A little while back I came across a post by Allen Benamer that outlines a hierarchy of technology needs for non-profits.
I think it’s a great post, and generally agree with his advice around the range of needs (ranging from “mission” to “social media”). However, I do wonder about placing “social media” as the last slice on the pyramid. I wonder because perhaps this misses potential opportunities for social media to act in place of a more traditional website.
This might take a number of forms – but by way of example: a non-profit may consider using a blog hosted on the open-source WordPress platform instead of a more traditional website. This is a (fairly obvious) use of social media that enables non-profits to launch a site at very low cost.
But maybe we can take that a step further: perhaps nowadays it’s enough to have a solid presence on MySpace, Facebook or Ning – that such tools may provide a sufficient touch-stone for donors and other constituents to learn what they need about an organisation’s activities, negating the need for a fully-fledged website?
In fact, in some respects such a presence, embedded within the social networks (that Allen places 3rd in the hierarchy) may have significant benefits that investing in a traditional website first would miss.
An extreme example of this is the Modernista! website (the site is no longer live), which essentially leverages a variety of social media tools (Flickr, Youtube and a blog) to fulfill the purpose of a traditional website. Or Nau’s use of Flickr to promote their relaunch before their main website was up and running – in this case being a “teaser” campaign of sorts.
Depending on the non-profit, a variety of social media spaces could be used creatively to circumvent – or at least delay – the need for (usually significant) investment in a traditional website.
Just to be clear: I am playing “devil’s advocate” here to a degree – there’s no doubt that a solid corporate web presence will benefit a non-profit – but I think it’s worth challenging the argument that social media should be the last thing to think about as a non-profit, especially when so many benefits can be derived from considering them earlier in a non-profit’s development.