Using social media to drive policy change

Consider how you can best use social media to achieve your policy change goals

Before I launch into my real post below, I want to take a minute to revel in being a Minnesotan. In the past several years, there have been very few opportunities to do that. But Tuesday, we reclaimed something of our past selves by setting a new state one-day online fund raising record of $14 million!!!

As Beth Kanter says, it’s a jaw dropping figure. One day, one state, one website…hundreds of nonprofits supported.

The success of this venture is due to many factors–great communications among them–but we all owe a debt to the local foundations who helped come up with this idea and who gave major support to it–the Minneapolis and St. Paul Foundations, the Blandin Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and the Minnesota Community Foundation. (United Way was in the mix, too.) Did I mention they matched the first $500,000 in contributions!

This unprecendented outpouring of good will in such hard economic times is not only a fabulous case study for the potential of online giving, but an inspiration for other states. Today, I’m proud to live here.

But, even as GiveMN day was an important proving ground for online fund raising, this post is about a excellent new free online tool for those who want to use social media to support program related goals. Cause Communications has come up with yet another in its great series of guides for nonprofit communicators.

Their new Online Outreach Tool Guide is one the most helpful, concise resources I’ve seen to help nonprofit executives and communications experts decide how to use social media to advance their social issues and mobilize policy change.

The guide features a grid that shows which social media channels are best at achieving four different communications objectives: increasing credibility, raising awareness, encouraging dialogue, and mobilizing support. The authors also provide great examples from the real world about nonprofits that have employed each of these channels successfully—from social bookmarking and online advertising to microblogging and photosharing.

The short booklet also contains a lot of common sense wisdom that can help nonprofits start using these online tools strategically and measuring their results. There’s a whole section listing the ROI milestones that can be measured to gauge progress over time.

What especially appeals to me is the application of social media to policy change and issue framing, rather than just fund- and friend-raising. These tools have tremendous potential for informing people about issues, engaging them in civic dialogue, and ultimately, mobilizing them to take action.

Nonprofits should be thinking about using social media to support their program and organizational goals, not just their development goals. People like Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are helping lead the sector in that direction, and I’m hopeful that—even as beleaguered as nonprofits are right now—they will seize this new opportunity.



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