3 min Read
September 4, 2009

Thoughts from the Summer of Social Good

Last week, I joined a great group of nonprofit and tech-minded people at Mashable’s Summer of Social Good conference. We heard from several nonprofits–including the four beneficiaries of the Summer of Social Good: Oxfam, the Humane Society of the United States, the World Wildlife Fund, and Livestrong–as well as luminaries from the world of nonprofits and social media, like Beth Kanter. The conference hashtag (#socialgood) was a trending topic on Twitter all day, and there was even a surprise marriage proposal onstage! A great, thought-provoking, inspiring time was had by all.

Of the many interesting and important points made over the course of the day, here are a few that I found particularly valuable:

Get a Facebook page.

According to Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook‘s Marketing Director, one of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make on Facebook is maintaining a group instead of a page. Having a page lets your organization tap into the networking power of Facebook (more on that in a future post)–groups are an older feature and much less dynamic.That’s not to say you should rush out and delete your organization’s group right now, but if you have one, you might start thinking about how to coax your users over to your fan page instead. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook adding more and more features to fan pages as they let groups become slowly obsolete.

Video is big.

Video was everywhere at the conference. Nearly all of the presenters showed a cause-related video at some point during their talk—a telling indicator that video is becoming the norm for nonprofits, rather than a rare or unusual communications tool.YouTube now offers a free nonprofit program with many premium features, including bigger videos and the opportunity to embed links, so if your nonprofit hasn’t signed up yet, you should check it out.

Long live slactivism?

“Slactivism”–taking action in support of a cause or an idea without even leaving one’s chair (like signing a petition online)–has been a hot topic lately, and several of the presenters referred to it in their talks.Is there value to slactivism, and will nonprofits be able to convert their armchair-activists into real-life advocates? It’s up for debate, but the consensus seems optimistic that making small connections now may open the door for deeper interactions over time. A recent study suggests that if young people interact with an organization on social networks, they’re more likely to give or volunteer later on.

Embrace the real-time revolution.

In social media, things happen now. Not next week when your direct mail piece arrives in the mailbox; not even in 5 minutes when your enewsletter blasts. Now. Nonprofits active in social media are harnessing that power to their advantage, turning out last-minute calls to Congresspeople, or petitioning Facebook fans for funds to meet an approaching deadline.Livestrong, Lance Armstrong’s foundation, shared an anecdote about the power of real-time media: a simple tweet from Lance prompted over 1,200 people to gather in the space of just a few hours for a bike ride through Dublin. Could your nonprofit take advantage of real-time access to donors and activists?

It doesn’t matter where you are.

Several of the presenters pointed out that the rise of online social tools is making a person’s physical location ever more irrelevant. A community of individuals affected by a rare disease can gather online, even though they’re nowhere near each other in person. Volunteers can contribute their time in two-minute increments on their mobile phones. Your neighbor isn’t just the person living or working on your street or in your town–it’s the person or group whose ideas and activities relate to yours (and your audiences’s) online.If you made it to the conference or watched the livestream, are there any other takeaways you’d add?