We blogged about the Twitter Blanket Drive yesterday and it’s made me think about the sheer power that Social Media has for charities and NGO’s.

We’ve all heard of the power of social media for business, how it’s the next, or rather, current big thing that we need to embrace to ensure we don’t lose out on what social media has to offer. Generally, we’re saying all of this directly to business. The #TBD made me think of the massive opportunities that Social Media can offer NGOs.

I’ve worked in the NGO sector a few years ago, I know a bit about how many of these machines work, probably not too different to a lot of businesses actually.

Someone comes up with a good idea, they’ve heard about this thing called Twitter, they even have a case study to show how it can be successful. They get excited about it. They want to sign up for their Twitter account immediately – which they do, under their personal capacity. They do it on their phone, whether or not you’ve given them Internet access during work hours.

The individual is connected, they see the benefits and they want to get their NGO (or business) on board and benefiting. Problem is, the next board meeting is in 6 weeks time. Such a decision like ‘exposing your brand’ on Twitter, and ‘exposing yourself ‘in this space needs sign off from the board. 6 Weeks pass, the initial excitement of the project has dulled a little, but it’s still presented – Presented to 10 people who (in the NGO world) have probably given up their time freely and out of the goodness of their hearts to spend a day strategising and advising the NGO. They’re in a position in their careers to do so – they bring a depth of experience and knowledge, they are expertise in their fields and I have no doubt are hugely valuable with the advice they bring to the charities of the boards that they sit on.

Problem is – they’ve never heard of Twitter. They’re still signing off on the budget for the direct mailing campaign. The young snot who is suggesting Twitter  has had to do so via their branch manager’s report, which then gets reported at the board via the regional manager. Often, if the board like the idea, they want a fuller picture, a better explanation which gets re-presented 6 weeks later for review.

Twitter is given the go ahead,  now 12 weeks later – maybe with a few clauses? Perhaps tweets have to be approved,  or maybe there is a restricted number of tweets per day, they don’t want this Twitter thing to get in the way of work of course!

The thing is that they’ve missed the point, they’ve missed the initial excitement and expertise that the young snot has brought to the table – they’ve missed the fact that the young snot just gets Twitter – interacting via his mobile phone is a part of who he is – he doesn’t necessarily need training in this space – he gets it.

They’ve also potentially missed a massive opportunity. If Melanie Minnaar had to get the concept of the #TBD approved before putting that first tweet out, I wonder if she would have had the energy and the inclination to do so.  If she had to wait for 6 weeks to get the concept approved she would have had the blankets ready for delivery after they were needed, and if she was restricted in how or when she could tweet, who knows if the response would have been the same.

There’s an amazing community of people, real people, out there on the other side of Twitter. They respond, they care, they’re intelligent (well, a lot of them!).

Here’s my advice to NGO’s, and even business’s – sometimes we just need to give something a go, let someone be creative, trust the people you’ve hired to do a good job and get rid of some of the red tape – there are amazing things that are waiting to be achieved out there. The #TBD is proof!

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