Non-Profits Getting Social

For the most part non-profits are already engaged on the web and have an established donor presence. But with the new resources in today’s market, they are now jumping into the social media frenzy to extend their reach.

Social networking turned from a trend in building sustainable relationships both professionally and personally to the norm.  Committing to be actively present in the social media arena can be very time consuming, but is key to the success of social engagement online.

Most wonder what is it and how can it help non-profits?  According to Wiki, social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers.

While there are advantages of enhancing an online platform through social media, with any type of marketing, it is important to remember what is important to building a positive presence. Authenticity and transparency prove to be the frontrunners in building rapport in any relationship so why not demonstrate what you do offline with everyone online!

Develop A Social Medial Strategy
As you plot out your social media strategy, you can integrate some of the tools and resources you already put into practice while engaging in local community efforts to non-profit networking events.  And it can’t be emphasized enough, your reputation across networks are equally important both online and offline.

With a strategy in place, it is time to set out your goals and which social networks to join.  Just like networking offline (in-person), you need to develop a presence, give back and add value.  Let’s say one of your goals is to increase donor awareness, then you need to maintain an active presence in the social media channels in order to keep your donors coming back for more.  Additionally, you will want to include donation opportunities on your networking pages to foster awareness and draw attention to the mission of your cause. Based on your strategy and your goals, as well as know who your target audience is, will help determine which social media network will be the best ROT (return on time).

An array of options to Get Social!
There’s an array of social media sites out there so be sure to take stock of which sites will give you the best return on your time invested each day in social media. Most importantly find out which social media environments you need to target for your non-profit whether it be a social news site, social bookmarking or social networking. Here are a few questions to compel your thoughts: What type of non-profit do you have? Who do you want to extend your reach to? What  are your specific social media goals (i.e. raise money, draw awareness, donor support, etc.)?

Social News is a website wherein users submit and vote on news stories or other links.  A few examples of the 50+ sites out there are Digg, Reddit and Mixx.

Social Bookmarking allows users of the internet  to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages.   You may have heard or browsed through Delicious which is one of the most popular bookmarking sites out there.  Other ones are Faves (formerly Blue Dot) and Diigo.

Social Networking is the primary channel for non-profits to “get social” and here’s an short list to help get the ball rolling.

LinkedIn – primarily referred to as the professional social network that allows you to create a compelling profile.  It also gives you the option of joining groups of interest and add applications such as a blog.  Additionally, LinkedIn allows charities to form their own non-profit profile and it can be associated with all employees and volunteers working for the non-profit. is a portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. This site allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, campaigns, careers, etc.

Twitter – primarily referred to as a micro platform wherein you post short “tweets” of 140 characters or less to inform everyone of current campaigns, educational information, important issues and/or causes, promotions, updated website content, etc. There are a number of Twitter apps to leverage but two that are widely used are TweetDeck or Twhirl. These apps allow you to filter tweets, shorten URLs/links and manage multiple accounts.

Facebook and MySpace – two of the most prevalent friendly social networks.  Both created for the school/college arena but then made their way into all streams of life, including non-profits.  One of the main differences between the two is that Facebook has made major leaps over the last year with developing their platform, but have failed tremendously recently with user privacy.

Here’s a list of other social sites to check out:
43 Things
Live Mocha

Measurement is not always based on how much money is raised, but how the scope of influence has manifested across the globe. It is easy to focus on the short-term gain, but ultimately the investment made in social media today will reap a sustainable foundation built upon trust for the future!

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