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What are Your Non-Profit's Goals for Social Media?

Lori Halley 23 June 2009 3 comments

Membership in social networking sites may be free, as a rule, but there’s still a cost in staff or volunteer time.  For every hour your non-profit invests in social networking, an hour is lost to other projects that might further your cause more effectively.

How can you know if social media is the best possible use of your time, unless you’ve first figured out what you want to achieve?

Quantifiable goals will help you to justify your organization’s social media involvement to board members, members, donors, and other stakeholders.

If you lay out your best business case and still can’t seem to "sell" your board on social media, by the way, that doesn't necessarily mean the board is hopelessly "behind the times" with technology. Frankly, it may be the goal-setting process at fault — or maybe just your timing.

(You may need to need to revisit your goals to ensure that they’re on target with your organization's overall mission, measurable in a concrete way, achievable with the resources you've got available, and compatible with whatever other programs and projects are planned for the same  time frame.)

Even with the most enthusiastic of boards behind you, however, it pays to be perfectly clear about the goals before launching into social media — for some very practical reasons:

Everyone on the team has to agree on what target you're aiming for, and how you'll all know when you hit it... or not!

Goals will determine your strategy.

What do you want to accomplish? Who can help make it happen?

Audience is critical  — the people you want to connect with will determine which social media sites are best for your organization, and what you want people to do (what actions will get you to those quantifiable goals) will determine how you interact with them.

If your non-profit's mission is to change public policy or influence new legislation, for example, you’ll want to get your message in front of activists who share your interests, and especially to connect with those who are working in the same jurisdiction. On the other hand, if your goal is simply to bring new traffic to your website, you need to engage those people who have an interest in your cause and who tend to share information and resources with their online peers.

Ultimately, your goals will influence your social media usage in every respect, from whether you’ll use one single profile for the whole organization or let individual staffers speak out, to the frequency of Facebook status updates, to what criteria you choose for your “follow policy” on Twitter…

Goals keep your project on track.

Getting started in social media can be a challenge. Establishing connections and building momentum in social media doesn’t happen overnight — except for public figures and pop culture celebrities who bring along their offline fans when they decide to set up camp on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace. Giving up too soon (or after only a half-hearted effort) is a common reason for non-profits — for businesses and individuals, too, for that matter — to fail in social media.

On the other hand, no one would deny that social media can be a giant “time suck” for the unwary. It’s all too easy to become distracted, exploring cool links and chit-chatting with interesting new people.

While a certain amount of socializing is inevitable and essential in social networking — it’s all about the social and networking aspects of the Web, after all — you know that it’s vital to keep your eye on the bottom line where limited non-profit resources are on the line.

If you can set up a series of measureable “milestones” along the path to your overall goals for social media — it will be that much easier to keep focus on those goals, tweak your tactics as you learn what works and what doesn't, and hang in there long enough to start to see results. 

What are your social media goals?

How do they translate into real-world achievements for your non-profit — more donations, more signatures on a petition, more attendees at your conference, more clients helped through your programs and services? 

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 6:38 PM


  • John Haydon said:

    Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 6:12 AM

    In terms of milestones, I often recommend that non-profits start with things that are measurable and <em>within their control</em>:

    * Determine the quantity and quality of conversations about their cause

    * Number of blog posts per week

    * Reading and commenting on other blogs

    * Connecting with other folks on Facebook, Youtube

    * Posting and retweeting on Twitter

    When they take these actions, three things happen:

    1 - They get small, but measurable results.

    2 - They begin to learn where they might get the most ROI (Youtube? Twitter?)

    3 - They <em>do</em> and therefore learn about using social media.


  • Ed Kohler said:

    Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 5:11 PM

    The biggest challenge I see with social media is too much focus on the social. Sure, building relationships can be a powerful use of SM tools, but setting clear strategic goals will make sure the tools are used effectively.

  • Trina Isakson said:

    Monday, 06 July 2009 at 7:02 AM

    "How can you know if social media is the best possible use of your time, unless you’ve first figured out what you want to achieve?"

    So true. As I've said in other blog comments, it's easy to jump into the social media pool, but it takes work to stay in and have fun. Throwing an organization onto Twitter can become an act of curiosity and desperation rather than a strategy.

    <a href="http://trinaisakson.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/twitter-an-engagement-tool-not-a-fundraiser-ticket-seller/">Twitter: An engagement tool, not a fundraiser ticket-seller</a>.

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