Sprouting a Cause
Widgets are dynamic and interactive online tools that can help nonprofits reach supporters and donors where they are — online.
And now, thanks to online widget builder Sprout, nonprofits don’t need computer geniuses on staff to create them.
Sprout is an easy way for anyone to build, publish and manage widgets, said Peter Deitz, a microphilanthropy consultant and founder of Social Actions, which helps individuals, nonprofits and foundations use social media to plan, implement and support peer-to-peer, social-change campaigns.
It’s simple because once widgets are launched, a nonprofit can update all of them from a single control panel and track where they appear and how people use them, Deitz said during the Nonprofit Technology Network webinar “Using Sprout to Get Your Nonprofit’s Message Out (in tact).”
Deitz explained that sprouts can be any size and any number of pages and can include video, audio, images, news feeds and components such as slideshows. Also, they can include Web service components such as Twitter, PollDaddy and ChipIn. Building a sprout is pretty easy, thanks to the pre-made templates at sproutbuilder.com. Users choose from templates for causes, sports teams, musicians or others and then drag in their content to the placeholders.
Deitz recommended adding components like a calendar, countdown clock, progress bar, news feed, video, images or third-party plug-ins.
That’s it. It takes just a few minutes, according to Sprout.
Once a sprout is created, Deitz said, the next step is to publish it. A user simply clicks “publish” to get the Sprout code and embed it into any Web page, according to Sprout. Or a person can use the “quick post” feature to automatically place it into blogs and social-networking sites. Anyone can copy a sprout and spread it virally once it’s published.
The final step is managing the sprout.
“Editing text is as simple as editing Microsoft Word,” Deitz said.
Sprouts can be edited at any time, and all copies in circulation are instantly updated. The “projects” tab contains links to all of your active sprouts, Deitz said.
Sprout also allows people to get stats on locations, views and clicks.
Deitz said several nonprofits already are using sprouts, including KaTREEna Plantometer, The Niapele Project, Every Human Has Rights, NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference 2008, and $40 for 40 Years of Fair Housing.
He offered these three tips for integrating Sprout into your work.
1. “Line up partners to promote your Sprout. Widgets allow for seamless collaboration across organizations. Ask bloggers to embed your widget in a post or in their sidebar. Identify several highly trafficked Web sites to feature your widget, and ask supporters to post your widget on their social-networking profiles.”
2. “Make one widget for your nonprofit and one per project. Once you get the hang of creating sprouts, you’ll want to create a widget per project. Since these widgets are easy to create, quick to update and incredibly versatile, there’s no reason not to.”
3. “Track your sprouts and keep them updated.”
“Long after you put your widgets into the world, they will need your attention. Treat your sprouts as if they were the front page of your Web site, but broken into many pieces and distributed across the Web.”