Driving Growth – 10 Social Media Lessons

Nonprofit organizations have excelled in using social media to grow.  This is just on success story, among many, of an organization that is just over a decade old and providing real financial support, about $200 million annually, to United Nation causes using social media communication tools.  You could say they once risked the entire organization on SM but it is paying off in a big way and they are still expanding on how social media can change the world. Just about every company can take away some key lesson on communication and growth, to put to use in your own communications plan.

The organization is the United Nations Foundation. What they do is to link the United Nation’s work with others around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women’s empowerment, poverty education, energy access and US-UN relations. Foundation’s CEO Kathy Calvin refers to the birth of global citizens in  Forbes interview, she describes the power of social media; “We are moving beyond traditional philanthropy, where companies or individual provide only funds to deeper, carefully managed relationships that share personnel, expertise, and creativity.”      

There are many nonprofits that are also tackling one of these same issues, probably at a lower funding level, but also having a profound impact. So what can we learn from the UN Foundation? Here are 10 Key Lessons that many businesses can put to use in their own Social Media Program:

Lesson 1: Website Hub

The UN Foundation website is simple, clean and to the point, the page structure can be used by many organizations. The 9 key pages include: 1) Who we are, 2) What We Do, 3) How We Help, 4) Connections, 5) Blog, 6) Press, 7) Partners, 8) Video and 9) Campaign Spotlight. From a nonprofit every page has a Donation button. The top of each page has a revolving call to action set of topics centered on campaigns or projects with a button to “Learn More” or “Take Action”. The page footer is a scroll of all campaigns, just project names; you can click and learn more.

Lesson 2: Clear Mission with Specific Projects/ Campaigns

When you go to the UN Foundation’s website there is no question about what projects they are focused on, in other words what their product offering. You can select any project or campaign, as they call it, and see the purpose, the budget, progress and ways to help or get involved. This clear focus gives you the impression that this is a highly organized and efficient group who are doing great things and not wasting resources.  They are not afraid to share all their financial and about a 12% SG&A to prove it.

Lesson 3: Blogging around Projects/ Campaigns

The project or Campaign theme continues in the blog, you feel pulled into their world. The blog is set up with just 11 standard categories and has the ability to search. There are blog posts every 1-2 days by project leaders and sometimes by customers or those being helped. The blog is not a 1-man operation it is a community project, probably with a specific calendar for campaign leaders in the background.

Lesson 4: Let the People You Help Participate

Imagine a blog post, a Facebook share or a Tweet  coming from those you are helping or have literally saved their lives – this can be a powerful message. In the midst of disaster relief having people on the ground in the loop is critical. Aaron Sherinian, VP for Communication for the UN Foundation said in a Mashable interview “The power of social media for social good will be at the village level and the municipality level and connecting issues – everything from land tenure and mapping to access to health posts to governance and transparency.” This brings in a two-way conversation.

Lesson 5: Financial Transparency

Take a look and you will easily find financial records, including tax reports back to the first year of operation. The UN Foundation proudly shows 87.7% of funds go directly to services; 6.7% for management and 5.6% for fundraising. These are not only impressive statistics but probably some of the best. The records are out there, easy to find, as should be the case with any nonprofit.

Lesson 6: Connections

In addition to the main website blog the social media platforms in use include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a new Mobile App. The website is secure with direct donations. Across all platforms the campaigns or products are the central focus. In addition the UN Foundation has begun an annual conference, with many well known partners from the social media world, RIO + Social, which is a social network onto itself. Partners are prominently shared and recognized.

Lesson 7: Ask for Action

On every web page and in many posts there is a call to action or a way to learn more, engaging and pulling you into a campaign you have interest.

Lesson 8: Make Donating Easy

Everywhere, every page on the website, Facebook or the mobile app there is a button so  you could immediately make a donation if so moved, there was no guessing how.

Lesson 9: Partnerships

The UN Foundation does a great job of celebrating their partnerships as a natural part of their transparency. Partners are clear in campaigns, contribute to blogs and the annual conference. Partner’s names and ability to connect are all at your finger tips.

Lesson 10: When you are Ready Go Mobile

Although I do not recommend this until your website is in good shape as the mobile app should simply be a partial mirror image of the website, so it operates almost effortlessly. The UN Foundation has just launched their Mobile App this year and you can get it through the App Store or SM Market.

Take a look at the United Nations Foundation yourself to learn more. But at a minimum learn from how they revolve around their campaigns/ products, because after all that is what a nonprofit is there to do – so it must be central to the Social Media plan.


About Debra Breed

Marketing Director focused on understanding the what and where of customer expectations.
This entry was posted in Social Media Tools and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Driving Growth – 10 Social Media Lessons

  1. peterjoslin says:

    Nice post. It is interesting to see how both profit and non-profit groups have quite a bit in common when it comes to social media. Even the steps like making it easy to donate can easily translate into a for profit group….making it easy to purchase of example.

  2. rieskebiz says:

    Way cool to read this, thanks for pulling all of this together!

  3. superdogwins says:

    Great post with lots of good detail around 10 lessons learned. I particularly find lesson 5 interesting b/c financial transparency is very important for non-profit organizations.

  4. donnersie says:

    Great post – thanks. Your blog helps me understand the architecture of a social media community – including the webpage hub and the intersecting twitter and other SM posts by those who have received the service and those providing it.

  5. amelialand says:

    This is a really great post and enjoyed the details you provided on a great reseach topic. It does takes a community to reaching the goals in making the required difference for change.

  6. Pingback: Branding Influence – 3 Easy Steps for Nonprofit Success | nonprofitsmblog

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