By: Angela Garcia, Deputy Director, Global Links
To begin, I need to clarify that I am not an IT professional. Although I am computer literate and comfortable using traditional office software applications, I am not enthralled by the latest advances in technology, nor do I yearn for more gadgetry beyond my simple desktop computer. I look forward to turning off my computer after work is complete to relax with non-wired hobbies (books: “wireless” bliss!). If it were not for the generous support of one of our Board members, an IT professional, Global Links’ computer network would not run as smoothly as it does.
As so often happens in small non-profits, however, someone had to be the daily trouble-shooter, and with the endless phone support of our faithful Board member, I became our office’s “accidental techie” years ago. What began with regular rebooting and update installations has morphed over the years into the web-based frontier of social media and online fundraising.
Global Links did not use any social media as of two years ago. We did not use Google for anything other than searching the web, and we did not we see a large volume of online donations. When volunteers or supporters asked if we were on Facebook or Twitter, I cringed, since I truly considered Facebook a “young people’s” network that was used for virtual high school reunions and meaningless chatter. I preferred to use our limited staff resources to maintain our website, although we weren’t pro-active about driving traffic to our much-loved website.
When the Haiti disaster occurred in January 2010, our office was overwhelmed by inquiries and offers to help. We had a difficult time keeping each other updated on the continually-changing status updates and planning, let alone respond to the flood of phone calls. Disaster response moves at lightning speed, but changes every hour, and a frantic pace came over our office. A few days after the earthquake, several of us were in the office on a Saturday, including two new staff that were in training. Unable to focus on the training program in light of the disaster, I asked one of the new employees (a recent college graduate) to set up a Facebook page for Global Links. I drafted a summary of the disaster situation, Global Links’ response and how our network of supporters could get involved, including a note to Fan our Facebook page for more regular updates. We then sent this out via email to our staff and supporters.
In the days that followed, we posted special volunteer shifts as quickly as we set them up. We put out calls for financial support and linked to our website donations page. We posted news stories that brought more perspectives to our work. We posted requests for in-kind donations as we identified them over the coming weeks. We posted video clips taken with our simple Flip camera when our staff traveled to Haiti, and began making simple videos for posting to YouTube and linking to our Facebook page.
Within a few months, we reached over 500 fans. During that time, I was converted into a true Facebook fan due to the ease with which we could post pictures, videos, event information, requests and information as well as see how our fans reacted in near real time.
Thanks to our newfound fascination with other online tools such as Google Analytics (which our webmaster eagerly checks weekly to see where our web traffic is generated); we know that we drive about 50 visitors to our website each month from Facebook. Global Links now has almost 1,000 fans, and I have assumed the role of Facebook editor for our organization. I only spend a few minutes each week posting our updates based on news from each of our departments. I enjoy watching new people join our ranks from all over the globe and react to our news through “likes.”
With an increased understanding of the power of the web and social media, we have found the medium to be very effective in communicating with a new audience and in keeping them better updated on our programs and events. By assigning one staff person who regularly communicates with departments or programs throughout an organization, it is very do-able to post information regularly. The key for us has been to coordinate all of our communications and marketing materials to demonstrate to constituents that an easy way to follow our work and learn how to get more involved is to “Find Us on Facebook!”
To learn more about Global Links, you can find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Global-Links/289952339501 or visit their website at http://www.globallinks.org/.