Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Housing Nonprofits are Using Social Media

A few weeks ago we asked NeighborWorks Facebook fans how they're using social media. We wanted to get a pulse for how affordable housing and other nonprofits working in low and moderate income neighborhoods are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, social networks, and such to advance their missions. At the same time, we're seeing some good local examples emerge.

So this is what we found out:

More and more, organizations are using blogs, Facebook pages, and YouTube to tell their stories. Organizations are incorporating personal testimonies to give a face to the real people whose lives are benefitting from their services.

NHS of Greater Cleveland's Facebook page, with more than 1,200 fans, is an impressive example of how a local nonprofit, working in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures, is using their page to post relevant information on homeownership education, scam prevention, information on purchasing vacant homes, and much more. NHS of Baltimore's Homeownership blog offers current, practical advice for residents, like a recent post on dealing with damage to your home after a snowstorm.

NeighborWorks Dakota Home Resources is tapping the philanthropic crowdsourcing trend by participating in Pepsi's refresh project to seek support for their block club in Rapid City, South Dakota. Pepsi is donating $20 million in grants this year to applicants who submit "good ideas that move communities forward" and are using a website and their large social media base in the process. Crowd-sourced philanthropy could be a game changer for local nonprofits.

Organizations are setting up YouTube channels to tell their story and make available educational information. Utica NHS, for example, worked with a local television program to do a series on financial education. The first segment on cleaning up holiday debt was terrific.

Nothing new here, clearly a lot of nonprofit staff are using LinkedIn for professional contacts. The site seems to be replacing business cards for following up with people met in a professional setting and exchanging information in online groups around common professional interests.

Are you using sites like Serve.gov and Meetup.com to promote your volunteer events? These kinds of sites could get traction this Spring for tapping volunteers to plant flowers, fix porches, paint, clean-up debris and other activities.

One more thing we're seeing is that informational and rating sites are becoming a factor in how people give to local nonprofits. Savvy nonprofits are keeping a watch on how they're represented on sites like Charity Navigator and Inside Good.

Tom Austin