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Online Social Network Fundraising: Hop on Board!

Ever use a buggy whip?

My lovely wife, Sue, has a horse named Loki. We adopted Loki through the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, an excellent nonprofit that finds homes for retired harness race horses. Sue drives Loki, riding in her wooden cart, using a buggy whip to gently guide him. Though I’m no horseman, I’ve took a few turns driving Loki, using the buggy whip as taught by Sue.

Although still used by horse enthusiasts, buggy whips are relics, made obsolete by something called an “automobile.” When folks first saw these new, loud contraptions lurching along dirt roads, they covered their ears and scoffed at the “horseless carriages.” At first dismissed as a luxury and unnecessary, the new technology was, over time, grudgingly accepted. “The new mechanical wagon with the awful name automobile has come to stay…” said The New York Times in 1897. Cars became a necessity, and have gone on to the change the world.

Today, social networks have already changed the world. They’ve changed our language (tweeted anyone today?), our entertainment (I love LisaNova‘s videos), and our economics (Linden Dollars, the currency on SecondLife.com, can be used to buy real life items).

And social networks are absolutely changing fundraising. I’ve seen it first-hand, in the results nonprofits achieve with [Shameless Plug Alert] DonorPages, our online portal that allows nonprofit supporters to create personal fundraiser web pages and make the one-on-one ask by reaching out to their social network. Any person who meets, chats with, friends or tweets one of these supporter/fundraisers is now potentially reached by the nonprofit, with little expense and zero staff hours spent.

Now I’m not saying that more traditional fundraising techniques and strategies are buggy whips. They are still vital to most nonprofit fundraising efforts. But like the automobile, online social network fundraising has gone through it’s awkward phase, and now provides very real-world results.

Social network fundraising is very affordable for nonprofits, with a tremendous upside in terms of actual donations and raising awareness for the cause. In this blog, I’ll be advocating for greater and better use of this new media by nonprofits. As DonorPages Product Manager, I love working with nonprofits as they use this technology to advance and promote their mission. I’d love to hear your story about how you’ve used online social media to support the causes you care about

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