Social Media and Social Change: Nonprofits and Using Social Media Strategies to Meet Advocacy Goals

Social Media and Social Change: Nonprofits and Using Social Media Strategies to Meet Advocacy Goals

Lauri Goldkind (Fordham University, USA) and John G. McNutt (University of Delaware, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8614-4.ch002
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Abstract

Technological advances in communications tools, the Internet, and the advent of social media have changed the ways in which nonprofit organizations engage with their various constituents. Nonprofits now have a constellation of tools including: interactive social media sites, mobile applications (apps), Websites, and mash-ups that allow them to create a comprehensive system for mobilizing supports to advocate for changing public policies. From Facebook to Twitter and from YouTube to Pinterest, communicating to many via words and images has never been easier. The authors explore the history of nonprofit advocacy and organizing, describe the social media and technology tools available for moving advocacy goals forward, and conclude with some possible challenges that organizations considering these tools could face.
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Advocacy In The Nonprofit Social Services Sector

Nonprofit social service organizations have historically worked with the poor and oppressed in society (Trattner 2007). They are at the center of hot button issues such as poverty, domestic violence, immigration, health care reform and so forth. While much of this is direct service related, nonprofit organizations also engage in advocacy to change policies and protect the vulnerable (Berry & Arons, 2002; Jenkins, 1987; Libby, 2011; Bass, Arons, Guinane, & Carter, 2007). This means that these organizations have become adept at organizing communities, creating media campaigns, lobbying lawmakers and raising public awareness about issues and problems. This effort dovetails with the efforts of social movement organizations who have broader social change goals.

Advocacy or the constellation of activities which positions individuals and organizations in the public sphere to create dialog and change on behalf of communities and populations of individuals is often thought to be a core activity of the nonprofit social services sector. Yet a growing body of research suggests that nonprofit engagement in policy advocacy activities is often far less than expected (Mosley, 2010; Berry & Arons, 2002; Bass, Arons, Guinane & Carter, 2007).

The broad umbrella of advocacy as a collection of behaviors also includes a range of goals that organizations may wish to achieve. These activities might be characterized as more self-interested organizational advocacy (e.g., advocacy to protect agency funding) in contrast to progressive advocacy, defined as advocacy addressing underlying structural and power inequities (Donaldson, 2008). Progressive advocacy’s goal is to advance the interests of a non-profit’s constituents, rather than the organization’s interests, and fully engages constituents in the advocacy process (Donaldson, 2008).

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