Getting Up to Speed on Nonprofits in Second Life

Today I planned to attend my first nonprofit event in Second Life as Infinity Kane (my virtual alter ego), but my plans were thwarted by outdated video card drivers. Until I figure out what that means and how to fix it, I’ll have to satisfy my “SL” curiosity through the experience of others, as chronicled online.

One of the biggest nonprofit presences in Second Life is the Nonprofit Commons (watch TechSoup’s intro on YouTube), an “office park” that opened last year to provide free virtual office space to 32 nonprofits (see Tenant Directory). The virtual land for Nonprofit Commons was donated by Anshe Chung, the virtual real estate agent who graced the cover of Business Week in 2006 as Second Life’s first real-life millionaire.

TechSoup has a Nonprofits in Second Life blog (NPSL), and the NPSL wiki links to some interesting media coverage of the Nonprofit Commons, including an in-depth and totally fascinating article titled Pixelanthropy: Charities tap into Second Life (MSNBC/Contribute magazine, January 10, 2008). I also got the scoop on other virtual worlds via the Virtual World Tour on YouTube (recently featured on Beth’s Blog  and the NPSL blog).

So what exactly are nonprofits doing in Second Life?

I had heard about the American Cancer Society’s Second Life Relay for Life, which is entering its fourth year and raised more than $118,000 in 2007. And the MacArthur Foundation’s year-long exploration of philanthropy in virtual worlds (read Jonathan Fanton’s remarks, June 22, 2007, or watch an excerpt from the Second Life event on YouTube).

The Pixelanthropy article linked above cites examples that include Save the Children’s Yak Shack, a 3-D animal pageant; a virtual Camp Darfur; the American Heart Association’s virtual tour through a malfunctioning heart; and a “fly-a-thon” to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. It also references other nonprofit gathering grounds in Second Life: Commonwealth Islands and Better World Island. In terms of more recent events, below is a roundup of seven nonprofit Second Life events organized during the first quarter of 2008 (also see NPSL’s calendar of upcoming events).

If you’re reading this post and have participated in a nonprofit event or space on Second Life, I’d love to hear what your experience was like. What do you think are the pros and cons of events or spaces in Second Life versus real life? Also, a lot of events seem to be held simultaneously in the virtual and real worlds. Is that a prerequisite for success?

Sampling of Nonprofit Events in Second Life – First Quarter 2008

  • March 22: WaterPartners Village launches in Second Life and other social networking sites on World Water Day (also see Emerald City blog post and press release on EarthTimes)
    From press release: “…WaterPartners Village is hosting a live virtual music festival featuring the most popular performers in Second Life, as well as free hot-air balloon rides to tour the scenic landscape of the virtual village. The WaterPartners villagers will blog about their journey to obtain safe drinking water and sanitation for themselves and their families, beginning on World Water Day and continuing through summer 2008.”
  • March 20: International Justice Center Opens 
    From NPSL: “Global Kids, the foremost nonprofit in virtual world education, is set to launch the International Justice Center within Second Life …. The inaugural event will feature a presentation and discussion by Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. During the launch, the ICC Prosecutor will appear in avatar form…”
  • March 12:  Moving Forward Film Festival Debuts in Second Life
    From National MS Society: “The Moving Forward Film Festival will make its in-world debut in Second Life … in celebration of MS Awareness Week … at the ‘MS Society’ pavilion.”
  • March 8-9: In the Pink Virtual Show 
    From NPSL: “A collaborative of Second Life residents will be presenting … a series of one-acts intended to fight gender violence …. IN THE PINK celebrates the strength of women, exploring sexuality and what it means to be a woman in real life and on Second Life.”
  • February 29: Using Virtual Worlds and Emerging Technologies for People with Disabilities 
    From NPSL: “…a 1-day free online event happening on TechSoup.org’s Community forums and in Second Life…. This two-part, interactive event will take place in two locations online…”
  • February 8: Best Practices for Nonprofits in Second Life (also see event recap)
    From NPSL: “…the program will explore what are some of the lessons that non-profits have learned from their first forays into the virtual world.”
  • January 28: Virtual Liberties: Do Avatars Dream of Civil Rights?
    From NPSL: “…a public forum … featuring Jack Balkin, First Amendment legal expert at Yale Law School, and Robin Linden, head of marketing and business development at Linden Lab…. This will be a multi-verse event, taking place both in Second Life and Teen Second Life, as well as audio streamed to the web for the VW-impaired.”
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5 Responses to “Getting Up to Speed on Nonprofits in Second Life”


  1. 1 inKenzo March 21, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    The nonprofits in Second Life are vital and strong, dedicated to their causes and actively working together to build better tools and resources.

    Take a look at one collaboration that emerged from the Nonprofit Commons: http://www.netsquared.org/2008/conference/projects/transitions

    We have found that regular meetups allow us to be fruitful and more productive in our real world jobs and organizations.

  2. 2 Claire Baralt March 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hi inKenzo – Thanks for stopping by and sharing a link to the Transitions project as an example of the kinds of collaborations that are being nurtured in the Nonprofit Commons. Good luck with the project!

  3. 3 Megan Keane March 24, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you Claire/Infinity for such an informative write-up. The Nonprofit Commons is expanding to a second location, so between the two sims, there will be 67 office spaces available for nonprofits. There’s a lot of great energy from new residents and we’re excited about further collaboration and future events as we expand and evolve.

  4. 4 Claire Baralt March 24, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    That’s exciting news, Megan! Thanks for the update, and I look forward to following the evolving work of nonprofits in Second Life.


  1. 1 The Grid Live Trackback on March 21, 2008 at 12:17 am

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