Nonprofits and Social Media: Innovate the Basics

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Back to basics is a theme I’ve seen with many nonprofit organizations over the past couple of years. With the economy slow to rebound, many NPOs have found that investing money in new ideas and new platforms isn’t really the right move for right now. This also means that many NPOs have avoided jumping into social media or expanding on their use of it. The basics are good – it’s what put most large NPOs on the map. The problem is that in the ever changing landscape of business and technology, even the basics have to change a little. NPOs need to embrace this change and learn to innovate the basics. Social media can do just that.

So what are the basics? It’s different for each NPO, but most organizations have a menu combination including some or all of the following: special events, year-end appeals, major gifts, education and/or advocacy programs. Sticking to what we know is good. But we can use social media to innovate all of these platforms to increase revenue and awareness.

Special Events

No matter what type of event has become your signature money maker, social media can help make it better. If you are planning a fundraising walk, run, or bike ride then social media is an optimal place for you to start recruiting. Promote the event on Facebook and Google+, highlight top fundraisers on your blog or Twitter, and make sure your website has a thermometer to keep track of where you are to goal on the event. Hosting a dinner auction? Create weekly posts to show off the best auction items you’ll have to offer. Create an invitation to post in all of your LinkedIn group message boards. Take advantage of the opportunity to sell more tickets online. Try special online sites that help you organize, plan and promote your event like Eventbrite. For more information read Mashable’s article “How To: Plan and Promote Events with Social Media.”

Year-End Appeals and Major Gifts

People give to your organization for many different reasons. But one thing many donors have in common is that they give because it feels good. Being recognized for good deeds also feels good. Take advantage of your built-in audience on social media sites and highlight and thank your most generous donors. You’ll want to get their permission first, but publically thanking people goes a long way to creating an ongoing relationship. For more information about innovating year-end appeals, read my December blog post “Nonprofits and Social Media: Putting the Appeal Back in Annual Campaigns.”

Education and Advocacy Programs

Education and advocacy programs probably aren’t making your organization a lot of money, but it’s key to developing awareness and cultivating relationships. The best press is free press and social media allows you all the air time you want to advertise your programs. Take it a step further and put up fast facts about upcoming program topics on Facebook and Twitter or spotlight a guest speaker in your blog. Post clips of videos from your last program on YouTube or Google+.  Put up links to your website that feature research articles, inspirational stories and other items you think will be of interest to your audience. While broadcasting your cause is important, remember the key to success is creating conversation. For more tips on how to use social media to further your advocacy efforts and promote education, read The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s article, “How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Spark Change.”

The basics are good. Innovating the basics is better. Whether you’re just starting with social media or your efforts have just stalled out, there’s no time like the present to get back on track.

Amy Stephan
This monthly Social Media and Nonprofits column is contributed by Amy Stephan. Amy is a consultant and non-profit professional with more than 10 years of field experience working in fundraising and development. She provides nonprofits with help in fundraising and major gifts, capital campaigns, board and volunteer development and staff leadership, working with organizations of all sizes to plan, implement and assess social media strategies. While holding leadership positions with local branches of organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the American Diabetes Association, Amy developed a passion for all things related to fundraising and non-profits. In addition to her non-profit work, she is a freelance writer and blogger who has worked as a full-time writer and editor for daily newspapers and magazines. +Amy Stephan
Amy Stephan
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