Friday, March 8, 2013

Using Social Media: What Works, What Doesn't

Are you dazed and confused about social media and how best to use it? Are you looking for the most effective ways to allot your limited nonprofit resources - both money and staff time - strategically and thoughtfully?

Know that you don't need to use every social media platform - and that there is no one-size-fits all strategy. You do need to figure out where your supporters are in order to use the tool that best suits your organization, whether it's Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.

Here are five great ways to use social media:

  • Special announcements: Did someone just make a big donation? Has your organization received special recognition? Do you have a big fundraising event scheduled: Did tickets just go on sale for a new show? Social media offers an easy and quick tool for spreading the word, celebrating your successes, giving donors and volunteers a shout out, and creating a buzz.
  • Testimonials: Have a client tell a compelling story about the impact your agency work has had on his/her life. Make it short, and use video if possible - videos always draw more viewers and likes.
  • Conversations: Start a discussion about an issue relevant to your work, especially one that connects to something that's currently in the news. Ask a question to engage your followers. Or post a link to a survey soliciting feedback about your programs. The more you can invite your followers and supporters to participate, the more likely they are to become actively involved - either as volunteers or donors.
  • Calls to action: Do you need volunteers for a workday? Are you looking for a new computer? Is there an important local or regional issue that affects your nonprofits that needs to be brought to the attention of your community, or your elected representatives? Social media is one of the simplest ways to ask folks to help out or to express an opinion.
  • Website connection: You should always be using social media to drive people to your organization's website where they can learn more about your work, stay connected by signing up for your email list, and make a donation.

When it comes to fundraising, however, social media is not the magic bullet you were hoping for. It can operate as a good fundraising tool for small donations for the issue or crisis of the moment. It's a nice way for your supporters or Board members to create small birthday gift campaigns. It is an increasingly important way to grow your network, expand visibility, build your organization's reputation, and help keep folks informed about your good work.

But social media can't solve your funding problems. My ongoing experience as a fundraiser and fundraising consultant (plus every study I've seen) continues to show that the more personal your fundraising approach, the greater the return. 

The moral of this story is that along with your social media marketing you still have to do the hard, slow, face-to-face work of building relationships in order in order to raise the money for your nonprofit cause.

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