Nonprofits and Social Media: Planning for Success

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The holiday decorations are put away and the New Year’s Eve ball has dropped. January is here and it’s traditionally a rough month for non-profit organizations. With the holidays just wrapping up, volunteers have started to down-shift and take a little time off to relax. The annual appeal gifts have tapered off and donations are trickling in at best this month. Staff may have started preparing for spring events, but corporations and personal donors won’t start thinking about contributions for another 30 days. These things make January the perfect month to get your social media plan in place for 2012.

This seems to be a daunting task for many NPOs. Thinking about how to fill 365 days’ worth of content online and then manage it all year long can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. The first step is start slow. If you aren’t already engaged online, then take this month to figure out the best way to establish your presence. For those NPOs that are truly just starting out with social media, I suggest beginning with my September entry for the Windmill Network Blog: “Nonprofits and Social Media: How Even the Smallest Shop Can Join the Frenzy.” For those organizations that have already started to dabble in social media, take this month to make your annual plan.

Creating an annual plan isn’t as hard as it may seem at first. You already have the material to create the framework. Use your special events calendar, support group meeting dates, programs calendar and any other existing dates you already have scheduled to start your social media plan. Determine how you want to promote each event and then fill in your plan with those ideas. Perhaps you want to blog about your March program in February to help build excitement and promote registration. Maybe you want to put bi-weekly Facebook posts up about your Spring Gala. Maybe you want to promote your support group meetings through LinkedIn groups once a month. Whatever fits your needs best, put it on paper. For those of you who are a bit Type A (I definitely fall in this group!), you may take a look at the article “Social Media: Before You Get Started, Get Organized.” It’s a great snapshot of a very structured method for making your social media plan come to life.

Once you’ve established the corner stones of your plan (your key events and programs), you can look at where you have holes to fill. This is where many people clock out. It seems too hard or too time consuming to fill holes. It’s really not though. Start with your own website. What interesting information is there that you think people should visit more often? Pull out key pieces and promote them through social media year round. Do you have a great research article online? Make sure you let people know about it on Facebook or Twitter. Is there a message board that your constituents find especially helpful? Make sure you post the link and a brief synopsis of the board for your LinkedIn Groups. Use your website to generate ideas about what is important to your organization and make social media an extension of that.

Another great addition to your annual social media plan is profiles of outstanding people. Find volunteers that go above and beyond and have them write a blog about why they choose to give their time to your organization. Use Google+ to let people know about an outstanding donation you received during the year. If you highlighted a particular person in your annual appeal use all of your social media outlets to provide updates throughout the year on their involvement. For more information on how to personalize your annual appeal, read my December post “Nonprofits and Social Media: Putting the Appeal Back in Annual Campaigns.” Sharing information about people helps personalize your presence online. Making your cause personal for someone is the key to engaging them long-term.

Whether you’re just beginning or your presence online is well established, January is the perfect time of the year to get your social media annual plan in place. Technology is forever changing, but it’s never going away. Embrace social media and let your planning work for you all year round.

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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