Social Media Chat

The Power of Social Media

This week’s #smchat is a little different. Think of it as a Halloween special … we’re going to put all the wonderful tips, advice, best practices, and lessons learned into action and give one lucky nonprofit a social media facelift.

Since 140c doesn’t allow for a lot of background, here’s a quick Q&A with Ben Smilowitz (@BENatDAP), Executive Director of the Disaster Accountability Project (@disasteraccount).


Briefly describe your organization.

The Disaster Accountability project is a nonprofit watchdog of disaster management systems. When disaster management systems are working,
people don't have to suffer. It was started in 2007 (after Hurricane Katrina) to improve disaster management systems through public accountability, citizen oversight and engagement, and policy research and advocacy.

Disaster Accountability Project focuses on these activities:

1) Policy/Legal Research and Advocacy:  Tracking thousands of post-Katrina recommendations to improve disaster management systems to make sure problems do not reoccur.

2) Hotline to receive reports of gaps in disaster services before, during, and after disasters to help ensure people do not fall through the cracks and to make sure those responsible (government and non-gov) for providing critical services are doing their jobs. 

3) Citizen Engagement in vulnerable communities so important questions are getting asked to ensure all-hazard emergency plans are available to the public, modern, and include everyone.

4) Relief Oversight works to improve transparency in relief efforts so regular, factual information about what relief groups are doing is publicly available.  Donors should
not have to rely only on appeals to emotion and the public should have the information it needs to decide which groups have the capacity to deliver critical services and organizations need the information so they can coordinate with each other to do their jobs effectively.

What social media activities are you as an organization presently doing? And which platforms are you on?


Twitter: @disasteraccount (Tweetdeck)

Facebook Cause:

Facebook Fan Page:

Constant Contact Email list (not so frequent updates):

Blog:  (Wordpress)

Websites: and

(both websites are currently getting re-dos in drupal and currently have volunteer developer teams working on them)

Scribd:  (nearly 10,000 reads!! 
Haiti report has had over 7,000!)

YouTube:  (not recently updated)


Why did you select those activities/platforms?

Best advice from allies/supporters... they've generally worked.


What do you hope to gain via your social media networks? (i.e. how, if at all, does this effort work into your overall strategy?)

Branding, Supporters, Donations, Exposure, Programmatic Impact.
For example, if the American Red Cross does not respond to an information request about their relief or preparedness activities or policy,
we may ask the question publicly using Twitter. We may ask FEMA questions publicly via Twitter. We've had reporters find us via Twitter.

What's your greatest social media challenge?

How do we convert this to donations?  How do we capture supporters that will donate to our work?  (doesn't
everyone want to know this? - but who is actually getting this right?)


So please join in and offer your sage advice!

Oh, and for those of you I haven't yet met, I'm Rabia Shirazi (@realize_ink by
day, @rabiashirazi when I'm not working, which is pretty much never), #smchat's
resident non-profiteer and social change gal. I also run a strategic
communications shop exclusively for the changemaking community and am always
eager to engage in good conversations with smart people like yourselves. I'm
very excited to host this #smchat series and welcome your feedback and
additional questions/topics to consider.

Tags: change, nonprofit, social

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