03 Nov Five Reasons Your Nonprofit Needs An Internal Social Network
While widespread in the corporate business world, internal social networks are becoming increasingly common among nonprofits. Knowledge is the primary resource and asset for all companies. However, when that knowledge is locked away in people’s heads in disconnected offices throughout the city, across the country, or around the world, it has limited impact. It is stagnant, not flowing. Internal social network usage in the nonprofit realm serves a variety of purposes, from documenting operating procedures to promoting communications and sharing knowledge internally.
Here are 5 reasons your nonprofit needs an internal social network:
1) Trainings and Meetings
Many nonprofits rely heavily on volunteer help and support. Whether it be for day-to-day tasks or special events, basic training or common practices and procedures are a must so that everyone is on the same page. While it would be fantastic for all volunteers and staff to be available for training and orientation meetings during the designated time, the fact is that having 100% attendance rate or even 100% attention and retention rate for those who attend is next to impossible. An internal social network is a fantastic resource to house training videos for those who are unable to attend or who would like a refresher course. Having everything available in one place saves time by not having to schedule multiple meetings to fit everyone’s schedules. It is great way to streamline training. Additionally, being able to ask and answer questions in context to the posted information allows for a fluid understanding. This feature minimizes repetitive questions and allows members to help one another, sharing their knowledge and perspective of the meeting or training. Documents, contact information, and forms can be stored, eliminating the multiple queries such as “Do you mind sending me that sign up sheet for Thursday’s event again…I can’t find it anywhere?”, that we are all too familiar with. Nothing is move valuable than a conversation in context. While the volunteering aspect itself can be very flexible, many times, people are reluctant to sign up because the training session doesn’t line up with their free time. Imagine how many more sign ups and committed volunteers you can attain and retain by having a safe and secure online resource for training and orientation made available for people at their leisure.
2) Grant Writing
If you are in the nonprofit realm, grant writing is all too familiar to you. Whether you are the one drafting the document, the one proof reading it, or the one approving it before sending it off, it can be a monotonous process: file sharing back and forth, checking to make sure you sent the most up to date version, making edits, sending it back…wait a second did you send the right one? It goes on and on. An internal social network serves as an excellent tool to work collaboratively on documents such as grants. The most current draft can be shared amongst approved members and can be saved and stored for future reference. It can also be edited collaboratively, negating the inevitable “I lost it in the flurry of threads in my inbox”. Templates and proposals can be filed away as quick referable resources. When pressed for time and with deadlines looming, having quick and direct access to the most current file is worth more than just a few pennies. Members can also share grants that come into their radar instantly, allowing the opportunity to act quickly. It is crucial that you build relationships with funders, just as you do with individual donors. As you start relationships and search for funders, you can house all the information in your private network allowing approved staff to be on the same page while corresponding.
3) Centrally Manage Projects
Serving as a collaborative one-stop-shop, internal social networks allows staff members and other approved members a myriad of useful resources such as staff directories, event calendars, organizational announcements, how-to information on a wide variety of day-to-day tasks, forms and organizational documents, and human resources information. While the topics at hand may be lacking in the thrill department, think about all the time saved by not having to sift through an overflowing inbox looking for forms or the stack of papers piled on your desk with the signup sheet for the department pitch-in.
As stated earlier, nonprofit organizations often require support from a variety of volunteers to assist with the daily fulfillment of important tasks and goals. The ability to create and share updates in a secure way allows for collaboration and facilitates the discovery of important information. With an internal social network, scheduling events and assigning tasks in a centrally located space allows for fluid understanding and transparency when delegating tasks. When it comes to having an internal social network, like in the corporate sphere, nonprofit social tools must have an essence of community that resonates throughout. This fact is not lost on our team. Keeping your brand and organizational voice coupled with the ability to project it to a larger audience is an invaluable asset.
4) Collaborate Across Charity and Nonprofit Teams
Permission-based activity streams allow departments and project teams to securely share information and collaborate in real-time. This is not only fantastic for in-house communication and discussion but also very advantageous when collaborating with other nonprofits or organizations who have similar goals. Combining resources and sharing knowledge with those outside of your organization can be most beneficial. Maybe you come across a new event or fundraising opportunity, or maybe you want to combine resources to better impact the community. In either case, an internal private social network is a great way to organize such things. This provides the opportunity for other experienced and trusted individuals in the nonprofit realm to share information with your organization as well. Would you prefer to sift through your inbox plugging in random search terms trying to find an email sent to you two weeks ago, or log on to your internal social network and go to the designated collaborative group to find exactly what you are looking for with one click? What if you could post as question pertaining to anything from details surrounding a volunteer opportunity, queries about best practices when applying/requesting funding, or an opinion about the best place to hold a fundraising event in town?
An internal social network encourages discussion. Increased dialogue and inclusion of a larger community is always beneficial for any nonprofit organization. The more the community can interact and be involved not only with the organization, but also one another, the more momentum your cause can gather. And who doesn’t want to spread the word more about their cause?!
5) Streamlining Communication
The simple ability to easily find the most up-to-date, vetted, and approved version of any given document is a big time saver- allowing people to work more efficiently. An internal social network also supports the needs of board members, volunteers, consultants, and other stakeholders, all of whom have a level of access appropriate to their needs. Having everything well organized and easily navigable makes using these tools easy for members. Organizations often send out monthly or quarterly newsletters, we all get them. And if we are being honest, we don’t always read the entire document, or even read it at all. Additionally, people may share things outside of meetings with others not in attendance. So the game of Telephone begins. What is fact and fiction? What if instead of sending out a dense/long winded document occasionally that has low readership and water cooler gossip, your organization used a private social network to communicate internally with staff the most up-to-date information in real time? Did your organization just receive an award? Why wait until the end of the month to announce it in a newsletter?
Nonprofits Collaborate On Internal Social Networks
Social networking and social software platforms, like internal social networks, can be an incredible assets to nonprofit organizations or social groups that represent a cause or the need to create awareness. Whether you are a nonprofit helping inner-city children learn to read, an animal rescue facility, an art museum, an association raising awareness for a cause, or a food pantry, having a central space for knowledge sharing is key to continued success and a huge time saver. Internal social networks are centers of collaboration, awareness building, information resources, education hubs, discussion rooms, invitations to participate, and so much more. A central source for information can help make sure everyone’s on the same page, increase efficiency, and allow staff to turn their attention away from administrative duties and focus on strategic mission-focused tasks.
Is your nonprofit currently using an internal social network? I am very passionate about nonprofits and am excited to hear how you are using social tools to help change the world for the better. I welcome your comments.