I’m really excited, every day, by the new and successful stories I hear about nonprofit organizations reaching out to the global community via the Internet and social media tools to help spread their messages, more effectively and efficiently provide their services, find new supporters and donors while empowering others to help support and fundraise on their behalf.  The web is an incredible place to work and a fascinating thing to watch grow.

But, what’s more exciting than that?  Watching individuals leverage the same tools as corporate giants and make a positive change on the world.

That’s the best part of social media: it is an equalizer of sorts.  It provides much the same opportunities to everyone, whether you are that corporate giant or a teenage with an idea.  No matter who you are or where you live (obviously, granted you have Internet access), you can use the same tools as anyone else to harness the collective energy of others around the world who hear your call, believe in your missing, and think you’ve got a pretty great idea about helping out.

Why Social Media for Social Change?

Social change projects may take the shape of a traditional or recognized nonprofit organization or an individual with an idea, a venture capitalist or a marketer, a team of developers or a college kid who wants to make an impact.  These social change projects rely on communities coming together to succeed (whether they are identified by a shared geography, issue, cause, or personal characteristic) in making a real difference in our world. Social media tools allow people to come together online in new ways and across barriers.  The tools are only useful, engaging, and successful when used as part of a community (how fun is it to use Facebook without any friends?). Thus, tools that create community are great for communities making change.

What’s the Next Step?

Many organizations are already taking the next step to collaborate with individuals online.  Now that we all have the power to get engaged, create communities, collaborate on projects, participate in challenges and all the other opportunities for igniting innovation online, organizations are also able to tap some of those individuals in new ways.  Namely, providing individuals who are actively promoting similar services or issues (or have already started championing the organization on their own) with what they need (be it logos and messages, or just feedback and encouragement) to keep doing what they are already doing.

More and more opportunities appear every day for individuals to really become champions for organizations and causes in a dynamic way.  As organizations become more open to using and then actually create social media strategies, it’s important that they highlight these individuals, support them, and thank them(!) for their passions and contributions.

A volunteer who comes to the office every Friday to help with general operating support is something most organizaitons can understand and have probably experienced.  It’s a new world to imagine a volunteer who, usually without even contacting the organization, spends time every week telling people about your work, why they should care, and how they can help.  Tapping that passion and energy is important and providing those volunteers with the simple supports they need to more effectively support the organization is invaluable.

So…What’s this have to do with MLK Day?

I joined the cause to Answer Obama’s Call to Renew America Together.  I know there are lots of excellent things taking place back in Portland today, but it’s not a holiday over here in London.  It was a Monday like any other, really: conference calls, emails, deadlines, etc.  So, I felt like I was disconnected. Today was not day I wanted to be disconnected.

So, I started thinking about how much power all of us have individually, as well as nonprofits and social enterprises, thanks to the social web.  We are making a difference in the world.  We even saw the man who will be signed in tomorrow as President of the United States harness the passion and power of individuals online to win his office.  With social media, we can work together on the social change we seek.

Yes We Can.

MLK Day: Social Media + Social Change
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