Back in 2008, many Americans got their first taste of social networking for good through the Web site mybarack obama.com (or "MyBO" as it came to be known). The site engaged Barack Obama supporters online with a goal of inspiring action offline — attending events, canvassing, phone banking and, of course, donating.
For smaller organizations, particularly those with limited staff and budgets for communications (that means you, I'm guessing), developing and maintaining a rich community site seems like a daunting proposition — and the fundraising value perhaps questionable.
Enter Ning. Ning is an online platform through which you can create your own social-networking site — or community site. Believe in mythical creatures and want to find others who do? There's a Ning site for that. Want to connect with other working moms? There's a Ning site for that, too. There's even a "Ning for Dummies" Ning site — a network for new Ning network creators.
Ning allows you to build a basic site for free or customize it (turning off advertising and other features) for a nominal monthly fee.
Manny Hernandez and Ning
In 2007, an enterprising guy named Manny Hernandez launched TuDiabetes.org on the Ning platform to provide a way for diabetics to connect with peers. (Hernandez was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002.) In 2008, he founded and currently leads the Diabetes Hands Foundation — the nonprofit behind the community. Today, TuDiabetes.org (aka TuDiabetes.com) has more than 10,000 members connecting on a multi- tude of topics.
Hernandez spent significant time customizing Ning to meet his community's needs — turning on and off features, adapting the design, and more. The result is a site that doesn't feel generic. In fact, Hernandez learned so much he even authored the book "Ning for Dummies" (John Wiley and Sons, 2009).