I had a very helpful tour of SecondLife yesterday.* I've had my avatar for months, but haven't had the patience to get very far. In addition to learning how to do things like "teleport myself to an island" I got to explore some cool fundraising kiosks, went looking for the American Cancer Society fundraisers that I've read about (we couldn't find them) and got to explore the TechSoup world, which has started a directory of nonprofits functioning "in world" (as they say).
We also found a fairly robust church presence, some of which were clearly churches "of a certain kind." The Unitarians and Mormons were represented (and others - though we saw no Jews, Buddhists or Muslims). This is both outreach, awareness, and actual fundraising (real causes and real money!).
Its also a way to try strategies or tactics that might be too expensive or risky in "first life." For example, finding individuals interested in, say, environmental justice, can be expensive. In SecondLife, you can announce a conversation, recruit people to sign on at a certain time, and talk in real-time with anyone, anywhere who shares your interest. The avatars "in world" all have real humans behind them, so there is some reality to what happens. The two worlds are also getting more and more connected, as SecondLife actions and transactions can be "reported" out into the "first life" and "first life" systems such as advertising, meeting announcements, blogs, and emails are increasingly directing people to SecondLife for events. Reuters even has a regular reporter in SecondLife.
*SecondLife is an online, alternative world where you can meet people, travel around (people fly!), buy and sell things, plant gardens, raise money...If you want to know more about what SecondLife click here, here, and/or here for some general-interest stories about it.