NetRoots International is a non-profit organization that was created in 2011 by seven McGill undergraduate students as a Montreal chapter. The club has grown over the past four years to 50 members and expanded internationally. According to Alex Shadeed, NetRoots president and U3 Political Science and International Development student, NetRoots specializes in offering free social media consultation for non-profit organizations.
“We do free social media marketing, social media strategy, and web development for charities, NGO’s, non-for-profits, [and] any organization that really needs help with [its] web presence,” he said. “Unfortunately, [social media web design are] tasks that a lot of people that work non-for-profits are not too familiar with. We found that [if students had these skills], we could translate it over to them.”
According to Vanessa Conzon, founder and former president of NetRoots, the venture was created from a desire to use acquired skills from university to give back to the Montreal community.
“We were disheartened by the feeling of removal we felt between us and the community due to the constant demands of schoolwork.” Conzon said. “We realized that students are more tech-savvy than the average individual, so we decided to begin a club that would provide free social media consultations to non-profits.”
NetRoots provides the service to create and manage a free website for one year, hosted by Wix, a web design platform. Wix and NetRoots struck a deal to work together to provide affordable websites for non-profit organization.
NetRoots McGill also provides a technology and strategy team to initiate effective, up-to-date social media mechanisms that will offer effective consultation.
“Whenever there’s a new technology that releases social media that really helps with posting or with strategy, we make sure to [create] a presentation on it,” Shadeed said. “We document it […] to teach our consultants to make sure [that] they’re on top of their strategies and technologies to use.”
NetRoots also has a strategy team that strives to be updated on effective social media strategies by exploring effective social media techniques for other non-profit organizations, as well as for-profit organizations.
“We help [organizations] develop a social media strategy […] we help them [through posting plans],” said Shadeed. “We teach them how to post [and] the most effective ways to post, [and] we develop a posting campaign to try to get other initiatives to spiral.”
Several not-for-profit organizations NetRoots has helped are Hand In Hand International, The Yellow Doors, It Is Well, and Borderless World Volunteers.
“Many clubs at McGill work to raise money for charities, which is important, but we preferred the idea of interacting directly with non-profits in our community,” Conzon said.
With its recent international expansion and growth, Shadeed said that NetRoots plans to create a sustainable organization in order to instigate long-term effects to help non-profit organizations.
“Right now, we’re trying to grow efficiently and sustainably,” Shadeed said. “We don’t want to expand ourselves too [quickly]. We do the traditional McGill ways [of raising money] through bake sales and samosa sales. We’ve started a Kickstarter that hopefully people will catch on to.”
Nicole Kim, U1 Arts, commented on the feasibility and need for an organization like NetRoots.
“There’s a lot of expertise that NetRoots consultants can provide to help expand your organization that not many people are aware of,” she said. “Social media is something we use so routinely that we underestimate its power and capacity. I think the problem is that not many people know how to harness this technology in a maximizing way, which is why NetRoots is so convenient because they provide that education.”
With the growth of social media infiltrating all aspects of society, having knowledge and awareness of the technologies and strategies to build platforms is essential for all businesses, especially for non-profits that do not have the finances to supplement marketing costs. “By teaching non-profits how to maintain their websites and update their social media, we hoped to provide long-lasting help to non-profits,” Conzon said.