Posts tagged Web 2.0

Are nonprofit-donor relationships just a click away?

 

Last week’s BusinessWeekonline article ‘Click Here to Save Darfur’ by Catherine Holahan explains how online social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace have enabled charity and activist groups to quickly rally support and turn it into real dollars and feet on the street.

For example, Camp Darfur in Second Life(a virtual reality world where users live through an avatar) allows visitors to tour a simulated refugee camp to educate them about the conflict in Sudan. It also provides visitors with ways to get more involved in raising awareness about the Darfur genocide.

My question is, how do online social networks translate to the fundraising and marketing world? Are the online relationships initiated through sites like Facebook or Second Life replacing traditional relationships, or are they filling a new niche? Personally, I  believe that the proliferation of such online opportunities does not signal a decline in demand for real-world interaction with brands (be they nonprofit organizations, politicians, activist groups, or corporations). The ease of bringing charitable or other causes to the Internet also impacts the public’s perception of their credibility. When any Joe Schmoe with a domain name can set up a fraudulent charity, it’s hard to judge the authenticity of a legit organization. It’s like the e-mail from the Nigerian Prince, but more sophisticated.

This is why I think it’s still paramount for ‘brands’ to cultivate personal relationships with their publics – whether they are donors, customers, or voters – on a physical level. But they shouldn’t ignore the popularity and success of online tools. Instead, I think the answer lies in forming a strategy that integrates online social networking with real-life, personal encounters. In cases where this is impossible, due to monetary or physical constraints, then Web 2.0 seems to provide an excellent solution. Either way, we’re talking about a means to an end – if the desired outcome can be best achieved purely through online interaction, then that’s what the organization should do.

In the end, for the same reason that brick and mortar stores have not been demolished by online retailers like Amazon, I doubt that online social networking will replace all traditional relationship management strategies. But, in the same way that online shopping has changed consumer’s habits, this new opportunity will certainly influence the next generation of donors.

Image courtesy of http://www.campdarfur.org

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