Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Nonprofits Plan for Success With Social Media

People passionate about a cause and eager to bring about social change connect through social media. It is imperative that nonprofits learn how to become visible in social media by using the right medium for the task at hand. Social media are a low resource but not a “no resource” way to connect through trusted networks to new supporters of all kinds. Even social media channels are seeing benefits in creating user friendly tools for nonprofit organizations that offer beneficial outcomes for both parties.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we explore how nonprofit organizations are using social media to increase awareness of their organizations, and which social media platforms offer the best chances to connect with the right influencers/donors. We also look at one company whose main goal is to help nonprofits find organizational and fundraising solutions to optimize their social good efforts.

3 Old-School Organizations for Good That Have Mastered Social Media (Fast Company)
Some of the oldest social good organizations in the country have made big strides to lead the way in how nonprofits should interact with their constituents online to yield positive results. Fast Company’s Lesly Mansford looks at three organizations — Goodwill, United Way and the American Red Cross) — that are adapting and changing with the times. Although they have thousands of chapters and employees, all three have adapted to implement new social media tools to impact their communities. Here are a few examples of how each organization has adopted social practices:

  • Goodwill recently launched fashion trunk shows and online sales, as profiled on NPR. Now, under the consumer-focused brand “Shopgoodwill,” the organization has 2,245 followers on Twitter.
  • To help unify its brand, United Way launched the “Live United” campaign in 2008, with volunteers and celebrities wearing white “Live United” T-shirts featured on their websites, and Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • The American Red Cross uses its Facebook and Twitter channels to thank donors and volunteers individually, post photos and news from disaster areas, honor volunteers and staff, deliver the heartfelt thank-you notes of those who’ve received aid, and report back from areas it has served.

Tap Into the Power of Twitter for Grassroots Campaigns (PRNews)
Regina D’Alesio of PR News interviewed Tammy Tibbetts, founder and president of the nonprofit organization She’s the First, for the following Q&A, where she shares how leveraging Twitter has helped generate almost 6,000 followers and more than $20,000 to sponsor girls’ education in developing countries. Tibbetts found numerous benefits from her social engagement via Twitter, which she describes as a vital organ to her organization. Twitter affords the opportunity to be transparent and interactive with donors, and has led Tibbetts to miraculous in-kind donations. She also met two creative influences, @cynthiahellen & @azureantoinette, the major players behind two of She’s the First’s largest campaigns, “Girls Who Rock” and “Voice Your Verse.” Read more on how Tibbetts used Twitter to further the success of her organization.

Videos on the Web: GoodTube (The Economist)
YouTube has long been known as a video sharing site heavily invested in entertainment. More recently, YouTube has expressed interest in aggregating more content that informs and educates users. For nearly five years, YouTube has run a program that gives nonprofit organizations special benefits, such as a donate button on their pages and processing payments at no cost. From 13 nonprofits at launch, the program has grown to include some 17,000 organizations. Today, YouTube is creating more tools targeted directly at nonprofits. In January, it published a guide to help nonprofits get more out of their presence on the site. Apart from helping activists and advocacy groups make engaging videos, it encourages them to create channel pages with other videos from around the site. Starting this year, nonprofits can use YouTube’s live-streaming service. This decision offers beneficial results to nonprofits and YouTube. YouTube finds that when users come to the site looking for educational content, they tend to stay longer on the site, and videos produced by nonprofits tend to be more popular.

Nonprofits: Target Key Online Supporters With Blackbaud (Mashable)
Mashable and GE have partnered to present “The World at Work,” a new series that highlights the people, projects and startups driving innovation and making the world a better place. This week, Mashable highlighted Blackbaud, a company that provides customized organizational and fundraising solutions for nonprofits, not only focusing on resources needed, but also on the overall goal of each company. Blackbaud’s clients range from a 12-year-old boy who wants to raise money to save his grandmother’s house from foreclosure to an established nonprofit looking to reach a massive audience. The idea is that each of these clients can design their own solution by choosing from a collection of nonprofit management systems. “Since there are so many products to choose from,” said Jana Eggers, senior vice president of products and marketing, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every nonprofit.”

‘Nonprofit’ Is A Tax Classification, Not A Business Strategy (MediaPost)
There is no need for nonprofits to be reluctant when it comes to talking about profits. Nonprofit organizations need to make money just like any other big corporation. Recently, Michelle Campbell, MediaPost contributor, attended an Event Fundraising Roundtable in Boston, where Suzanne Fountain, associate VP of the Jimmy Fund, served as a panelist. Fountain started the conversation by comparing nonprofits and businesses: “You may be a nonprofit organization, but you still need to use your best business sense….”

Here are some business-tested and approved tips discussed at the roundtable that can be applied to the nonprofit world:

  • Segment in order to speak differently to different people. Donors, volunteers and event participants have different motivations for being involved with your charity, which means they require different messages and calls to action.
  • Encourage participants to “sell.” Participants will be able to fundraise more by using marketing/sales techniques and emotional storytelling.
  • Connect on a personal level. In the business and charity worlds, personal contact leads to better results.

Campbell had a few takeaways of her own after attending the roundtable:

  • Collaborate on a strategy. Contact area colleges with MBA programs and offer to work with graduate students on case studies and thesis projects surrounding your business model or marketing strategy.
  • Read the Harvard Business Review. This publication is a staple of mine and no matter what industry I find myself in, the information is relevant and applicable.
  • Look at businesses you admire and learn something. How do they promote their brands? What communication vehicles are they using.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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