Your greatest untapped online resource: your people

first_imgToday I feature a guest post by Filippo Trevisan of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. I met Filippo after a recent panel discussion on social media. After I spoke, he introduced himself and told me about his research on the impact of social media on disability-focused nonprofits. It sounded fascinating so I asked him to post here about his early findings. He obliged. Enjoy!A question that non-profits often ask me when I invite them to help out with my research on e-participation is: “What’s in it for us?” As time and resources are stretched for everyone in this sector, it seems just right that interviewees would also want to gain something from conversations with researchers. A great opportunity for me to give back some of what I have learned from conversations with practitioners came around when Katya asked me to write a guest post for her blog.While my work concentrates specifically on digital media and disability non-profits in both the US and the UK, there is at least one major element that is arguably relevant for any nonprofit. That is that the people you are trying to serve, whether you call them supporters, donors, customers, beneficiaries, or something else, all want the same thing: to add their own voice to the common cause. Digital media, and in particular social media, have now made this easier than ever, and internet users have come not only to appreciate, but also to expect to be able to do this. People with disabilities in particular, when technology is accessible to them, crave opportunities to express their opinion and tell their story. They, and ultimately all users, represent an invaluable, untapped potential that can have a crucial impact way beyond fundraising.There are substantial differences in how non-profits on either side of the pond handle their online operations. However, in London, as in Washington, those with an edge over the others, those with a greater following who are more likely to acquire visibility for their causes on “traditional” mass media, are also those who are taking the “risk” of letting their constituents speak directly for their cause.Much has changed since I first ran a study on these issues just two years ago (here), and so much is likely to change in the near future. Yet, those “brave” organizations that have accepted the rules of this new game and relaxed their editorial filters on user-produced content seem to be showing the way to the others. This is not to suggest that there should be online “anarchy,” or that we should reverse back to old, disrespectful strategies of using “sob” personal stories as a means to any end, whether that might be fundraising or a change in public policy. Rather, this process could have an empowering effect if set up and managed correctly. From Katya: Bottom line? Let others speak for you. It will amplify your voice, inform your programs and deepen your impact.last_img

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