Nonprofits – Getting a Start in Social Media

April 27, 2012

by Debra Breed

As a non-profit organization there is no doubt both time and money are considerations for any social media activity. For Socail Media the money side can likely be managed, as there are many free tools, but real consideration needs to be given to how much time you have to spend because you will find a sea of opportunities. First look at social media as a tool for marketing, for most non-profits this means spreading education or attracting donors and for most probably both.

Before beginning a social media activity identify your audience(s) – the people who can rescue you or those who care about your cause, these may be individuals or corporations, be as specific as possible in describing your audience. Think of yourself on a raft in the middle of the sea and no matter what tool you pick your life depends on attracting attention. On this venture consider yourself the voice of your non-profit and your website is your raft. So the goal is simple attract your audience to your voice and get them to the raft to rescue or talk to you. A rescue may mean funding or simply reaching people.

Let’s introduce a few basic tools to get you started and heard. We suggest just starting with only one or add one to what you may have. It is better to build on more tools as you understand your audience and resources, especially time and your ability to consistently deliver new content (text, pictures, video…) about the cause, events, success stories, impact, resource links or opportunities for involvement as an example.

1. Website

If your organization does not have a website this is step one. If you do have a website when was the last time it changed or does it look old and tired? The website an exciting destination, it should be the greatest source of information about your cause, use links to add content, and make it personal and easy for people to help at any level. If your cause is good you should not be afraid to ask for help – show ways people can get involved, how to donate time, resources or money – put a donation key on every page. Link your other social media activities to the website. Consider a newsletter or creating or linking a blog, think of a blog as one article at a time.

2. Blog  

Setting up a blog is a great way to talk about the cause, for a non-profit to grow people need to hear your voice. Explain why this is a great cause, why you personally are involved, be open to build trust, share why people volunteer and give and always share success stories. Look around, who else is talking about the excitement of this cause; link them to your blog. Allow people to provide feedback to your blog so you learn what they like. A blog, like a newsletter, takes time; plan to start with 1-2 posts a month and increase as you get comfortable. Remember, if you do not talk about the cause how will people hear you? Also listen to your audience what do they want more of, do not forget to ask for action, direct people to your website to learn more or to participate in the cause. Show blog posts on your website, maybe a crawl of titles with links. WordPress offers a free site to get you started.

3. Twitter

Think of twitter as a mini or micro blog. A tweet message is limited to 140 characters. It is a great way to keep your audience aware of activities and events and the great thing about Twitter is it is mobile, an app is available on just about any mobile platform. It is also a way to inform people of your recent blog post or an interesting article you came across relating to the cause. Your goal is to keep your cause and organization in front of people – you want to be the cause your audience talks about with friends. Another great thing about Twitter is that you can search for people who may want to be part of your audience and follow them, so that they may follow you back, building more connections and developing a broader group of engaged supporters.

4. LinkedIn

Why would anyone consider LinkedIn before Facebook you may ask? For a great cause the business connections can be just as important as individual donors and LinkedIn offers the individuals behind the corporations. Many companies support causes and getting a key executive excited can get you an inside track to both their company and to them as an individual donor. Remember companies like to support what their employees and customers are excited about or where they see impact, so the more people you engage the more likely people will mention your organization as their choice. Also, like Facebook, you can seek connections and once connected there is a sharing of a broader network of associates, who may also want to hear more. On LinkedIn you can also start a discussion group or join a group with similar causes to reach out and find more people who care.

These are just a few basics, please just start with one and do it consistantly well before you move on. Do not try everything at once your raft can not handle that kind of turbulence and we do not want you to drown in the social media sea. Remember the marketing goal is to build connections, to people – individuals and individuals in corporations, who care about the cause and are willing to support in sharing with others, with resources, by volunteering time or funding. Get started but remember this is all about being social and staying connected, when you are quiet it is easy for people to hear about other subjects or loose passion. Most important never be afraid to ask for help – your cause is a good one!

Debra is a marketing and general management professional who has severed on several non-profit boards to lend assistance with marketing and growth. Her goal is to help nonprofits to think like a business and use the same tools a for-profit organization would, including defining specific programs, measuring profit/ loss, market understanding and expansion planning.

My next post will be about nonprofit organizations supporting children in Tanzania, Africa and how these organizations are using social media. There are many great organization doing a lot of work. I hope this new post will get you thinking about why it is important to get your voice out there.


About Debra Breed

Marketing Director focused on understanding the what and where of customer expectations.
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7 Responses to Nonprofits – Getting a Start in Social Media

  1. Peter Breed says:

    Not bad

  2. mollymoskey says:

    Wow Debra! I really like this blog set up. The pictures in the text are great! Not only the icons, but the pictures of the children and scenery make it more personal and draws the reader in! Nice job!

  3. dvbinri says:

    I agree, the embedded pictures of the topics you are discussing really help pull the piece together, rather than just be a well of text. Good job!

  4. superdogwins says:

    Great information around social media for non-profit organizations!

  5. Bonnie says:

    I liked the break down of the social media networks.

  6. Bonnie says:

    Liked the break down of the social media sites.

  7. donnersie says:

    One of the things you say in this blog is that blogs give people a voice. Your blog certainly does this for non profits, and I love the way you have created a narrative – I look forward to next week’s installment on how non profits in Tanzania are using SM.

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