By James D’Ambrosio

Having written several articles about social media, I also know that many nonprofits lack time and resources to spend on it — social media can be time-consuming. But there are ways to make it more manageable. If your agency has been held back in this area, the following approach can streamline the process.   


Here’s a four-step approach to maximize impact with less time and effort:

1) WHO ARE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCES AND WHERE ARE THEY? First identify key stakeholders — donors, board, staff, service recipients, members, volunteers, funders, community leaders, sponsors — and their demographics. This helps determine which social networking sites they’re likely using. For example, LinkedIn consists of professionals focused on business; Facebook caters to a younger audience mixing social and professional elements; and Twitter has a broad spectrum of users sharing links to information. With so many sites out there, aim for quality over quantity: you don’t need to be everywhere;  just several places where constituents and other like-minded people are more likely to be. 

2) PREPARE CONTENT Next, prepare appropriate content. Ask yourself: a) What do I want people to know about my agency? b) What types of information would be of interest? c) Are there special offers I can promote? d) New programs to highlight? e) A library of photos (preferably action-oriented) illustrating the mission? Organize basic information such as agency overview, mission, programs, news items and key employees. Having this in place before opening accounts allows more time to focus on the technical aspects of social media which can take some doing. Working on both at the same time makes things more difficult.   

3) OPEN ACCOUNTS & PLACE INFORMATION Now you’re ready to open accounts. Place basic information and a few photos. You just want a foundation to build on, not an entire agency history. The focus should be on building a following by connecting with like-minded people. Post information and ideas useful to others and avoid being overly promotional. If people see you as a good resource, you’ll attract a larger audience more quickly. As your following grows, incorporate more information about the good work you do.   

4) MAINTAIN A REGULAR DIALOGUE Once you’ve gained a foothold, monitor accounts daily to engage followers, fans and subscribers. Responding to inquiries and comments quickly is crucial, especially complaints and problems. Good social media is about two-way communication  not posting information and forgetting about it. Drawing people closer helps build long-term relationships that can help spread positive messages about your agency and attract potential donors, volunteers, sponsors, board members, and employees. A sort of digital stewardship.     


What do you think of this approach? Does it make sense for your agency?


By James D’Ambrosio

Earlier in my career, I placed my value as an employee on hard work and effort, churning out press releases,  newsletters and other communications. While strong effort should always be valued, as I gained experience  I realized what it really takes to grow and maintain a vibrant organization: the results of your work.

This is especially important in nonprofit: It has been estimated that the Great Recession of 2008-09 and its financial after-effects may result in upwards of 100,000 nonprofits closing their doors! One way to reduce the possibility of this dire prediction coming true is for executives, managers and employees to heighten focus on identifying the desired results and bottom-line impact of their work. This is similar to writing a good resume, where experts recommend noting quantifiable accomplishments instead of simply listing responsibilities, which often carries more value with hiring managers. 


Social media provides another example. Social media is white-hot — just about every organization is leveraging the power of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others to reach potential stakeholders. And rightly so: there have been many success stories using these tools. But it’s not enough just to be on these networks. While you can quickly establish a Twitter account and gain 3,000 followers through a bit of tech savvy, if these followers have no connection to or interest in your cause, what have you accomplished? Basically, nothing. Social media is not a “build it, and they will come” enterprise. You have to find ways to stand out and attract those most likely to have an interest in your cause/mission. And that means investing time and resources in planning and evaluation. 


Prior to establishing social media accounts, ask key questions: a) Who is our audience? b) Where do they live? c) What are the demographics? d) How likely are they to use social media? e) Why should they care? f) What do we want them to know about us? g) What action(s) do we want them to take? In addition, evaluate results  through measurement tools: Twitalyzer for Twitter, Google Analytics for your Web site, and others. Taking it a step further, time and resources permitting, creating a formal social media plan would go a long way towards targeting your efforts. 

A similar approach can be used with other nonprofit operations — development/fund-raising, recruiting and training volunteers, programming, service delivery, special events, etc. To be sure, focusing on outcomes requires time and resources. But that cost can be more than offset by achieving better results and, in turn, enabling you to help more people in need or more aggressively advocating your cause. 


QUESTION TO READERS: How much emphasis does your organization place on outcomes? Any success stories to share?

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