Social Media for Social Good

This week I had the pleasure of listening to a panel of social media experts at the Foundation Center’s Social Media for Social Good event.  Speakers included Renee Alexander from US Fund for Unicef, Julia C. Smith from Idealist, Farra Trompeter from Big Duck and Nten‘s Amy Sample Ward, preceded by a presentation by Small Act‘s Casey Golden.

As might be expected during an event on social media, there was an active stream on Twitter, which you can review with the #SM4SG hashtag.  Below are some highlights:

  • Mentioned several times this week and also by Danielle Brigida who recently spoke at the NYC 501 Tech Club, social media involves a lot of trial and error and experimentation.  Often you will have to try different tactics before you find what will work best with your audience.   Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Engagement = stimulating a conversation and encouraging constituents to take action on issues.
  • Developing a social media policy for your organization will help guide your staff how to speak about your nonprofit online – look at the social media governance policy database and the social media policy generator for help.
  • Your social media policy should be a fluid, living document that is reviewed with staff and updated regularly, not in a book that is stored on a shelf.
  • On Twitter, in addition to sharing ideas from others you find worthwhile, make sure to include your own ideas too – the best Twitter streams have a mix of links, no links and original content.  See this example of a Twitter engagement formula.
  • If your management is still uncertain whether social media is worth the effort, show what your competitors are doing online to engage and build their constituent base.

Want more resources?  For a step by step process on how to use social media, download Idealware’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.  For more guidance on developing a social media policy – Big Duck’s Measuring Your Impact and Creating Policies for Social Media.  And for general tips on Twitter, read Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book

Social media is sexy, but don’t forget the online basics: make sure your website and email marketing program is in place.  Social media works best when part of an overall communications strategy that includes any way you connect with your constituents, whether online or offline.  Focus not only on your organization’s programs, but on the issues which your organization (and constituents) is most focused on.

Thanks to the Foundation Center’s Vanessa Schnaidt for moderating the discussion and to social media guru Jereme Bivins (who manages the Foundation Center’s Twitter stream) for planning this event.

Why Small Donations Matter

In addition to spending many hours online, I still do read books.  Recently I finished Wendy Smith’s Give a Little – How Small Donations Are Changing the World.  If you ever think that only large contributions make a difference, this book will change your mind, showing how small gifts make up the bulk of many nonprofits’ revenues.  In addition, I was introduced to many wonderful nonprofits that I wasn’t already familiar with – a complete list is available here.  My favorite quote – “giving changes you as well as the world.”

Your small gift can also help these very worthwhile causes:

If you missed the recent PBS Frontline presentation of Digital Nation, you can watch it (and comment) online.   It is very thought provoking, and may provide a reminder that multitasking is not always the best way to get things done.  Also see this report from Pew Internet on Social Media and Young Adults.

Wondering about whether mobile fundraising will become a major fundraising channel as it has been for Haiti?  See MobileActive’s Definitive Guide to Mobile Fundraising as well as Beth Kanter’s summary of some recent viewpoints.

What’s New in ePhilanthropy

When you present, do you get frustrated with attendees who seem to be paying more attention to their phones / computers than to your presentation?  In her presentation this week on the Trainer’s Social Media Tool Box, Beth Kanter explained how to use social media to enhance your sessions by encouraging sharing of information.   A new book, the Back Channel, details this phenomenon in more detail.  (If you’re still waiting until the end of your talk to take questions, you definitely need to see Beth’s notes.)

Jeff Brooks also spoke on a Network for Good call on what not to do in online fundraising – slides are available here.  (Hint – if your figures are not growing, you’re missing something.)

Do you maintain a database for advocacy that’s separate from your main donor database?  Care2’s webinar on Connecting Advocacy to Fundraising showed how activists can also be top fundraisers, if you take the time to cultivate them.   Activists also consistently open emails more frequently than other supporters.

If you need help in selecting tools for your organization (who doesn’t?), take a look at Idealware’s just released Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits.  Laura Quinn’s organization has always provided great information through her web site, blog and enewsletter.  I helped with some edits for this book – it is definitely worth getting.

Now that there’s so many ways to communicate with constituents, are you taking the time to make sure your messaging is consistent and on brand across channels?  See notes from Kivi Leroux Miller’s talk this week on Integrating Your Website, Email Newsletter and Social Media Sites.  Also see Blackbaud’s tips on Multi-Channel Engagement.

Like most nonprofits, Idealist has having some challenging times and has asked for our help.  Ami Dar’s work has long benefited the nonprofit community.  Please help.

Finally, are you helping your constituents to run their own fundraising events, or do you only help with events run by your organization?  If so, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Read Independent Fundraising Events Bring Big Returns, which links to a recent white paper by Blackbaud and Event 360; you can also register for a webinar on Feb. 3 to learn more.