An excellent article on the Wild Apricot blog arrived ealier via a Google Alert — it’s an interview with Carie Lewis of the Humane Society of the U.S. about using social networking sites for advocacy and fundraising. She and blog author Soha El-Borno go into useful detail about working with Facebook Causes and the Care2 and Change.org applications as well as managing Facebook groups, and they also talk about the differences between working with the Facebook audience and that of MySpace.
The overall impression? Social networking takes a lot of work! Carrie recommends being very active both in maintaining relationships on the sites/fostering conversation in groups and in promotion/outreach. HSUS has used the sites to educate supporters and reach out to new ones, providing advocacy “banners” for use on sites and actively keeping keeping discussion moving:
It’s no good to just talk to ourselves. So it takes the most time to recruit new people. Not just any new people — people who care about animals and animal welfare issues. Then, it takes time to keep the group fresh and interesting, as well as communicate with our group. It’s important to us that we respond to every message personally, as well as participate in discussion board and wall posts. That’s what makes social networking what it is.
Her organization has raised $5000 so far through Facebook, which probably does not even begin to cover the cost in staff time of building their social networking presence, but it’s a nice extra. HSUS’s issues are probably a natural for social networking sites, since they involve animal protection, something in which a broad swath of the sites’ populations would be interested. Less cuddly or more niche-oriented issues might not fly as well, and groups should consider carefully whether they have the time and stick-toitiveness to follow through their initial commitment. More on using social networking sites for politics and advocacy.