Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly grassroots NGOs, have found social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to be vital tools for connecting with supporters, organizing events, and building networks. After recognizing this growing trend, Peter Conlon and Dr. Anna Kupka founded Ammado in 2005, believing that NGOs could benefit from a more robust social networking site designed to meet their specific needs.

Based in Ireland, Ammado is a social networking site designed to help NGOs connect with supporters, businesses, and other NGOs. Ammado provides its services free of charge for both individuals and NGOs. Individual users can post profiles and connect in a variety of ways like those available on Facebook. NGOs can also create profiles, organize petition drives, collect donations, and track their campaigns.

A social networking site’s value is largely based on how pervasive its reach is within a certain community. The more users a networking site has, the more valuable it is to each user. Once a site has reached this capacity, also known as a critical mass, the social network becomes self-sustaining. Sites designed for the general public, like Facebook or Twitter, require millions of users to reach a critical mass. However, for a site like Ammado that seeks to connect individuals with NGOs, the number is much lower. Ammado has a solid user base with over twelve thousand individual members and four thousand member organizations spanning 130 countries, but has yet to reach critical mass.

Providing tools that users find valuable is one way to increase a site’s user base. Ammado offers unique functions that fill important need for NGOs. Using Ammado, individual members can create profiles, select favorite organizations, sign petitions, and donate to any member organization in 31 different currencies. These tools are perfect for smaller organizations that are looking to extend their reach internationally but that lack the technological infrastructure to create their own network. Ammado has also attracted some larger NGOs to their site, such as Oxfam and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While larger organizations may see Ammado as just one more platform to get their message out, such connections have allowed Ammado to increase its user base.

One of Ammado’s first high-profile partnerships was with the UNHCR, when Ammado served as the main channel of communication for promoting World Refugee Day in June 2008. High-profile campaigns with well-established human rights organizations help Ammado attract smaller organizations that depend more heavily on Ammado’s social networking tools. For example, at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in September 2009, Ammado was chosen as the internet platform for Powered By Service, a youth activism and grant program. Ammado is the only site that provided the social networking tools and international reach that Powered By Service needed, creating a tight partnership between the two organizations.

Ammado hopes to continue developing key partnerships so its user base of individuals and NGOs will grow. These organizations will drive new users to Ammado, who will then find other organizations on the site, creating a web of social connections and increasing the value to all members. Individuals concerned about human rights and interested in connecting with NGOs, as well as NGOs interested in connecting with a broader audience should consider logging on.