Tech Watch: Social Nonprofits

Category:  Tech Watch
Friday, June 29th, 2012 at 5:55 PM
Tech Watch: Social Nonprofits by Michael Haas

Social media is a powerhouse for channeling the story behind a company, organization, or person. Recently, I’ve been talking about how the City of Erie can utilize the power of Facebook and Twitter to create a sense of community, increase political participation, and bolster tourism; however, governmental bodies are not the only ones that should participate in this growing trend - nonprofits of Erie, I’m talking to you.

Did you know that Erie has a plethora of nonprofits per capita? It’s true. To view just a few of them, you can check out the Nonprofit Partnership’s website. Because of the sheer number of these organizations, it’s easy for one group to be lost in the noise and miss out on great opportunities for donations, volunteers, and general awareness.

But a few local nonprofits are already doing a great job of utilizing digital tools to spread the message of their organization and promote events and initiatives. The first is the United Way of Erie County. The United Way is obviously well-known, purchasing substantial advertising and serving as an integral part of the Erie community. According to their Facebook page, “United Way of Erie County is a leader in preventing and reducing poverty. We are working to address the problem by creating opportunities in the building blocks of life: Education, Income and Health.”

The reason UW does a fantastic job with social media is because they use the recognition they already have to promote themselves. When you visit their Facebook timeline, you’ll see blog posts about their events (including the recent 2012 Tocqueville Award recipient, John Horan), videos, links, and engaging status updates about their three core missions of education, income, and health.

The second great example of a nonprofit in Erie using social media is Dramashop. This organization is relatively new in Erie and recently concluded its inaugural season. According to the group’s Facebook timeline, “At Dramashop, we believe there is value in every step of the creative process, not just the end product. We believe there is value in the creation and production of theatrical works, and that much of the magic of theater happens before the audience arrives.” Dramashop has been able to create a thriving digital experience to mimic the artistic gravitas the organization exhibits offline.

Most recently, the group announced their second season lineup at their ‘Curtain Call’ event at Calamari’s; however, a typical announcement was just not enough for Artistic Director Zach Flock. Flock and the Board of Directors realized the importance of capturing the event/announcement for those people who couldn’t make it in person, and by infusing Facebook and Twitter streams into the actual event, Dramashop was able to reach an online audience four to five times greater than the amount of people in attendance.

Beyond that, Dramashop makes it a point to engage its growing audience through Erie-related news feeds and other online content.
The final example of a nonprofit doing great things is one that we are all aware of in Erie recently: The Presque Isle Partnership who held the Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert on Beach 11, which was a runaway success.

PIP realized that it had to reach a broad audience when selling tickets to the show and initiated a campaign to sell tickets through the use of targeted advertising on Facebook. Additionally, the organization was able to respond to questions about the event right up until a few hours before CSN took the stage. Keeping the community engaged and being responsive allowed PIP to throw an event that affected not only people at the concert, but also people across the world.

Whether it’s through engaging content, social events, or Facebook ads, nonprofits in Erie are stepping up their game and being baptized into the digital realm. With so many other organizations out there, it’s a no-brainer for a nonprofit looking to differentiate itself and make an impact - direct donations are no longer the only way you can support your local nonprofits now that you can help spread the word through social media. So go on, Erie, give their pages some “likes.”

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