I was riding the train back from Long Island to Upstate New York last weekend and was lucky enough to sit next to a woman in charge of running a shelter for battered women. With nothing to do for 2 hours, we started talking about the shelter. How it’s hard to get the word out – both to women who need help and to those who may be able to help with contributions. I asked if she was using social media to connect with people and she confessed that it’s “on the agenda” for next year. The problem with “on the agenda” is that it never happens. Over the course of our trip I chatted with her about how she could use social media to spread buzz about her organization. Here’s a quick list of some of the tools we talked about using.
Blogs for awareness
Why is there no link to the Web site for the shelter I mentioned above? Because there isn’t a Web site. And along with no site there is no blog. If you’re a nonprofit or simply a SMB with very limited resources, having a blog is one of your best tools to communicate with the people who are most apt to have an interest in what you’re up to. Very often your success as a nonprofit depends on your ability to tug on people and to inspire them with your story or challenge. This is something blogs are perfectly suited to do. They can help you tell your story, to reach out to new customers or donors, to keep people up-to-date on your on goings, to offer resources, and especially to build a community. Blogs are your number one social media tool to build awareness. Don’t discount them.
Video campaigns for storytelling
Using video as a small business owner is really powerful stuff. Using it for a non-profit is even more powerful. Again, it goes back to your ability to tell a story and to convey a need far more effectively using video’s sight and sound over just text. If you’re a non-profit organization you’ll want to take advantage of YouTube’s Nonprofit Program  to get your video in front of the people most likely to pass on your message. Once it’s there, you should also use a site like TubeMogul  to get your video to appear on multiple video sharing sites with just one upload. The site also offers some rich analytics to help you see who’s viewing your video and how you can best increase your reach and make the content easier to share. People have become pretty good at ignoring text. Sight and sound is a different story. Grab them and they’re yours.
Rock the widgets for donations
Widgets are embeddable objects that make it easier for people to interact with your content. Whereas many smaller organizations don’t have the resources to push content around – widgets spread themselves. Sites like Network for Good  or ChipIn  make it easy for SMBs or nonprofits to create widgets asking people to get involved and help the cause. You can post them to your own site, but they’re even more powerful when your community takes the widget and posts it on theirs. As the Web becomes more social, it’s becoming increasingly important to let your community interact and spread your content the way THEY want to. Widgets are a big part of that. Organizations like Kiva  have been using them for years. You can even brand them for maximum exposure and to help get a piece of your site out on the larger Web.
Bring online donors offline to increase manpower
One area where I think a lot of SMB owners and nonprofits miss out is in failing to bring their online connections offline. Just because you meet someone online doesn’t mean they’re trapped in the box. It’s a fact eHarmony has been banking on for years. 😉 People like making new connections, especially if its people they feel they already “know” from their online world. Once you’ve done the work to build your online community and get them engaged, take them offline by holding tweetups, throwing networking events, forming partnerships with similar-minded organizations, or taking advantage of the extra manpower during events and phone campaigns. By bringing your online connections off it helps make them more a part of what you’re doing and invested in your organization.
Running a nonprofit is all about building as much awareness while stretching that dollar as far as it can go. Luckily, social media is about the very same thing. Make sure you’re using the many social tools available to you to help you spread your message.