Craigslist and Nonprofit Advocacy

photo by acloudman, via Flickr

At my house, we love Craigslist. We found much of our kids’ outdoor play equipment on Craigslist and have unloaded a lot of our stuff in the process of home renovations, too. We even found some people to dig up the bushes in our front yard and carry them away, for free, on Craigslist!

But, until I read this post, I’d never thought about how nonprofit organizations might use Craigslist for their work, besides, I guess, as a classifieds section for employment listings.

And then the kind of genius of it struck me. I mean, yes, so most of the people going to Craigslist are either looking for a laugh at some of the “Missed Encounters” posts or scouting out a good deal on some used furniture, but so many eyes see the site (more than 50 million visitors/month, total), and it’s free and so easy to use, that it makes a lot of sense for our work, as well. In addition to posting events, which is a great idea, as discussed in the post above, here are my thoughts about how nonprofits might use Craigslist for advocacy.

Please, if you have any experiences with using Craigslist in your advocacy work, share it in the comments. Or, if you have questions or concerns about how it might apply, I want to hear those too. And if you have a Dora the Explorer Magic House that you’re willing to make a deal on…well, we should talk.

  • Connecting to activists in other parts of the country/region
    There are times when, for the purposes of a specific campaign, you have to extend your reach, and you’re kind of in “cold call” territory. I’ve actually had to get Yellow Pages for some small Kansas towns before to start calling people. Posting something on the Craigslist community section, under ‘groups’ or ‘politics’ or ‘events’ seems like a better way to do that, at least for anything that you’re not trying to keep secret.

  • Seeking volunteers
    I found a couple of postings on our local Craigslist of people looking for volunteer opportunities in nonprofit work, and an organization could both solicit volunteers and respond to those who are reaching out through this medium.

  • Soliciting in-kind donations
    You know, sometimes grassroots community groups need used furniture. And computers. And some of the other stuff that people offer for free (or cheap) on Craigslist. Sure, it would be great if we had the budgets to buy the best of everything but, um, we don’t.

  • Nonprofit organization discussions
    At least here locally, there is a NPO forum where individuals working in nonprofit organizations share ideas, resources, and questions with each other. There are obviously a lot of possibilities here related to coalition-building and campaign development, that warrant further attention, especially because the threads seem to move quickly and attract considerable discussion.

    When combined with promotion of events and recruitment of potential staff, it seems like there are a lot of possibilities for nonprofit advocates on Craigslist–admit it, you’re spending your lunch hour looking for a rug on there anyway, so you could work up a post, too!

  • 2 responses to “Craigslist and Nonprofit Advocacy

    1. The ironic thing, though, is that in many countries (including the U.S.), Craigslist has a human trade section. They claim that it us only used for things like prostitution, but actually it’s used for trafficking and exploitation, too. It’s a love-hate relationship with that website.

      • Caleb, this is horrifying! I seriously had no idea. Where would you even find something like that on Craigslist? As soon as I read your comment, I went to look–do they post it under the personals or something? What can we do to put pressure on Craigslist to increase their surveillance of stuff like this? It’s obviously possible, given the intense self-policing of a site like Wikipedia. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention; I have actually been thinking about you all week, because I just read this Millennial Makeover book about the Millennial generation and their civic-mindedness and the role that faith plays in motivating their participation in public life, and it was like I was reading a description of you! Seriously, let me know if there are any campaigns around Craigslist that I can join–we use it all the time, but we can’t, not if they demonstrate that they don’t care about stopping trafficking.

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