Last spring I attended the NetSquared conference, a competition for nonprofits using the net. The projects were fabulous, with MapLight winning first prize. As part of each project’s pitch, we heard what these organizations, some fledgling, some established, needed.
One item that came up again and again among the projects was “we need a website.”
That meant many things, of course. Freecycle had outgrown Yahoo Groups, and was looking for a way to help their re-users offer items online. Younger organizations were looking for a way to get the word out to their constituents, or to track issues moving through congress.
For many of these organizations, though, an online presence meant some way of bringing folks together to swap stories, to trade tips. A place online to engage a community.
What many of these organizations did not realize is that there are lots of options for building — or leveraging existing — online communities. And that today the challenges of engaging supporters online tend to be social rather than technical.
And there’s lots of good advice out there.
- For small, 1 or 2-person nonprofits, Allan Benamer’s 3-steps for getting your nonprofit on the web is a great place to start. It cuts to the heart of getting an organization online — at a cost of $10 a year.
- For larger organizations, Beth Kanter’s tips for evaluating social networks for nonprofitsis a great introduction to the pros and cons of using social networks from an institutional perspective.
- Dedicated networks like change.org have sprung up to cater to nonprofits and their supporters. Change.org even makes it easy for 501(c)(3) organizations to raise funds online.
- Or with services like Ning, you can start your own social network. Ning’s Gina Bianchini says starting a social network is a lot like throwing a party.