Introduction to Online Tech for Nonprofits
A few of you (great response! I've only been here a day!) have already expressed an interest in learning more about online technology/social web tools and how you can use them to help your organizations. The first thing I would advise is to start with all the wonderful, free resources available on the web.
Some good places to start with:
http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/index.cfm A treasure trove of information about best practices in NGO tech. Some very hands-on advice, which is always useful.
http://www.nonprofitmarketingblog.com/ Katya's blog- she writes on NGO marketing in general, but her tips are all useful, and she spends a lot of time covering online marketing and new technologies
http://beth.typepad.com/ : Beth Kantor is pretty much the established industry leader in nonprofit tech. Her blog is a bit more advanced, but she has some great ideas, and wonderful knowledge.
*quick disclaimer: these blogs are very America-centric, but the general concepts (developing clear message and learning how to communicate that) are universal
I realize that most NGO's are pressed for funds and for staff resources to dedicate to technology and especially for branching into new, risky areas like social media! Because of this, it's very important to clearly define the specific goal your organization has for trying a new technology. For example, it is very hard and time-consuming to build an online fundraising capabilities. (Though this will become increasingly important in the future, and I really urge all NGO's to have at least one employee on top of these technologies as online donations become the only method!)
But... both social media, and even more 'web 1.0' tools like your standard email outreach, and building a clear and compelling homepage can help you achieve many goals beyond fundraising. Communicating better with your existing donors (which often inspires them to give more!), building awareness, advocacy campaigns, etc. are all goals that are really well suited to online tools. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are excellent places to find and energize volunteers. Depending on the population your organization serves, the web might be a good place to find and recruit them. For example, if you are providing jobs to urban youth, engaging them in spaces they frequent online, such as MySpace, or Orkut, would be a great way to reach and thus serve a wider audience.
Please comment and share ways your organization is using online technology, and share any questions you might have.