Yet Another Futile Attempt to Explain Social Media for Non Profits

by Joe on December 28, 2009

I love where I work.  Daily, the conversations are challenging, broadening and focused on achieving impressive goals.  As a non-profit, my organization is always looking to take its operations to the next level, especially in terms of engagement with our constituents.  The mission and vision are what drive the passion for so many of my colleagues and volunteers.  Difficult part about it is driving engagement via conversation.  Just yesterday my co-worker sent an email to a few of us at the office helping us tilt our mission and vision toward the conversation and our collective ability to drive it. Check out his amazing thoughts:

Guest Post adapted from an email by Kye Hittle


You might remember that we threw out the idea of having the entire staff and talented volunteers become “compelling content producers” by way of blog, wiki, etc. That sounds very pie-in-the-sky, but it isn’t and it could offer a part of the solution to one of the immediate problems that we face in the comm arena (content creation). So, I thought maybe a tangible example that hits close to home for you might help.

Imagine you read this article (that came to me via twitter btw) which was just published today. You don’t have to actually read it, the exec summary is that charities often inflate their gifts-in-kind number to get a better rating on charity watchdog websites because it pushes down their cost of fundraising percentage.

The first thing you think is “wow, this reminds me why we are so conservative in our policies and, ya know, there really are some shadeballs out there.” And then “gosh, I hope our donors don’t think WE are like that.”

But, WAIT, how DO they know that we are any different? None of those policies are posted online. We don’t publish them in the annual report. (And even if we did who would ever read boring crap like that anyway?) We kill ourselves adhering to these policies and I betcha that, if surveyed, a bunch of our constituents just assume we are like the rest!  Ugh, we might as well play the game and get the better rating – sure would make our job a lot easier!

That’s not how our organization does things, however. So, you write a blog entry on the website blog linking to the article and going down how our policy handles each point Kathy Kristof levels against us nonprofits. Then you click Post and its done – 15 minutes. Now there’s no magic here – that doesn’t mean every potential donor automatically knows that we are above such shenanigans, but it does IMMEDIATELY put our position out there for the entire world (not just people we have contact info for, mind you, but anyone searching or stumbling across this topic). On top of that, the blog model invites a conversation, so people can say how much they appreciate our approach (sing our praises to the rest of the world for us) or ask further questions (allowing additional education we didn’t even anticipate was needed) or throw out a stupid and incorrect statement (that we can then correct in a public forum cuz you know if one thinks it, there’s a ton more that do too).

Try doing that with a magazine article, annual report or letter – or even a one-on-one phone call with someone that does care enough to call in and get the skinny. The reach would be far less and its a lot harder to refer to in the future when the question comes up again. Plus, when you need content for Foundation Flash or the Foundation e-newsletter, just throw in a blurb and link to your blog post for those that have interest (or didn’t but do now that you’ve brought it up for them). I could go on-and-on about the potential impact of that one simple post, but hopefully that begins to paint a picture.

That’s how it should work. You can probably imagine how this would play out for pretty much any staffer or key volunteer (there would be a ton of different scenarios). I really like thinking of the online content of an organization as its “resume.” Right now ours looks pretty thin and short of hiring someone(s) to beef it up, we’ll remain that way, unless we consider what new media offers.

This is one of the only tech-powered strategies that I would even consider at this early stage if I was in your shoes. Of course start small. What’s the cost? Staff/volunteer training, blog software (free, but there’s some setup), a shared strategy for what messages need to be advanced, strategy on one blog vs multiple. Are we ready for all that now? Probably not, but I’d say it should be in the consideration hopper. It just occurred that we can talk tools or theory, but a story would most likely be the best educator – hope it helped. Come hang out with Joe and I for an hour in that world and we’ll really blow your mind!



Now, the theme of this post is the response from YOU and the ensuing conversation, so both Kye and I would love to see your thoughts on this.  Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of this example and the start of a new more conversational and listening focused strategy.

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