Nonprofits turning to new-media model

Rise of social media has opened opportunities to boost fundraising and reach a younger audience

Rise of social media has opened opportunities to boost fundraising and reach a younger audience

Nonprofit organizations are increasingly turning to social-media initiatives in hopes of expanding their reach, increasing donations, and tapping into a younger generation of potential donors.

Evidence of this trend can be seen in the growing number of nonprofits currently utilizing YouTube to increase awareness for their causes and organizations.

At the Clinton Global Initiative's (CGI) third annual meeting on September 27, the online video giant announced the YouTube Nonprofit Program. The program provides participating groups with a number of features, including a premium channel on YouTube to serve as a hub for their uploaded videos, the opportunity to insert a Google Checkout donation button on their channel or video watch pages, and eventually, a centralized area within YouTube. Among those already using the program are the CGI and the March of Dimes.

YouTube isn't the only new-media outlet that nonprofits are using to spread their messages and to raise funds. Others are tapping into blogs, social-media sites, podcasts, and more recently, Facebook.

Howard White, director of marketing and communications at the DC-based National Museum of Women in the Arts, says the reason for this is because traditional fundraising models for nonprofits are breaking down and changing.

"The informational and fundraising landscape has become so Balkanized in the last few years, and there are so many opportunities and venues," White says. "What we're doing is adapting to new models."

For museums in particular, new media has altered the approach to fundraising.

"Traditionally, museums made a proposal to a corporation or foundation asking for support," he explains. "But increasingly what we're doing is saying, 'Here's what we have for funding; you don't have to give us $50,000; [instead] you can donate $100.' It adds up, and because the reach is so much greater, you can raise a fair amount of funds in small amounts, but in large numbers. Fundraising has become a question of numbers vs. amount, and [new-media] initiatives play into that mindset perfectly."

White, whose organization uses podcasts, flash animations, and video on its site, says the use of new media also provides nonprofits with access to a new and younger generation of donors.

Karla Capers, online communications manager at the Washington-based Union
of Concerned Scientists (UCS), says the reason her organization is using new media
is to connect with people where they spend a lot of their time - online.

"Originally, it was just creating Web sites and providing information for people, but now that's getting even broader," Capers explains. "Now, it's making sure we have information up on our own site and on sites where people go, like YouTube."

The UCS had posted videos on YouTube before the new program was announced.
It also has a presence on social networks and blogs.

"We're definitely trying things out," Capers says. "The real key is to get people engaged. The more people are feeling like they are involved in the issue, the more likely they are... to take an action that might be really critical. It's also about asking people to give money because some people don't want to give their time, and they would rather get involved by giving a donation."

The UCS has its Hybrid Center microsite,, that hosts its hybrid blog, which is intended to engage hybrid owners and clean-vehicle enthusiasts.

"The blog allows people to read our latest perspective on the latest vehicle technology developments and engage with us and one another on what their reactions are to these sorts of things," she says. "We also have something called 'Who's Got Hybrids?' where hybrid owners can upload pictures, write testimonials, and talk about what they like and don't like about hybrids."

Capers has seen other organizations experimenting with Facebook, and while the UCS is not currently on the social networking site, it will monitor the success other nonprofits may have there.

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