Charity Offers Social-Media Tools Other Groups Can Use

When makes progress on building a new water-sanitation project in Tigray, Ethiopia, it isn’t waiting until the project is complete to share the story.

Whenever it installs a hand pump, mobilizes villagers to help carry sand, or repairs an old well, the charity’s workers update supporters online. Those supporters are given simple-to-use tools that allow them to broadcast the updates to their Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

“The days are gone when you can simply report your progress in a printed annual report,” says Mike McCamon,’s chief community officer. “The more we can do to deliver on experiences people are having on the Web, the more effective we’ll be. Immediacy of information and transparency are essential.”

That’s the thinking behind The Giving Network,’s new online project to make it easier for nonprofit groups to connect people to its work.—the charity started by the actor Matt Damon to raise money for water sanitation in developing countries—is using the project in Tigray to test the new approach to spreading its message.

Ultimately, however, it wants the portal to be available for use by all charities. As a result, the project is open source. It uses a Django platform that incorporates support for Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps, and can also display content from the photo-sharing site Flickr, the video site Vimeo, and the blogging platform WordPress.

The project is still in its early stages, but it bears watching for other nonprofit groups that are looking to incorporate social networks more actively into their work online.

In fact, groups like Habitat for Humanity are already looking at how to use the platform in their work.

“Most people find out about nonprofits through their friends and family,” Mr. McCamon says. “My friends and family know what I’m doing through my updates on Facebook.

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