Networking tools & tips
Some folks have been asking how we use social networking and other tools to build the coalition. Below is a list of the tools that we have found to be effective. In trying to figure out what will work best for you there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Broadcast vs Conversation
Some of these tools are good for one not the other. You have to be clear on what is best for your organization. Broadcast tools are great if you want a to create a place for basic information but its not so good if you want to engage and build your audience.
The web is forever but these tools are not
When choosing which tools to use its important to keep in mind that this is a constantly shifting universe (remember Friendster??). The resources that are in use today might not be there tomorrow so you have to be sure what you are comfortable letting get lost in the ethers of the Internet & what content you want to preserve for the future.
This is our best guess today. All of these tools are free (except where noted). Have better ideas?? Please let us know by posting comments below!
Having an online presence is critical. Your website is the first place people will go to gain a sense of your organization. An easy way to get your website up & running quickly is to use some ready made tools. Here at the Coalition we love WordPress, a blogging platform that is easy to install and use. You can use it to build your entire site or if you already have a website you can build it into a section of your site for people without html skills to be able to contribute content. Once set up its an easy interface and infinitely expandable. You can easily change the look by playing with different themes and with plugins for about every need – calendars, tags, pictures and more. There is a large online community using WordPress so its easy to find support and documentation online.
2. Facebook Page
Facebook is, for the moment, the village green. It is by far the best tool for engaging in a conversation with your wider community. A couple of tips:
- Never set up your privacy settings in a rush – take the time to make sure it is exactly how you would want it
- When you first set up your Facebook Page you will be given a long and unruly URL. Build up your fan base and you will be able to choose a nice succinct URL for your organization.
- Facebook should be a conversation – its rude if only one person is speaking! Make sure your wall contains a generous amount of posts that don’t come from you but come from the community and don’t be stingy on taking the time to comment on posts by other people.
- Don’t be boring in what you post! Usually if its something interesting to you it will be interesting to your community. If its a slow week find a historical document or news article.
- Links, photos & videos are eye catching & more likely to be forwarded on so use them to expand your community.
Its free so why not utilize it? Twitter is used intensely by a small number of people. There are tools for linking it to your other networking sites (website, Facebook). We use a plug in called TwiBadge
Your two main video options are youTube (most popular) or Vimeo (better quality). You can easily set up your organizations “channel” and customize the look. Do it once & you’re all set! YouTube has recently added the capacity for closed captioning which can help make your site accessible.
Its easy to set up a group on Flickr for everyone in your community to contribute images to. Then you can embed an constantly updating slideshow on your website!
5. Email Blasts
Like many non-profit groups we use Constant Contact to manage our email lists. Its a paid service. The fee is determined by how many folks are on your email list. Constant Contact comes with a variety of templates so that you can customize the look of your emails. It can sometimes be a bit clunky to use but overall its a great tool.
We have found googleForms to be a great way to create online forms embedded into our website or emailed. When folks fill in the form the information is automatically imported into a google spreadsheet. We use googleDocs for our sign in sheets for organizations that want to become Participating Organizations or Sponsors.
7. Show me the Money!
If you have the mission of a non-profit but are not legally registered you might want to look into fiscal sponsorship. This makes it possible for people to donate to your cause via a legal non-profit. This is a great way for fledgling or short term organizations to get started. Usually the sponsoring organization keeps a small percentage of money received to cover administrative costs. City Lore is the fiscal sponsor for the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition.
Its always nice to make it easy for people to donate money! We use Paypal for non-profits other folks also like Google check out. Both services have tools for creating links and buttons to make it easy for folks to give.
If you have a specific campaign or financial goal another route is to use Kickstarter. This is a great tool if you need to raise a certain amount of money in a short time period.
8. Tie it all together!
Your website you should include links to your Facebook Page (make the badge in Facebook), Twitter feed, Flickr feed and have a sign up box for your Constant Contact email list.
Make sure your Website/Facebook Page/Twitter/Flickr Group/youTube Channel all share the same name.