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Nonprofit Social Media

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Trevor Hunnicutt comes this article about nonprofits utilizing social media. In Northeast Florida, this is a hot topic and local nonprofits are using social media to tell their stories and create awareness.

Nonprofits turn to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter to raise money, market themselves

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are turning to relatively cheap online social media to raise money and market their organizations as they grapple with recession-battered endowments, fewer grants and, often, less patronage by their customers.

“I see many layers of advantages to using these social networks,” said Jim Kopniske of the Cleveland Museum of Art. He is one of four people responsible for updating the museum’s Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages, as well as maintaining a blog.

“It’s a small piece, but it’s steadily growing,” he said. “The only cost of it is our time.”

This week, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association announced the launch of a Web site that allows patrons to sponsor acres of parkland. For a tax-deductible $75, donors choose an acre to sponsor on and register it for a year.

The site allows users to create a profile of their acre with pictures, information about the park and a personal blog that can be shared with others. The donation supports the association, a nonprofit organization that develops park-oriented educational and cultural programming.

The park association said the site has been in development for years and is not a response to the recession. Still, the group’s grants are down about 50 percent from last year, so it is looking for new money to plug the gap, spokeswoman Jocelyn Buckey said.

Most nonprofits tap into existing social-media networks rather than create new ones, as the park association did. Those include Twitter, the micro-blogging Web site that distributes users’ casually short messages, or tweets, to computers and cell phones, and Facebook, with millions of users.

Organizations use both to drum up interest in their organizations, communicate with patrons and promote specific events.

Even as social networks gain popularity, most nonprofit organizations have yet to tap into them as a significant source of money. Only about 1 percent of nonprofits raised more than $10,000 using Facebook, according to a survey released last month by the Nonprofit Technology Network, a group that represents technology employees in nonprofits.

Some of Cleveland’s biggest nonprofits do not use social networks at all, and many organizations that embraced the technology are using them for communication, not fund-raising. PlayhouseSquare and the Cleveland Museum of Art are among the organizations using the technology more to promote their broad-based recreational appeal than to raise money.

But many nonprofits say that even if they have not found a direct stream of revenue from their efforts online, there is a strong connection between marketing themselves online and raising money.

“We’re researching best practices as far as how to use social media,” said Karen Pozna, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Foodbank, which has a presence on Facebook and Twitter. “When you educate people about your organization, ideally they would turn into donors.”

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