Seeking Suggestions :: Social Media for Promotion of Nonprofits

Social media will be incorporated into a summer project I’m working on for Easter Seals Camp ASCCA. I know you’ve seen me write about Camp ASCCA often, but this summer – get ready – you’ll see it a lot here and at the Camp ASCCA Web site.

I honestly believe that this will be the largest nonprofit use of social media (blogs, podcasts, video, forums and more) that has ever been attempted (aside from political sites and some national / international NPO sites). But, I can’t say that for certain until I do some more research. You can help, if you like. Do you know of any site for a nonprofit organization that has posted this much, this often and using online communication?

Below you will see an outline of what our plans are and how we seek to accomplish these tasks. I have abbreviated the plan as it is actually written out and is 12 pages – single-spaced – in a Word document. I’m still working on it, too.

Here, in a nutshell, is what we’re going to try. I’d love to receive your feedback, suggestions and criticisms.

ASCCA is a nonprofit organization and resources are limited. They have devoted two internships (paid) to the process. The students will receive free housing, meals and $1,000 per month (the same salary camp program staff receive). That, I believe, is a remarkable commitment.

Beyond that, ASCCA has invested in two multimedia computers, digital audio recorders, video recorders (straight to MPEG) and software. I am donating the use of a digital video camera, digital photo camera and a digital audio recorder, too. This should enable the interns to easily capture, and quickly edit, the content they capture. More on that below.

…this will be quite an experiment into social media for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and we are excited about the potential…
  • Two interns will run the operation. Their work hours are quite different from other jobs. They will follow, essentially, the same day that all of the campers and staff do – 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM each day. The camps traditionally run from Sunday at Noon until Friday at Noon.
  • In an attempt to be realistic, I am seting an initial “minimum” number of blog postings at four per day. Actually, I believe it could be 8 or more per day.
  • Posts will be a combination of audio, video, photos and text.
    1. VIDEO: Our initial goal is to do short video pieces and they will be loaded up to our Google Video site and YouTube. These will highlight the program areas from lakefront and the pool to horseback riding and high adventure. We have over a dozen activity areas, so content will be widely avaialable.
    2. AUDIO: These will be short interviews with campers, parents, counselors and visitors. The length will not, I pray, go beyond 10 minutes each. These will be hosted on our servers and delivered through the WordPress Podpress plugin and iTunes.
    3. PHOTOS: Digital cameras will be used to capture dozens of photos each day. They will highlight four main areas: programs, camper/counselor relationships, barrier-free architecture incorporated into activities and cabin life. These will be hosted on our servers and in our Flickr Pro account.
    4. WRITING: These will be observations by the interns about Camp ASCCA and the experiences of the campers and staff. Visitors (fund raising) will also be highlighted. We want honest observations. ASCCA has always been about the reality of abilities – not focusing on the disabilities. We want to offer answers/solutions which allow people with disabilities to participate. We don’t want any “poor pitiful crippled children” stories. Those always irk me.

I realize that is a lot of uploading. Now the sad news. One of the limitations we have at a camp is our location. We have satellite web access. That means that uploading is essentially dial-up. Camp is 10 miles from the nearest highway. A squirrel on the phone line can cause havoc. We may actually drive into town for the uploading of the video, audio and photo files. The only alternative is to keep the phone lines running all night.

With few exceptions, opensource software will be used for all of these projects. We have a wiki (PmWiki), CRM (SugarCRM), calendars (30boxes and Google Calendar), forums and/or alumni database (phpBB), eLearning (Moodle), photo albums (Flickr and Gallery 2), video (Google Video and YouTube) along with WordPress blogs and plugins.

The students have already used much of the software and they have seen the rest of it in action.

New releases will be delivered via a blog newsroom setup to the state and southeastern publications serving our campers hometowns. Most of these are mid-sized to small publications and usually appreciate the content. High resolution photos will accompany the stories created by the interns. Where possible, audio actualities will be included and sent to their local radio stations. Small town radio still does radio news, you know.

I am not sure what, if any, value online press release delivery services could offer us, but we may try them. We’ll likely only use the free services, unless someone wants to spot us for free access to a paid service. That would be a blessing.

Contacts will be made to these local news organizations and offer them email notification of stories or RSS feeds. They’ll likely prefer the emails, as most of the releases will be specifically targeted by locality.

Side projects include populating the Moodle eLearning site to help expand ASCCA’s appeal to school teachers in the areas of environmental education.

Among our many goals are: considerable search engine placement and optimization, increased visibility in online social media communities, a rebirth of ASCCA’s regional media releases, active involvement with our primary audiences (people with disabilities, parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists/medical, other nonprofits and our alumni – campers, staff and volunteers).

Yes, we will be pitching – news outlets and bloggers. We will be commenting in other blogs and developing relationships with sites/blogs addressing disability issues.

We are also interested in online fundraising, but that will come down the road. We want to develop a strong respectable presence online, first.

OK, that is a brief (believe it or not) synopsis of what we’ll be doing this summer. What do you think? I’m reserving some comments I have until I hear from you.

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0 thoughts on “Seeking Suggestions :: Social Media for Promotion of Nonprofits

  1. john cass

    Robert, I was thinking back to the last election and to examples of newspapers that are using blogs to generate hyper local content. If one of the issues is the speed of the connection. How about getting more people outside of the camp to make contributions to the blog. If you have good telephone service. The people at the camp don’t necessarily have to do all of the writing, or uploading of content. Perhaps outside bloggers can call you, conduct and interview and then up load to the web.

  2. Robert

    Good idea, John. Thanks. Along the way we will be contacting former campers and staff members to see if they would like to become contributors.

    You are right that we need to take advantage of the goodwill of supporters that are looking for ways to contribute aside from funding.

    An example of this is Allison Wetherbee. In our recent interview we talked about her possible participation. Due to her disability, it is a slow process for Allison to contribute online. However, we are considering having people call her and transcribe her thoughts into a post for the blog.

    You know, the more I think about your example of localization, we do have former campers and staff members in every county of Alabama – as well as scattered all over the US and overseas, too. We’re going to sit down and brainstorm about who we may contact to join us.

    Good ideas. Thanks.

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  5. Kami Huyse

    Robert; A very ambitious program, and also a great case study for us to follow.

    Maybe you could get into the Sprint Ambassadors program (if you can get Sprint coverage at the camp). The phone they give you includes a service that makes the phone itself a high-speed Internet connection. (meant for the businss traveler on a laptop, of course)

    They have been working the blogger angle for a while, and maybe this would be something in which they would have an interest?

  6. Robert

    Thanks, Kami. Yeah, I just checked and sadly we can’t get the Sprint coverage at camp, but perhaps there is hope for the future. I guess this is the price we pay for being out in the beautiful wilderness.

    We do get cellphone coverage, but it is on the fringes and doesn’t allow for any of their business / broadband services.

    Our plans for camp are ambitious. Certainly, I don’t think we’ll shake up the world, but I do think we have an opportunity to reach our core audiences in a way never available to us in the past.

    The interns come in today, so we’ll see how it goes pretty soon.