Engaging Nonprofits through Social Media

For Valentine’s Day I talked about relationship building with students enrolled in an Arts Administration class at TCU, taught by the amazing Katherine B. Ware.

The students are focused this semester on “how to go about the business of managing a creative environment – whether it’s performing arts or visual exhibits or even electronic arts – in a cultural and economic environment that’s rapidly changing.”  To help grasp the ‘new normal’ for marketing  online using social media tools and wrap the brain around just how prevalent social media has become, we began with an Erik Qualman Video on Socialnomics.

So how do you get people to donate online to your nonprofit?

  • Listen – find and join online conversations on topics related to your nonprofit’s cause.
  • Choose your Channel – find the channel that best reaches your target audience.  Ie. If your entire audience is 18-24 year-old’s, Instagram may be a much better choice than Facebook or email.
  • Engage your Audience – people tend to give to causes and projects they believe in, that they can relate to, where they understand and can see how their contribution will help.  In the for-profit world marketers talk about ‘Path to Purchase’ as being the steps customers take on their way to buying a product or service.  In the non-profit world, it is important to understand your organization’s ‘Path to Donate’.  Most people will not visit your home page, click the ‘Donate Now’ button and give you tons of money…no matter how prominent or flashy your donate button is.  Before you can court your donors in person OR online, take the time to identify the steps they will take that will most likely result becoming a donor.  Ie. attending an event or becoming a volunteer.  Then encourage them along that path.

Online giving is up according to many sources including this charitable giving infographic.  Online giving may have increased, however avenues and tools for giving have increased also.  This makes it even more crucial that you develop your content and message such that it resonates with your audience and that you develop a relationship with your audience such that they hearing your message above the noise that is the amount of information available on the internet at any given moment.

Did you know that every 20 minutes there are over 10 million Facebook comments posted?

Question: Do we still need nonprofits when we have crowd-sourced giving sites?

These sites are an opportunity to pitch your ideas, whether for a nonprofit, a business idea, or just to see what happens and get people to donate or give you money.

It is easier than ever to connect with people online, but it is harder than ever to develop an ongoing relationship with people and really engage them with your cause or project. It is crucial for nonprofits to develop content that effectively tells the story of the good they are doing in the community AND connects with their audience in a way that makes them want to get involved as well.

What do nonprofits have to offer?

  • opportunities to get involved
  • to make a difference
  • to support a cause someone believes in
  • to sharpen a skill or have an experience that is unused in daily life

A case study

Charitywater.org – A group that is committed to 100% giving, which means they donate EVERY dollar of public giving (they keep a completely separate operating budget that is funded by private donors) to their project partners, aka the people in the field digging wells and providing clean water.  They even add back the credit card fees from the operating budget, they are that committed to the concept.

  • They are transparent – every single one of their projects is listed on their Google Map, plus they do a live broadcast of a project once a year.
  • They recognize their donors – they are committed to recognizing the contributions of their donors, even going so far as to mention them by name in a follow up video.  Part of why social media is so popular is that we all want to be recognized.
  • Their content is relevant and compelling – they offer information, project videos, stories of success and more, all in easily shareable format that enables their donors to easily become advocates for the cause.

Question: What is the best platform for nonprofit website development?

Nonprofits need a website that can be a tool as well as a resource for clients, volunteers, donors and other constituents.  Choose a platform such as WordPress.org that your organization has the skill set to learn and manage, so that you are not completely dependent on an outside group for regular content updates, basic changes and picture or video posting.

For nonprofits on an extremely tight budget or unsure of the direction of the site, there are free blogging platforms that have templates that offer the look and feel of a more formal site.  Try out your concept one of these first before you commit to spending a lot of time and money.

Question: How can I develop my Twitter audience?

Below is a great article to help you get started.  One of the key things to remember is that building an audience takes time and EFFORT.  You have to be willing to put in the time to at least

Think of it this way, if every time your friends ask you for help, you ignore them, when you need your couch moved….don’t count on a quick reply.

Additional Resources

Have questions or comments, please feel free to share them below!

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