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Charities have little to fear and everything to gain from social media


In the days when I could run any distance I tended to be a plodding marathon runner, rather than a sprinter - in my mind if not in fact. It always seemed to me that there should not necessarily be a big hurry to get somewhere, as long as it was rewarding once achieved.

These days I'm spending plenty of time talking with charity organisations – most prefer to be called not-for-profit organisations. I'm talking to them about peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P), the kind that raises smaller donations from a host of supporting donors. This method of fundaraising is a marathon rather than a sprint.

Why is P2P on more charities' agendas? Simply because the traditional methods involving big grants, government funding, bequests, etc are becoming much less secure and, in many cases, dwindling.

P2P fundraising requires a commitment to engagement by the charity with a community of support, and expertise to operate it properly. But it has the key advantage, once a critical mass is achieved, of creating a long term and sustainable supply of funding and support.

The major new opportunity in P2P fundraising comes with the revolution of social media, and this is where I place a large focus for charity advancement.

Often the people running the day to day operation ask me to talk with their governance Board. Typically they'll say, "please explain to our Board what social media is."

I always enjoy the chance to exchange ideas and knowledge, and gain an understanding about what their drivers and issues might be.

Since my blog on the question in October 2010, Social Media Raises Important Governance Questions For Not-For-Profit Organisations, I have repeatedly been invited to talk with Boards. What I'm finding is a wide range of understandings about social media and online activity in general. However there is generally still a very low level of knowledge and this is clearly leading to hesitation about committing to it. In many cases I am challenged about issues which suggest that Boards are simply fearful of entering into territory which, from their perspective is a mystery.

Social media is now as much a factor in our lives as the telephone and television and, in fact, is now also part of how we use the telephone and television. With Facebook numbers (users) due to hit 1 billion this year, social media has passed the point of no return so that the real challenge for Boards and charities is not how to resist the changes, but how to understand it and adapt.

Here's a classic story from my favourite social media website, Mashable. Websites and social media can be so instant that the New York Giants this week reported their victory online in the 2012 Super Bowl more than 24 hours before the game had started.

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About the author

Fraser Carson is a respected communications and social media consultant, and commentator. He has particular experience and interest in community building, the not-for-profit sector and business development.


Charities have little to fear and everything to gain from social media

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