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Internet interaction -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Internet interaction

Online ‘word of mouth’ helps Habitat for Humanity.
By Duane Bates



These days, while Habitat volunteers are busy building real-life communities around the world, they also can help build another kind of community: an online network.

Social media Web sites, such as Facebook, are a new way for Habitat supporters to connect and interact. This “word of mouth” sharing of experiences is one of the easiest ways to support Habitat in its affordable-housing mission.

For example, in a recent call for volunteers for the 2009 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project that was posted on Habitat’s Facebook page, several supporters posted comments saying they would love to attend the build in Southeast Asia but lacked the funds.

Habitat Facebook fan Diane McDonald-Nall, a house leader for South Collin County Habitat in Texas, knew from personal experience that this shouldn’t be an absolute deterrent, and so she posted encouragement on Habitat’s Facebook wall. “I’m headed there in November—Habitat will set you up with a fundraising page. Amazing the people that are eager to help out financially,” she wrote.

Her short post attracted the attention of LuAnne Ryall. After a short online exchange with McDonald-Nall, Ryall set up her own Web page and raised enough money to attend the Carter Work Project. McDonald-Nall’s post also encouraged others to sign up for the build. “I was happy to be able to pass on some information that encouraged at least two other people to apply for the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter build,” McDonald-Nall says. “It’s great to make those connections.”

Thousands of conversations like these are being posted on social media sites every day, and Habitat for Humanity International’s presence on six social media sites has begun to engage more people in the cause of affordable housing:

In addition to a fan page on Facebook, a Twitter account posts multiple daily updates with news about house builds, volunteer stories and opportunities, and major announcements.

  • YouTube’s Habitat channel hosts the organization’s videos, including public service announcements and videos showing builds both in the United States and around the world.
  • Habitat’s Flickr account invites supporters to post and share their volunteer photos.
  • A group on LinkedIn connects professionals who are interested in networking and discussing their common interest in Habitat.
  • A Habitat iGoogle banner can be used to personalize a Google homepage.

Many Habitat affiliates in the United States, as well as national organizations around the world, also have social media sites that speak directly to Habitat’s work in local communities. Hundreds of Habitat organizations have a presence on Facebook and dozens share their news on Twitter.

“Habitat for Humanity has always had a network of caring individuals who work together to help improve people’s lives,” says Donald Bonin, Habitat’s senior director of organizational outreach. “Online communities are a natural extension of Habitat’s work with volunteers, and we ask that supporters join us online and tell others about these Web sites.”

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