Thursday, November 3, 2011

9 Key Points about Non-Profits and Social Media

My friend John Haydon ( recently shared the new idealware report called "The Nonprofit Social Media Discussion Guide." I thought it might be useful to you and others working in associations and other nonprofit organizations.

This 78-page FREE document ( has some great info and tools for associations and other nonprofit organizations. It includes 12 worksheets for you to use. By the way, thanks to our friends Maddie & Lindy at Socialfish ( and Brett at The Center for Association Growth ( for helping sponsor this workbook.

Here’s my summary that you might find useful if you don’t have time to read the entire 78 pages:

1. A Facebook page (or Twitter stream or LinkedIn group - sd adds) shouldn’t be the end goal of a social media strategy any more than a telephone should be the end goal of a communications plan.

2. Nonprofits are using a number of methods – especially Facebook, Twitter and blogs – to engage current constituents and reach out to new ones. If engagement and outreach are useful to your organization, give social media strategies some thought.

3. 70% of respondents had succeeded in bring new supporters to their events; 66% of advocacy groups said they had gotten Facebook fans to take action like signing a petition. Are you using Social Media for this type of engagement?

4. BUT, research shows social media is NOT a great tool for direct fundraising; rather it is a great way to engage and communicate with people.

5. Different tools have different audiences. Facebook tends to be better at reaching those in and right out of college while Twitter is likely to be more useful to reach older professionals. Most important to nonprofits: know what channels your supporters and potential supporters are using and connect with them there.

6. Social media is like anything else: effective at some things, less effective at others and your level of success depends upon how you use it and who you’re trying to reach.

7. Nonprofits are finding Twitter useful – interestingly, though, in different areas than other social media channels. Organizations reported successfully using Twitter to connect with like-minded organizations and media outlets. Twitter also appeared to be useful for advocacy organizations, allowing an organization to provide near-real-time updates of a rally or current event to followers, or coordinate a decentralized group in real-time. (My personal footnote: I find Twitter extremely valuable as a research tool for nonprofits. Tracking trends. Monitoring issues. Following thought leaders.)

8. Blogs can be useful IF you have staff or volunteers who can advocate your cause and/or tell stories on a daily basis. If you don’t have clear goals that suggest a blog would be particularly useful, and you don’t have committed writers available to blog, it might not be a good channel for you. A blog started and then abandoned, or updated only sporadically, is worse than no blog at all, so make sure you can commit before beginning one.

9. Because it is targeted at professionals interested in networking, LinkedIn is likely to be of particular interest to groups whose mission is to support people in their jobs (like an association of nonprofit executive directors, for instance) or who have a focus on careers, specifically in particular groups (like a "young professionals" group). I’m seeing more and more nonprofits developing LinkedIn Groups as a platform for discussions among members. We had a client that wanted to connect with a specific health care segment and found that more than 3,000 of them were on LinkedIn. So, they developed a strategic to engage this audience in ongoing conversations related to the association’s marketing goals.

So, how much time should you devote to social media? This research offered some examples:

  • Plan to spend a minimum of two hours a week managing your Facebook page. (If you have not yet launched a Facebook page, budget 8 to 16 hours to get it up and running.)
  • Devote 1 ½ to 2 hours a week on Twitter
  • Spend about 3 hours a week on your blogs
What do you think about this summary of this social media research? How is your organization using social media? Feel free to add comments here.

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