Another new Online Social Network? The Giving Network

Water.org today introduced The Giving Network, a social media platform that empowers nonprofits to engage people in a more compelling, collaborative experience around social issues and causes while making it easier than ever to share those experiences with friends and followers across their social networks.

An open source initiative, The Giving Network will be made available to nonprofits to adapt and customize as needed to serve their key stakeholder communities and project goals. The platform was built using the Django framework and incorporates support for Facebook® Platform, Twitter OAuth and Google Maps while also integrating content from Flickr, Vimeo and WordPress. A first example of how it could be applied is our.Water.org, a beta implementation of the project that allows online communities to track clean water and sanitation projects in Tigray, Ethiopia. This site will serve as a user testing platform to collect feedback for future releases of the project.

“People don’t want another social networking tool. Instead, they’re looking for more meaningful ways to use the ones they’ve already embraced,” said Mike McCamon, chief community officer at Water.org. “The Giving Network connects to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to help people self-organize around key projects and interests in order to have a more meaningful social experience. This tool applies to every organization that wants to bring greater transparency to reporting on field-based work for management, partners and donors.”

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity recognize the importance of this concept. “Water.org’s online community is an ambitious effort to bring the donor closer to the work in the field, which is a concept important to us also at Habitat for Humanity International,” said Dave McMurtry, senior vice president of strategy at Habitat for Humanity International, after reviewing our.Water.org.

Since late last year, Water.org has built and deployed a variety of online engagement tools that integrate with popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. In October 2009, Water.org launched its Retweet tool, which allows users to donate their Twitter status to a cause. In March 2010, Water.org partnered with the ONE Campaign to build awareness of the safe water crisis during World Water Week by incorporating technology developed for this initiatve. As a result, more than 15,000 people “donated” their Twitter and/or Facebook status to the one-week campaign.

As recent events in Haiti have shown, the nonprofit community can leverage the power of social media to address short-term needs in crisis situations. The Giving Network was conceived and designed as a way to more deeply engage and sustain these valuable communities of support for the longer-term.

About Water.org

Water.org is a non-profit organization whose founders have transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia and Latin America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, Water.org works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Its microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector.

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