By Dorothy Engelman
Senior Partner, Q Media Solutions
Social media is transforming social causes and social action. It's changing how non-profits use technology to reach out and engage with everyone from volunteers to activists on issues around the world and in their own backyards. Social media has created a platform for people to not only find, but also actively get involved in issues that matter to them.
Micro-financing tools are popping up all over the web, bringing together small contributions from countless individuals to fund projects that that may not otherwise make it off the ground. Donors can focus their gifts in tangible and direct ways, by funding a community art project, helping finance a small business across the world, buying a cow for a poverty-stricken family in Uganda, or financing a health bus to serve the needy closer to home.
On the volunteering front, platforms like Getinvolved! make it possible for people to volunteer from the comfort of their own home with a laptop, or while on the go with their smartphone. From doing research for an organization short on skilled volunteers, to teaching English to students halfway across the world, virtual volunteering has enlarged the scope of volunteer engagement.
Here’s a look at how technology is transforming the social sector, and a few tips on how nonprofits can navigate this increasingly complex landscape.
Look through a social lens
Beth Kanter, author, presenter and widely regarded thought-leader on non-profits and social media, understands the different ways you can put social media to work for you. Don’t underestimate the importance of developing a social media strategy and framework to view your return on investment. Unlike traditional marketing, she recommends framing your ROI through a social lens, focused on engagement and relationship-building rather than dollars and cents.
Engage with local needs and issues to create stronger bonds
VolunteerSpot, founded by Karen Bantuveris, is one of many online platforms that help organizations manage and engage volunteers. They offer a suite of tools geared towards supporting organizations unleash the power of a social community to become involved in everything – from engaging lunch monitors at a local school, to helping organizers schedule and manage large groups of volunteers for a community cleanup. For Bantuveris, it’s all about community building: engaging people with local needs and issues while creating stronger bonds between friends and neighbours.
Joining the corporate and voluntary sector
Despite all these online platforms, over 43% of Canadians still don’t know where to find volunteer opportunities. VolunteerMatch was one of the first websites to link potential volunteers to organizations seeking their help. Now, the platform is expanding its audience to the corporate sector, helping companies and their employees make a difference in their communities. Robert Rosenthal, vice president of marketing and communications at VolunteerMatch, says the website is evolving as companies and charities continue to benefit from employees pursuing a passion to make a difference.
The skilled, virtual volunteer
At Getinvolved.ca, we believe that connecting skilled volunteers to opportunities that match their passion is the key to a successful volunteer match. In partnership with TVO, Volunteer Canada and Manulife Financial, Getinvolved.ca is now the largest volunteer network with over 10,000 enthusiastic do-gooders. The GetMatched tool connects organizations and volunteers to find their perfect volunteer match. A growing number of opportunities posted now seek out virtual volunteers. The flexibility these opportunities offer makes them attractive to volunteers – a recent study reveals over 92% of volunteers who volunteer virtually from home or at a distance are pleased with their experience. For organizations, the virtual volunteer saves time from managing volunteers on site and is an ideal way to access skilled-volunteers who may not be locally-based.
For non-profits and their volunteers, technology makes it easier to fundraise, find and engage stakeholders, and make a difference in the community or around the world. If you want to learn more about how technology is changing the sector, check out PULL, a special series on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin.