In the constant battle to do more with less, non-profit organisations are increasingly turning to technology to improve productivity and reduce administrative costs, which ultimately allows them to focus their resources where they have most impact – benefiting the most vulnerable in our society.
The world of technology continues to evolve and the emergence of social media has introduced a whole new set of opportunities and challenges for the non-profit community.
Social media are significant because they are changing how we think about communications. When used effectively, social media can help you build a community, cultivate advocacy and allow you to tell a compelling story in a new way. Every day we are seeing more and more non-profits effectively harnessing social media to support their work. For example Caritas Europe is currently “tweeting” as they spearhead activities around the European Year of Combating Poverty & Social Exclusion. Save the Children uses Twitter to communicate stories and to update on breaking news.
While they are clearly a great asset, social media do still present many challenges. They continue to evolve in line with changes in how we are using technology as witnessed by the explosion of mobile applications. Using social media is labour intensive, which means that far from being cheap or free, there’s a significant cost involved. Before embarking on a social media crusade, it’s important that you think through how it can be integrated as part of your organisation’s existing communications and outreach efforts and what level of resources you can invest to maintain, operate and grow your efforts.
At Microsoft we believe that social media create fantastic opportunities to connect with people and engage in discussions around areas such as social and economic development. We’re still learning, and we realise that we have a long way to go. However, we’re already seeing the benefits of integrating social media as part of our citizenship communications and engagement efforts.
Through our Unlimited Potential programme we have successfully used social media to complement our traditional communications programmes to inform a broader community of non-profits about the wide range of technology tools and resources we have available. We’ve learned that it’s not just about communication but about building a community based on mutual interests. We’re continuing to broaden our social media activities – we recently re-launched the Unlimited Potential blog and use our Citizenship Facebook site, and Citizenship Twitter feed as channels to connect with people.
We’ve also found that our social media channels can provide a valuable platform for advocacy on behalf of our NGO partners. In Europe we have used our blog platform this year to highlight NGOs working on online child protection as well as those training unemployed immigrant women for jobs.
Each year Microsoft runs national NGO Connection Days around Europe which brings together local charities and provides a forum where they can learn from one another and also get the latest information on how they can use technology inside and outside their organisations. These events now include hands-on training and advice on how non-profits can use social media to broaden their reach and engage with stakeholders and the general public. We view this training as part of our longstanding commitment to enable NGOs through technology.
Microsoft is driven by the belief that NGOs deserve access to the best technology tools to help them increase the productivity of their operations and enable them to expand their services and communicate the impact of their work. We’re all learning about social media – the key is to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve, integrate it as a core part of your operations and build programmes that you can afford. When it comes to social media there’s a lot done but a lot more to do.
Microsoft Unlimited Potential is a global programme that aims to create opportunities and solve societal challenges through technology, programmes and, most important, through partnership with non-profit partners around the world.
Originally published in Effect autumn 2010 © European Foundation Centre | www.efc.be
● New Skills for New Europeans – Immigrant Women Realizing Potential