixed and delivered as trainings to non-profits at conferences and workshops across the country.
For many of these non-profit organizations, adopting social media requires a culture shift before it can be successful. A number of them have been effective in introducing social media to help change the culture, flatten hierarchical structures and speed decision making to improve programs and services.
The American Red Cross has been an early adopter of social media, beginning with listening strategies in 2006. The intent was to prevent people saying nasty things about the Red Cross on the Web. There was some vocal critics but most mentions were enthusiastic support of the Red Cross.
This is the beginning of seeing how social media is impacting non-profit organizations and how they engage their supporters to do their work. As more and more non-profits adopt social media and their practice improves we will no doubt see a transformation of the non-profit sector.