How non-profit organisations can utilize ICT for advocacy and awareness raising? by Maggie Verster, Deputy Director Curriculum Innovation & e-Learning, National Department of Education
The non profit sector has believed itself to be disadvantaged when it comes to the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Organisations have struggled, sometimes at great expense, to create a website, a must-have marketing tool. Most of the time they end up with a web presence that cannot be maintained and, in some cases, detracted from their cause due to old, stale information.
The new wave of social media tools, however, have made it possible for even the smallest of organisations to create a very powerful, up to the nano-second, omni-presence on the web. No longer do they have to be at the mercy of web designers or pay extravagant amounts of money. They can, with minimal effort and skill, get their voices heard all over the world by using simple, free, read-write tools to get their stories out to their mainstream supporters, donors, change-makers and beneficiaries at the click of a mouse. Powerful social media platforms like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter can provide access to potential supporters whom they would not otherwise have been able to reach. They can even create their own social networks to consolidate their support base! So, let’s take a look at three of the main tools that can support an organisation’s advocacy campaign.
The simplest of the tools, being used with great impact is micro-blogging. Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a social networking site that allows you to update your status in 140 characters or less, to let people know what you are doing. An organisation can use this tool to advise its constituency of what is happening in the organisation, to tell cause-raising stories and to connect with other like minded people and organisations. Advocacy workers can even make updates straight from their cell phones and it has been extensively used to send out calls for assistance and to mobilise support in times of disaster or disturbances.
Blogs is the big brother of twitter and is a tool no respectable NGO (non-government organisation) should be without! A blog is a free online tool which can be used to write articles, tell stories, organise events, give report-backs and can compliment or substitute a traditional website. It is effortless to update and it can include interactive elements like videos, photo slideshows and polls.
Online social networking tools like Facebook (www.facebook.com), provides organisations with people powered vehicles to raise awareness and provide custom made funding opportunities. It comes with built-in social media features like photo and video sharing facilities, forums for discussions, blogs, audio uploads (podcasts) and most importantly, friendly mechanisms for inviting more people onto your network. Some of these networks are specifically aimed at connecting organisations with potential donors and provide payment facilities to assist the process. Easygiving (www.easigiving.co.za ) is a local initiative aiming to provide support to local organisations in their efforts to raise funds and friends and get their stories “out there” and also GreaterGood South Africa (www.myggsa.co.za )
So with all these user friendly tools to support our cause-raising efforts, we no longer have any excuse for presenting our organisation on a global platform. So get twittering, bloging and networking! It is all for a good cause!
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