Non-Profit Tools in the Digital World

I love talking with non-profits. They typically are very passionate along with being willing to try new and exciting things. I was talking with a friend of mine who works at a large PR firm focusing on non-profits and we started chatting about business. She contested most non-profits don’t know how to operate in the digital world and I rebutted that they do, they just need to tweak their old methods a little.

Let me explain, social networking is nothing new, the human race has been creating social networks since we first realized it was easier to hunt together than alone. Digital social networks are based on principles rooted in classical networks, just accelerated online. I began to relate the new digital techniques to more classical non-profit tools.


The Old Way: Growing up in the city I always remember seeing stickers and tags placed around the city in support of some social cause or another. These stickers were quick and dirty ways to spread a message and a non-profits’ supports could carry the stickers around and tag at will.

The New Way: Digital tags are no different. Creating digital tags that your supporters can put on messaging boards, forums, home pages and social networks generates similar reactions to tagging a subway sign or bus stop (aside from the fact that tagging is technically illegal). I have always been a fan of tagging because it allows for interaction at the lowest level and creates exposure.


The Old Way: Meetings (in the sense of mini-events) are the essence of any grass roots social campaign. Meetings allow users to engage with other like minded individuals and share ideas. Meetings also build a sense of community and give the host a chance to pass along informational fliers and packets.

The New Way: Digital meetings can do the same, compliment your physical meeting by streaming it online and hosting a chat session. Even the most novice computer user can set up a free chat room with free video conferencing. Allow users to submit comments and follow up with them by sending packets of information and digital tags to their email.


The Old Way: Once you have a movement going you need to send your information to the masses. Typically this means printing posters, fliers and books. Nothing keeps a movement going like tangible media in the hands of people who want to pass along your message.

The New Way: Digital copies offer similar results but at a fraction of the cost. Think about this, handing out a book or flier to someone who is in your town is simple, find them and give it to them. What if you want to send it to someone in California or Alaska? Why not send them a digital copy of your book with a coupon or credit to get it printed at Kinkos? Using this model you can give someone two copies of your literature (digital and hard copy) at a fraction of the cost.

Public Service Announcements

The Old Way: In the past network television stations had time slotted for PSAs. These slots were normally during the worst hours and only reached the unemployed or the chronically late. Production cost were high and often the reach was negligible.

The New Way: Today content is king, and the internet is the station. Creating low budget PSAs that have an interesting viral hook can get more results than any TV spot could. Create a fun, low budget, video clip of your PSA and host it on several free video sites. Focus on the message not the production. Then using your new network of contacts inform your waiting public that their new video has arrived.

These were just few examples I came up with last night while chatting with my friend. I am sure there are a million more techniques out there that non-profits already know how to do and only need to transfer them to the digital world.

Can you think of any? Let me and the rest of the world know, we would love to hear about them.