Social Networking for Charities:

Last week I went to a peer sharing event organised by oneworld about social networking. The session started with a chat about

Myactionaid is a social network for people raising money for the charity ActionAid.
It allows each fund raiser to blog about their exploits, and add photos etc onto their profile. Supporters can comment, and can donate money (it is mainly about the fundraising at the moment, but there is a plan to become more campaigning too).

The question posed was “is it better to fish in someone else’s pond, or create your own?”. I.e, are we better trying to get support and campaign on facebook, bebo and myspace (et al) or are we better to create our own network.

I am strongly in favour of the latter (at least for Walk to School 2.0), because I know how tight the firewalls in schools are, but there were some other very good reasons that MyActionAid had found too:

  • Beating the FadCycle
    There is a “social network churn” as people move from friends reunited (remember that!) to myspace, to facebook and on to the next thing. Having your own space means you aren’t so reliant on the “current big thing”, and your campaign continues as the fads change.

    Oxfam have found this with “OxJam”. Two years ago it was all over Myspace, now they are having to move it all into Facebook.

    That said, it is still important to maintain a presence on all the social networks, so you don’t get cybersquatted, and people can find you! The “fadcycle” will also become less of a problem as opensocial becomes a standard.

  • Encouraging “FadFogies”
    FadFogies are those people who think “social networking is too hard” or “it’s not for me”. The most prolific blogger on MyActionAid is a 60 something marathon runner. He has never used social networking before, but has become a prolific brand champion.

    One of my concerns with Walk to School secondary is that, while all the teens are tech literate, the teachers aren’t. MyActionAid’s experience suggested to me that perhaps there is hope if we can persuade teachers to take it up.

  • Better engagement
    Myactionaid has measured better (number of visits, level of donations, time spent on site etc) in some months than the “corporate” ActionAid website. This is despite it being less than a year old, and not being promoted through advertising until early January.

    It is developing a core of committed supporters that can be called upon to act on their behalf.

  • The competitive element
    Myactionaid encourages (though not overtly) competition about “how much money have I raised”. Likewise, oneworld’s asks “how much carbon dioxide can you save” and allows you to compete with your friends to reduce your carbon emissions.

I have to say this is one of the most useful breakfast meetings I have been to – lots of food for thought!

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