5 Tips for Non-Profits Exploring Social Media

help imageFor the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a programming committee called Gift of Giving, as part of KC/IABC. The goal of the program is to help 5 non-profits with communications needs and wants. As we surveyed the non-profits what they were looking for in terms of communications support, each one included social media as a topic – what’s the craze, how do I use it, and does it make sense for my organization? Reading their survey responses, it didn’t completely sink in – until I met with an organization this past week to share a social media 101 presentation and if and how social might make sense for them.

Based on those conversations, I wanted share some of the tips I shared in person here on ALook@. If you’re a non-profit or volunteering for one, here are a few tips and tools that might helpful.

1. Identify Your Goals – The first step is to think about what you want to achieve. Are you trying to increase donors? If so, what type of donors are you looking for? Are you trying to increase awareness? If so, with whom? Are you trying to get more volunteers? The most common and frequent thing we hear from all non-profits is “We need more funding.” And as you’re communicating that message, the question I come back to is, “To do what?”

Communicating your message means delving into the heart of an issue, and for some, the issue is so large and has so many legs that it’s difficult to focus on exactly what is needed. For example, if your issue is tackling homelessness, which includes services for education, health, food, emotional support and so much more beyond simply housing – we need to look at the umbrella and the pillars that support that umbrella – then organize that into something that is easy for a general audience to understand.

But before you read further … stop and ask yourself, “Why do I want a [insert social media channel here]?”

2. Define Your Voice – How do you want to be perceived in the community – online and offline? Are you warm and fuzzy? Are you personable and humorous? The importance here is consistency. This is not just about posting content, this is about brand consistency on your website, across social platforms, on video, on newsletters, brochures, mailers, emails and more. Be consistent.

In terms of posting, consistency doesn’t mean only one person posts. It may mean that 2,3,4 people contribute across multiple platforms but the tone should have a common theme.

3. Work with Your Ambassadors and Your Existing Resources – You may have a staff of 3 or 4 people, but you have volunteers and donors who have personal stories about how your cause has touched their lives. Use their stories, use their networks and use their hands and feet. As you get started, call or meet with 20 of your top volunteers and donors and find out how they found out about your organization, and how and why they tell their friends and family about your cause. Then, give them a flip cam or a camera and have them take photos with projects they work on. Have them capture video footage that you can use. Do interviews with them – just 3 questions, 2 minute interviews. It’s quick, it’s shareable, but it’s also personal. You can’t be everywhere – so use what you can.

4. Prepare – As you audit what’s working and what’s not, think about what you need to explore new channels. For example, if you’re exploring social media – it will be critical to create a social media guidance policy. Clearly map out who can and cannot leverage your social outlets, and what they can and cannot say and do. Have a transition plan in place. One of the painful things that can happen is creating a Twitter, YouTube or Facebook account under a board member or volunteer, and then they leave and you have no idea what the password is. Also, create a plan for if/when a crisis occurs – internally or externally. How do you respond if an employee accidentally posts a personal message onto your social presence (Red Cross for example)? Or you receive criticism from the community (like the Smithsonian in 2010)? Be prepared…

5. Start Small – Social media can be overwhelming. Start small and in digestible nuggets. If Twitter is the right place, then create your own handle (personal), and search for topics and people who are of personal interest to you. For example, if you’d like to connect with others in the non-profit world – go to twitter.com, create your own account, search for people to follow who talk about non-profits and click “Follow.” Watch for the first week and see what pops up! Then, start to send your own tweets, send @replies to people who you want to talk to (similar to a public message directly to them) and follow more people!

Other helpful resources:

Do you have tips for non-profits you’ve worked with? If so, please share!

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Posted on June 11, 2011, in Marketing, social media, Web/Tech and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks Laura … just came across this through a link from IABC, very helpful and usable tips for those of us in the non-profit arena.

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