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Strategizing on New Media for Nonprofits

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 08:57 AM EDT

New Media NPO presentationcover
On Thursday, July 16th, I had the pleasure of presenting a two-hour seminar on “new media for nonprofit organizations”. In the audience were 55 or so representatives of organizations in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Brought together by the Winnipeg Foundation, the seminar was designed to introduce new media tools and providing guidelines about how an organization develops a communications strategy given all of the social networking and online content tools available.

In the audience were good folks passionate about their mission. It can be hard to get excited or worked up about technology but yet there is plenty pressure today to get “networked”. As a trainer, planner and consultant focusing on the nonprofit sector I try to remind audiences that social networking for non profits is really about familiar things; building relationships, telling stories and connecting with those you serve. The widgets, gadgets, platforms and applications are nothing more than tools with potential. It’s only when you apply them purposefully to achieve your mission, that they become meaningful in your work. My job is to help match the right technology powered tools to meet the specific and unique goals of each organization.

I really believe in the effectiveness of new media tools to make organizations stronger and more effective, but only if applied strategically.

In this overview presentation we covered four general areas:
1. Elements of the 2.0 website: Effective organizational websites are those that are not only attractive and functional, but also dynamic (updated content, interconnected with others, and well connected with the visitor’s needs) and interactive (engaging, participatory and interactive). Key takeaways included concepts and useful strategies about how to effectively solicit content from constituents: Think collage…not masterpiece. By creating a small, specific, and simple to use frameworks, visitors will be more likely to contribute content to your site. The Capital Area Foodbank of Texas created a great photo collaboration on Flickr using the theme “Hunger is Unacceptable”. A great example of this concept.

2. The Socially networked NPO: From Blogs to Facebook to Twitter, we explored many organizational use of social networking tools. One portion of this was to explain the difference between Facebook personal pages, fan pages, groups and causes. Twitter, a rapidly increasing tools for nonprofit communications is apparently not as prevalent in Canada due to the higher cost of mobile connectivity. But the time will come and we talked about the different, effective uses of Twitter for the connected NPO. We also looked and various methods for using video as a communication tool; different platforms and ways to create connections (links, channels, and embedding).

3. Strategic Communications Planning: Now that attendees had a better sense of the tools available, we discussed approaches to “getting started”. The “rule of thirds” is a good reminder that a strong strategy pays equal attention to 1) website presence, 2) providing information/content, and 3) being social/joining the conversation. I also stress the importance of utilizing tools and frameworks that will work with your current organization priorities and structures. We also talked about why “letting go” of message control in necessary to effectiveness. This means empowering multiple voices in your organization and encouraging authentic conversation.

4. Finally, we took a glimpse into the future, discussing trends with mobile access. Many organizations with great websites don’t realize that increasing numbers of clients and friends are accessing content on their iPhone or other mobile device. Testing your current website to see if it functions as a mobile app can be quite eye-opening. Lastly, we looked at 2-D barcoding (aka QR code) and the implications for non profits. More on that in another post.

It was a great session. Now that the stage is set, I look forward to seeing how these innovative Winnipegers expand their communications strategies on the web!