Social web is maturing, and that’s great news for nonprofits. In the early days, we complained about navel-gazing Facebook posts and Tweets about the dog throwing up. Now I see posts like a series from a videographer friend who tapes useful side by side camera tests and puts them on his Facebook Page.  Or this interesting study by Twitter showing that some of the heaviest volume retweets are coming from evangelist pastors, not famous celebs.  With the evolution of crowdraising sites like Crowdrise, virtual engagement around conferences, and flexible editing tools like FinalCutPro X and Adobe Premiere, nonprofits can compete with corporate communicators.

Where I see the lag now is in learning how to curate and manage all the assets these great organizations are busy acquiring. I have several nonprofit clients who have literally millions of untagged photos, and they are still out shooting more at every event. Can you imagine if you walked into a library and there were just random boxes of books on every surface? And the librarian–if you could find one–told you “yeah, we probably have that book here somewhere. I think the cover was green.” So I’m doing a lot more training on building systems to archive, tag and curate all the digital assets that can then be re-used by nonprofits, bringing down the costs of telling their mission story.

Along with asset management comes a need to have the Right Kind of assets.  So if you are planning to post a flip-cam video to a large conference screen, you’ll probably be disappointed when you see lots of pixilation and unusable audio.  And if you want to post a fun series of shots from your conference on YouTube, along with a soundtrack from Billy Joel, you’ll need to be sure you’ve got sync rights cleared first.  Things were a little more loose in the early days, but now social web consumers are expecting High-Def videos that they can actually see and hear, and license-holders are expecting payment when their copyrighted materials are used online.

Asset workflow, curation, management and rights clearances can all be stumbling blocks to nonprofits communicating around important, mission-driven work. Don’t let them trip you up. Take action steps instead:

  1. Build a library system—it can be as simple as creating a useful folder structure on your server—and educate everyone on the communication team on how to use it.
  2. Assign asset curation and metatagging duties to team members BEFORE an event occurs at which you will be photographing/videotaping/interviewing. Interns can tag, but leadership must be involved in setting up the system.
  3. Create standards, so that outside vendors know what formats you like to acquire in.  For non-professionals, be sure to get the highest quality versions you can—not just the miniature files they post on Facebook.
  4. Engage your donors in building a wonderful archive of images, stories and video content that tells the story of your mission—from the past to the present.
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