How To Go Virtual For Activists
Although during the pandemic we have been largely disconnected from our loved ones, people are still figuring out ways to unify in unprecedented ways. The pandemic has exacerbated immense inequality and exposed our fractured system, both in America and across the world. The shock of this tragedy has spurred widespread action: a record number of people are using this time to actively engage and mobilize their communities, the majority through social media.
The Black Lives Matter movement has grown exponentially during the pandemic, catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. Thousands of people in all fifty states are fighting against systemic racism and historical injustice, occupying both the streets and virtual platforms across the internet. A few months ago this caliber of collective action was nonexistent. In the past month, activists have effectively used the internet to create engagement opportunities for everyone, and community organization is flourishing. Other human rights activists and nonprofits have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to maximize their engagement and create change.
What are some strategies to cope with the changes?
One strategy for growing civic engagement and action is to utilize this time to grow your social media following. A significant following on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can help you connect with others who believe and want to fight for your cause. On these platforms, you can look for nonprofits and organizations similar to yours and then try to follow people who already support that similar organization. You could also collaborate with that organization to support each other and grow a network working towards a common goal.
Social media can be powerful in creating education and spreading awareness about your cause. Using videos and sharing petitions, email forms, fundraisers, virtual events, and important voices in your field are all tools you can use to grow your message. By making it easy to repost your resources and by encouraging others to share the resources with their friends and family can grow your organization and make a difference as you teach others about your cause. Eye-catching graphics designed on Adobe Photoshop (if you want to start from scratch) or Canva (online templates) can help your posts stand out and get reposted.
Know that many people are feeling the desire to act. When people connect with your message on social media, especially during the pandemic people have been stepping up to take action in a variety of different ways. Utilize the power of the people when planning repertories. Learn more about specific actions you can do to harness this collective energy.
Another strategy that many people have utilized during the pandemic is creating virtual events and resources. Virtual events can include meetings of your organization that are open to the public, lectures for educational and resilience purposes, safe spaces for different groups to decompress and discuss or work on mental health. Virtual resources can include links to your website or other places on the web that can then give resources, petitions, fundraisers, and other important tools to activists and allies who are trying to learn from your engagement. Circulating your events on social media is essential. During the pandemic many more people are at their computer and ready to participate in virtual events than ever before.
What services can be helpful?
Many nonprofits are putting out calls on their Facebook and Instagram pages to get more remote volunteers during this time. Linking to a Google Drive Form can be a great tool to grow a volunteer base. A Google Form can be made using your Google Suite or Gmail address, or by clicking here: https://www.google.com/forms/about/ With a Google Form, you are able to post a link that anyone can access and fill out easily. All of the responses you get will be in one simple, broken down, spreadsheet that Google Forms provides, making it easy to get feedback or create a list of volunteers or guests at an event.
Instagram has become the go-to platform for activists to organize protests and fundraisers. Eye-catching, informative posts can be shared on your feed (a permanent part of your account) or stories (will disappear after 24 hours). People can then repost your resources and link back to your account. For an event, try to get as many people as possible to share your announcement-- a flyer on a story can be a great way to do this. Reach out to community members to see if they would be willing to share your graphic. For petitions, fundraisers, email templates, and other actions, try using one link in your bio (clickable) or written out on posts that leads to a page with many other links. It can be hard to click on links on Instagram, but by leading to a collection of links you can make it easier for people to act.
There are also organizations that try to match up volunteers with nonprofits and organizations. Right now, many people are feeling like they want to help but they don’t know how, so now is a great time to recruit volunteers to grow your engagement. Websites like VolunteerMatch and other more local websites are trying to capitalize on the increase of engagement due to the pandemic, so trying to get your organization on a place like this can be very helpful in growing engagement and support. Look at your local nonprofits and organizations to see if they are doing anything like this, or explore larger national websites that are doing this like this one: https://www.volunteermatch.org/covid19
Zoom is a great place for education, safe spaces, and discussions or lectures because it can have many people on it at once while allowing everyone to see each other and at the same time. Zoom can be set up to just show the presenter and a screen, or to show everyone to allow discussion or sense of community. Zoom also just announced that they are going to offer end-to-end encryption for all users so this will be a safe space for engagement. You can find more about that here: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/06/victory-zoom-will-offer-end-end-encryption-all-its-users To use Zoom, you first need to set up a meeting. Open and sign into Zoom, then click the schedule icon and create your meeting from there. You can then share it with a link.