There are any number of ways a nonprofit can make a document available to readers
online. You can publish the text itself on your website, provide a
download link for the document, or email a copy to those on your opt-in
mailing list. You can even embed a PDF file or Powerpoint presentation
in a web page. But those publishing methods won’t carry your words
very far beyond your existing audience. Combine the convenience of
online document sharing with the power of social networking, however, and
a “social publishing” tool like Scribd.com could ramp up your outreach.
With more than 50,000 documents uploaded daily in 90 different
languages, and 50 million readers each month, Scribd.com has built an
online community around document sharing. You can upload your own
documents (by email, web, or from their desktop), search out and read
or download the documents of others (by tag, category, keyword, or
user), give a "thumbs up" or leave a comment, save your favorites, connect with other users in
groups based on similar interests, and share any Scribd-published
documents in a dozen different ways.
It’s an elegant solution to sharing large documents easily. Anyone who can see a YouTube video has the technology to read these online publications. And because documents are stored on Scribd's server, not your own webspace, cost of bandwidth is no barrier to to nonprofits who want to publish widely and often.
publishing on Scribd really help to promote your message to a new
Last week, a friend sent me a link to an academic paper, Nonprofit 2.0: Blogs, online videos and Facebook to promote your mission,
written by Aaron Stiner as part of his nonprofit studies at Arizona
State University. (She drew it to my attention because Wild Apricot was
mentioned in the text — and its worth noting without that bit of person-to-person social sharing, the
work would probably have escaped my notice.) I followed the link to Scribd.com, read the document right there on the website, and was immediately taken with Stiner’s explanation of Web 2.0:
The internet has become not only a medium for consuming
information, but also a platform upon which every user has the power to
produce content as well. … [Instead of] the flow of content moving
unilaterally from the producer to the consumer, Web 2.0 is based on
user centered applications that promote communication, user
empowerment, collaboration and social networking.
Stiner goes on to explore, as his title suggests, how nonprofits can
use three key Web 2.0 tools in promoting their causes. It’s a
thoughtful and idea-rich treatment of the topic, and a good
introduction for nonprofits who are just beginning to explore blogging
and other social media.
Since reading the document, I’ve used Scribd's tools to download a copy for myself, email the
link to several colleagues, bookmark it on Delicious, share it on StumbleUpon, and even embed the iPaper reader
on this web page. (See below -- go ahead, click the toolbar buttons to try it out!) And I'm just one reader. Not bad mileage, eh?
“With the self-description of ‘democratizing publishing’ through its
document sharing community, it’s hard not to be immediately intrigued,”
says SocialButtrfly Alexandra Rampy, who has also been exploring Scribd.com this week.
The challenge, inevitably, lies in sorting the wheat from the chaff
— finding valuable reading material on a specific topic, quickly and
Finding Nonprofits on Scribd.com
Scribd.com is a veritable gold mine of information you may not find
elsewhere online, but documents of specific interest to nonprofits are
scattered across different categories based on document types — eBooks,
academic papers, spreadsheets, and so on. Listing by topics
is apparently still very much a work-in-progress: Programming, origami,
and the 2008 US Election are all in the brief topic list, but nothing
there yet for nonprofit interests. And only a handful of Groups are
self-identified as nonprofits.
The best option at the moment may be to search by tags, even though
every user will choose and use tags in a slightly different way: For
example, a search today on Scribd’s tag/nonprofit shows 321 documents, while tag/nonprofits
(plural) shows 16 documents in the results. Enter “nonprofit” or
“nonprofits” as simple search terms, however, and the results list many
thousands of documents as containing those words.
Online communities like Scribd have the potential to be an invaluable resource for
nonprofits, for teaching and learning, sharing information and
promoting their cause, and connecting with other nonprofits who pursue
a compatible mission. (As Alexandra Rampy asks her readers, “what would ‘social publishing’ through a non-profit/social change lens look like?”) It’s a powerful concept, this "social publishing" —
and perhaps we simply need to figure out how to better focus the tools, to make it an even more valuable tool for nonprofits?