Leading With Change + Innovation

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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Social Media for Non-Profits, Associations: Expert Hints and Tips

As any social media speaker or expert is aware, charitable causes tend to be popular in social media circles, given their positive nature, inherent appeal and ability to connect with the general public. Non-profits and volunteer organizations therefore enjoy the option to use these platforms to build awareness, raise funds and spark lasting change – and can do so on a significant scale. Following are hints, tips and suggestions for best leveraging the medium to good effect.

Social Media By the Numbers

Let’s get one thing out of the way up-front, though: Despite social media’s popularity, the numbers on cause-based campaigns won’t always rank in the millions. Ex: Wild Apricot, which provides member management software for associations and non-profit companies, demonstrated in a Slideshare presentation that just over 500 organizations out of 180,000 surveyed on Facebook enjoyed the backing of 20,000 or more supporters. This may be due to the nature of the companies and their causes, as only 0.2% of donors accounted for 40% of money raised, median donation is just $0.1 per member, and most organizations raise 58% of funds from their top 5 donors alone. But even more eye-opening for social media speakers, fans and experts was the ROI estimated on the time they’d invested in campaigns: A 300:1 loss.

As Wild Apricot puts it, understand that social media is not a magic bullet, and it cannot help you if you have no clear goals, weak messaging, no staff or support to bolster these efforts, and are not consistent or persistent with postings. To succeed, you must be clear about what it is that you have to say, why audiences will want to enjoy or share it, and invest the necessary time to drive campaign success and growth. In terms of appropriate time investment, Wild Apricot advises that you spend 5 hours a week listening to audiences, 10 hours participating in outreach efforts, and between 10-15 hours a week working to get buzz going. To build a community, expect to invest 20 hours per week in these efforts. To see results, expect to wait 3-6 months.

But here’s the good news: When you do so, you create the following results:

– Audiences see themselves reflected in, and can better relate to, your cause

– You empower supporters to speak up and share their thoughts

– You gain deeper insight into the audience you serve

– Audiences gain new ways to contribute to your cause

– You can grow membership

– You can increase event participation

– You can attract new volunteers

– You can raise more money for worthy causes

Consider that the North Mason Chamber of Commerce, which began with a simple blog, accounts on the major social networks, and a simple outreach strategy managed to grow its membership by 85% in just 18 months. As you can see, social can be a powerful tool for your cause – however, it’s not a magic wand you can wave and expect to see immediate results.

Necessary Non-Profit Tools

As we’ve pointed out, people are more dedicated than ever to worthy causes, and want to volunteer to help support them by helping non-profit organizations grow their brands and spread the good word. Not only are volunteers essential in creating social media conversations, but partnerships with other established companies and causes can also launch your non-profit forward. Social media tools with blogging, photo and video capability (such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Storify) can help you hasten or enhance the process of creating community and spreading good content. A variety of online tools are available to help you in the efforts to tell your story, and conduct conversations with end-users – more than we can mention here, in fact, but all easily found with a quick search on the Internet. Whether using compelling yarns, arresting images or video to transmit your message (a non-profit often has a compelling tale to tell), be sure to research and leverage all to help promote your cause.

Finding Supporters and Volunteers Online

Some of your best contributors and volunteers are already active in the social realm, and may be willing to use their Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, Google+ circles or LinkedIn communities to get behind good causes. LinkedIn can be especially helpful because of the strong business community ties, and businesses are often looking to pair up with local non-profits who know the power of the spoken and written word.

Campaign Tips from Guy Kawasaki

New York Times bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, a leading social media speaker, expert, and online influencer, knows what it takes to connect with audiences via social media and other high-tech tools. One of his recent webinars offered these tips, specifically customized for non-profit efforts:

  • Profile development is essential. Create a compelling logo or avatar, have stories of those affected by your organization, and make the organization appear interesting.
  • Leverage others’ contributions. Passing along photos and content from others should comprise 90% of your posts, and keep you from having to over-work.
  • Join in the conversation. People want to hear from authentic voices.
  • Offer strictly constructive comments. Avoid negativity at all costs.
  • Provide quality content before cibdyctubg pledge drives. So long as the content you pass along or create is compelling and tells a good story, people won’t mind getting involved with their pocketbook. See NPR for a good example.
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