Today, the web is a crucial part of any nonprofit internet strategy. Social media encourages and facilitates human interaction. These days the term typically refers to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace that can be accessed from computers, mobile phones and other devices, allowing users to communicate more or less in real time. Social platforms offer a variety of applications for communication, marketing and file sharing, and are served directly or indirectly by third-party websites such as Flicker (for photo sharing), YouTube (video) and PayPal (online money transfer).
Social media is becoming the standard for nonprofit fundraising and volunteer recruitment. The variety of means to gather and organize people is almost limitless. Facebook alone offers "walls" to post brief messages, an inbox, status reports that alert the user's entire network, and options like "pokes" and "likes" which can serve as little reminders and free advertisement. Perhaps the fastest and most concise way to recruit volunteers is through Twitter.
Users can post messages of 140 characters or less to which everyone who subscribes to the user's feed - friends, family, and fans - becomes notified. One simple message, or "tweet", is all it takes to make sure everyone you know is aware that you are in need of assistance, and messages can be "re-tweeted" by the recipient, opening up a whole extended network of friends of friends of friends, and so on. There are a number of things that make social online media a superior way for organizations in need of funding to gather volunteers.
First of all, it's free. While third parties may charge for their services, social media platforms currently do not, and a charity's success is limited only by time and ingenuity. With the variety of nonprofit resources on the web, almost anything a charity could think to do for their cause can be aided by social media, including the recruitment process. Social media can be used successfully by those without marketing expertise or access to a professional print shop.
There is an abundance of websites geared towards providing people with advice on just about anything, much of it for free. While there will always be a period of trial and error with any new endeavor, feedback and response is much faster with social media as they are web-based, and mistakes are no longer a waste of paper. Social networking speeds up the start-to-end time of a campaign because the recruitment process no longer involves putting up posters around town, advertising in newspapers or cold calling.
Social media also make the prospect of volunteering more attractive as much of volunteers' work can now be done from home. Today, the pool of potential volunteers is worldwide. Access to social networking sites is available almost everywhere and information and money can easily get from one place to another instantaneously. While this may mean increased competition from other charities around the world, nonprofits in Facebook, Twitter and social sites now have a global reach.