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New Opportunities for Nonprofits Online

It has been a big week for nonprofit organizations looking to use social media to promote their causes.  On Thursday, at the Clinton Global Initiative, YouTube announced the YouTube Nonprofit Program , a way to make it even easier for people to find, watch and engage with nonprofit video content online.

The program works like this: nonprofit organizations in the United States that register will receive their own free nonprofit-specific YouTube channel where they can upload footage of their work, public service announcements, calls to action and the like.  Organizations will also be able to collect donations with no processing costs using a newly launched version of Google Checkout designed specially for nonprofits. At launch, there will be 13 organizations participating in the YouTube Nonprofit Program including the American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, ED in ’08, Friends of the Earth, March of Dimes and The ONE Campaign.

Google is not the only big social media player to offer special opportunities for nonprofits to engage with their audience online — MySpace launched its Impact , Facebook has been offering special development opportunities for groups for months, and Yahoo! and MSN both have dedicated sections.  Of course, there are also dozens of social networks ( Zaadz , Rethos , DoSomething , Care2 , etc.) dedicated to social change and new tools emerging every day.

The platform itself is not the exciting thing – and nonprofits should be careful not to think of the opportunity to launch a profile on YouTube as the solution.  Video presents a powerful opportunity for nonprofit organizations to share their stories, create personal connections with the issues that they address around the globe… and inspire real people to take action.  To be successful, you still need to spend the time and effort to do it right.  I’ll use this space in the coming weeks/months to outline some ways they can do that.

But for now, I applaud YouTube for its announcement and for using the Clinton Global Initiative as the platform from which to deliver it — and I look forward to watching the online landscape continue to change and create new opportunities for nonprofits.

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