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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Engage:SD -- Rural Learning Center Offers Social Media Help for Non-Profits

The Rural Learning Center is giving me all sorts of things to think about this week. RLC's blog, Reimagine Rural, announces an interesting new project, Engage:SD. The project's purpose is to help small non-profit organizations learn how to use social media—not just billboard Web pages, but blogs, wikis, Facebook, forums, and all the other online tools people can use to interact, share, and build texts and ideas together.

What will Engage:SD actually do?
  1. Engage:SD is offering eight online seminars on using online tools for branding, sustaining community conversations, and organizing non-profit action and events. These webinars run from July 27 (that's next week! sign up already!) to December 21.
  2. They'll give five $2500 grants for technical assistance in developing social media strategy. Non-profits focusing on rural community or economic development get first dibs, but RLC is open to other applicants who can make the case that they can put a social media grant to good use.
  3. They'll also host some in-person skill-building workshops where non-profit staff can come learn to use Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Flickr, and Delicious (what, no Blogger? ;-) )
I dig this project. It is exactly the sort of collaborative effort rural organizations need to acquire social media skills. Most rural non-profit groups are too small to have staff dedicated to marketing or Web work. Take our local Habitat for Humanity chapter: their Facebook page and website, along with their Shelter Fest online info, aren't products of rigorously designed social media marketing campaign sustained by an information systems specialist. They're all set up by my wife, the board secretary, who marshals her marketing experience, sparkly enthusiasm, and occasional Web advice from her blogger husband into Web presence for the organization. That Web presence happens because the group just happens to have a volunteer interested in that kind of work who can find a few spare moments amidst the general business of the organization to tinker online.

Engage:SD offers small non-profits like Habitat ECSD some training and practical tips that they probably couldn't afford on their own. The Rural Learning Center can snag a social media expert and share her knowledge with a whole bunch of groups at once, making a difference in a bunch of communities simultaneously in a way that scattered individual non-profits could not.

If you're running a little non-profit on the prairie, fighting the good fight for small-town arts or business recruitment or social justice, you'll want to look into Engage:SD. This program could give your group a little Web boost to help you connect with your community and get things done.

1 comment:

  1. Chris Francis7/21/2010 8:37 AM

    I signed up last week for the arts council, it's a really cool opportunity to take advantage of, even if you have existing social media technologies up and running, it's building on those with their insight and experience that attracts my interest.

    Also, the Mundt Library has a new online resource, the Foundation Center, which is a detailed database of grants and related opportunities, only 3 sites in SD have this tool, Rapid, Pierre, and us. Quite cool indeed!

    Looks like Wordpress has a few friends in Howard too, great minds...


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