Guest post from Beth J Bates. Beth consults with businesses and nonprofits on social media tool selection and strategy and helps her clients find effective ways to leverage these new mediums to meet marketing goals.
Cultivating a cause is about supporting a community. And while having a website presence is important, supporters are looking for more engagement; not only with the organization but also with each other. A few years ago implementing a community platform was complex and expensive – out of reach of most grassroots nonprofits. Then social media happened.
I founded GoodDogz.org in 2003. I saw a need to educate potential owners on the importance of adding a dog to your family. A dog is a life-long decision and should never be taken lightly. I also wanted to help dog adopters with issues so that dogs stay in homes and out of shelters. GoodDogz.org provides these services through our website and through offline initiatives.
When we created the organization, we launched a website that suited our needs for five years and was well received by our community. The problem? It was too static. While we were providing great information for animal welfare volunteers and dog owners, there was no interaction or engagement.
In 2008, we decided to take the organization to the next level, growing our constituency and expanding our message. Part of this expansion included redesigning the website. And part of the redesign required an online community as well as a variety of other social media tools.
Our GoodDogz.org community would serve the animal welfare cause, enabling dog owners and new adopters to get support for issues like training and health problems. Members could upload photos and share stories and ideas. Rescue groups could also add their adoption events. We ultimately wanted a tool that would allow our members to freely communicate.
In the end, NING was the perfect platform for our needs. In reality it provided us with more than we needed. And more importantly, it’s virtually free. We chose NING because:
· We could easily customize the look and feel to match our new website.
· We could register members and gather demographical information.
· Members could add their own events to a robust calendaring system.
· It included a discussion forum that we could feed into our website homepage.
· It was easy for users to share videos and images and it integrated easily with Flickr.
· It was virtually maintenance free.
We did opt for a few paid services to ensure that our community looked more professional including:
· Ad removal (NING posts ads within your community to offset costs)
· Removal of NING promotional links
The completed community fulfilled all of our goals. We now have a place where dog lovers can meet to get help with issues and share ideas. As part of our 2009 marketing plan, we’ll be offering special programs focusing on the community including a dog adopter support initiative and rescue group “groups” – a place where organizations can have their own homes within the community.
Community is the foundation for causes and nonprofits need to convey that sense of community online. NING is an easy-to-use, inexpensive alternative for online nonprofit communities.
GoodDogz.org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to educating potential dog owners on dog selection and care and supporting the efforts of rescue groups. We believe that by assisting with good dog-owner matches, we’ll give each family the best opportunity for a life-long relationship with their new dog and help to keep dogs out of shelters.