By James D’Ambrosio

Social media and Internet capabilities have fundamentally changed how organizations communicate and do business: e-newsletters, mobile giving, texting, blogs, webinars, Facebook event and fan pages, Web analytics, SEO, Twitter job postings, etc. The associated cost savings has resulted in many companies significantly curtailing printed materials in favor of digital formats. In short, everything’s going digital.

In a blog related to his best-seller, “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business,” author Erik Qualman notes: 

A) 24 of 25 of the largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation;

B) Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres (together) have more Twitter followers than the population of Ireland, Norway or Panama;

C) Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…in 2009 Boston College stopped providing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen;

D) Social media has overtaken viewing adult material as the No. 1 activity on the Web;

E) 80 percent of companies use LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees; and

F) 25 percent of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.


The above makes a strong case for using social media. However, I’m keenly aware that many cash-strapped nonprofits cannot afford to hire communications staff, especially in this economy. If this is your situation, consider these alternatives:

♦ Hire a part-time person: 20 hours per week should be sufficient for a qualified professional to provide you with a foundation on several social media platforms suitable to your audience. A good professional will evaluate which platforms are best.  

Offer a social media internship through a local college or university. It’s a win-win: you get an enhanced online presence at no cost, and the student gains valuable work experience and college credit. Who knows, you may even identify a future employee.

♦ Solicit a PR firm to offer services pro-bono: Contact public relations firms specializing in nonprofit. They are often amenable to donating their time and expertise to help you set up/maintain social media accounts. In return, make sure to offer them recognition on your Web site, in printed materials, your newsletter, or annual report.    


Online messaging will only increase in the years ahead. Today, the majority of baby boomers and earlier generations almost exclusively seek information online. Without a strong online presence, you’re missing opportunities to  inform a significant segment of the population about your news and accomplishments, programs and services, advocacy and, most importantly, identifying and engaging potential new donors. What nonprofit doesn’t want that?

Going forward, a Web site is no longer enough. Find a way to create an online presence and keep pace with the inexorable movement towards digital communication. In PR speak, post or perish.


QUESTION TO READERS: How have you established your agency’s online presence? Any advice to others who still need to?

One Response

  1. This is great stuff! I’m a student and a PR major, specializing in nonprofits (specifically theatre). If you’re going to engage in social media, you’ve got to keep things up to date and current to keep up with your audience. Students are always looking to add to their resumes with internships and part time jobs. Some other interesting social media website (if you had the time) would be Pinterest and of course, Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: