Petaluma shelter gets a boost from YouTube

  • John Records, the Executive Director of COTS, uses his iPhone to upload videos about the shelter to YouTube. Photo taken in Petaluma, California, on Monday, March 12, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The next COTS YouTube video could be the next "Kony 2012."

Well, probably not. But that's OK, said John Records, executive director of the Petaluma homeless assistance program.

He's just hoping to educate more people about what COTS does and encourage them to volunteer or donate.

COTS, the Committee on the Shelterless, has been chosen as one of 20 nonprofit groups nationwide for the inaugural class of "YouTube Next Cause," a program that helps charities use the online video service to get the word out about their services.

At a one-day summit in San Francisco next month, Records and two other COTS representatives will be trained in YouTube fundamentals, promotion and community engagement and will receive one-on-one advice sessions to increase their YouTube presence.

Last year, COTS provided shelter to nearly 2,000 people, including 150 children. Nearly 130,000 meals were served and 800,000 pounds of food was distributed to hungry families and seniors.

It might be nice if COTS' videos went viral like the professionally produced "Kony 2012," a video targeting the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

YouTube has an audience of 800 million people and 4 billion views a day. As of Thursday, the Kony video had nearly 80 million YouTube views.

Records has his sights set a little more realistically.

"We're always trying to find ways to tell our story that are creative," he said. "The ability to tell stories and engage our supporters is a wonderful opportunity for us. It comes at a good time, because we're facing real huge budget challenges."

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