Social Media Not Working For Your Nonprofit?

Lori Halley 09 April 2010 14 comments

The following is a guest post from Paul Cheney (@prcheney), the mastermind behind The Blog Raiser. Paul helps nonprofits and fundraisers figure out how to make blogging and social media work – and today he's offering 10 lucky Wild Apricot Blog readers an hour of telephone consultation with him, free of charge! Read on –  

Social Media Not Working For Your Nonprofit? Here's How to Fix It

3981617434_8db5b00230 Sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it. Sometimes all the planning and preparation in the world amounts to absolutely nothing. It's a hard fact of life.

The same goes for social media. A lot of times we hit a wall. Things stop working. Twitterers aren't banging down doors trying to follow you. Facebook pages go limp. Blogs dry up. It happens.

The thing is, you're a nonprofit. You don't have time to figure things out. You don't have the money to fix it.

So what do you do?

Step Back, Breathe, and Re-evaluate Your Goals

The first thing we tend to do when things aren't going our way is panic. You might be tempted to start haphazardly changing your strategy and hoping for the best.

Don't panic.

Take a step back and look at what's been happening. Remember those goals you started with? Have they changed? If not, remember what you set out to do with social media. Was it fundraising? Was it advocacy? Whatever the case, go back and check the data.

What were the steps and actions you took that brought you a little closer to those goals? Which tweets got the most retweets? Which posts got the most comments? Which email got the most opens and click-throughs? Take a look at what you've done right. Then try to recreate that success.

Stop doing the stuff that doesn't work and start doing more of the stuff that does.

Figure Out What's Working for Other Organizations

Here's a good idea I got from a post by Jason Dick on copying good ideas: copy good ideas.

Assuming they're succeeding, find out how other nonprofits are using social media and see if you can imitate them.

Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter. Check out their Facebook pages. Take a look at the kinds of things they're writing about. What strategies or techniques can you lift and fit to your own organization?

I've found that this, more than almost any other thing, has helped me get out of my own ruts personally, professionally, and in dealing with social media. Try to get into people's heads. Get on their sites and start digging around. Look at what they're doing more than what they're saying (though you can learn a lot from that too).

Here's a couple to get you started:

  • National Trust for Historic Preservation: I like their style a lot. Free reports, resources, and a super-informative blog are just a few of the strategies they've got working for them.
  • Share Our Strength: Be sure to check out their Facebook and Twitter pages. The blog is something to see as well.

You might even learn a lot from Wild Apricot (aside from the great content they put up on their blog). They may be a business, but there's still some serious strategies to be gleaned. They're helping people out with their blog and those people buy from them. How can you help people out when you talk to them through social media? Are you giving people real value so that they donate/pay attention/love you?

Of course, it's one thing to learn what others are doing and an entirely different thing to apply it to your own situation...which brings me to the one thing that can fix your social media rut better than anything you could possibly do on your own.

Ask People for Help

Ask those people you've been examining for ideas to help you out. They'll more than likely show you things you would have never found on your own. And because they've had so much experience, they'll probably know a lot better than you how you can apply it to your specific situation.

This is HUGE if you're like 99.999% of nonprofits and have zero time and zero resources to figure out how to make social media work. I can give you tips and tricks on social media till I'm blue in the face, but if you don't have the time or money to make them work for you, it's all for naught.

With that in mind, I'd like to make Wild Apricot readers an offer. Here's what I propose...

Get On the Phone With Me for 1 Hour...FREE

It saves you time, because you're not figuring this stuff out on your own. And it saves you resources because...well, it's free.

Ok, now for the catch.

I'm not Superman (no matter how many times I wear the costume around the house). I'm only going to be able to do this for a limited number of people...ten to be exact.

The other thing is, in order to be considered you'll have to leave a comment on this blog post explaining the biggest problem you're facing in your own social media efforts. What do you think is holding you back? Where are you stuck? What would you like to see happen that simply isn't happening no matter what you try?

Tell me anything you're having trouble with and we'll figure it out together, one-on-one over the phone.

Sound like a plan?

Alright then, what are you waiting for?  Stop reading and get commenting! :)

Paul Cheney


Photo credit: James Vaughan

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 09 April 2010 at 8:58 AM

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  • Isaac said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 3:51 AM

    Excellent post. Thanks a lot! /Isaac

  • Blase Ciabaton said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 4:30 AM

    Hi Paul,

    As you know, I enjoy your posts and this one is no exception-thank you!  Although I'm not a nonprofit, the nonprofit industry represents one of my largest client bases.  I do follow some nonprofits on Twitter, but I'm really turned off by nonprofits that tweet exclusively appeals for help-financial & other.  For the nonprofit community, I think Twitter is a terrific tool to generate awareness about events, and to share success stories associated with their mission.  I absolutely think that there's room to ask for help via Twitter and other social media outlets, but it can't be the only thing that nonprofit organizations put out there.

    On a separate topic, you may consider a future post on tools that nonprofits can use to measure social media success.  I think this is a challenge for many small nonprofits and many small businesses.  For instance last week, I just found out how to determine how many people follow my RSS feed.  I'm sure there are other key sources for metrics, like Google analytics, that would be really beneficial for the nonprofit community.  Thanks again!  Blase

  • Tara said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 5:21 AM

    My non-profit organization has been using social media for a little under a year and I want to try to evolve our level of dialogue to give us richer input from our members.  Your post gives me some great ideas.

  • Minal said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 5:40 AM

    I'm currently the managing editor of, a nonprofit news agency dedicated to reporting on development issues from around the world. We've set up Facebook pages, Twitter pages, and LinkedIn profiles, along with pages on and, but we can't seem to leverage our presence into dollars. We suspect this might be because we provide news, not a direct service or object to beneficiaries, but still, there must be a way to target people interested in supporting nonprofit news with money. We just can't seem to find them through our social networks. We could really use your help in being more effective in our fundraising. Help!

  • Paul Cheney said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 7:39 AM

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    I'll be making the official decision on Monday so keep 'em coming!

  • Brian said:

    Friday, 09 April 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Hi Paul, I manage a facebook page for Forgotten Voices International, and while I do have regular content syndicated from all our twitter/youtube/blog accounts on there I can't seem to get much in the way of interaction or thumbs up. I've tried on occasion to throw questions out there and that seems to be ineffective as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts about how to make the page better.

    Also, I'm still trying to understand, are their any pages that have interaction on them? What's the secret? is our page on there.


  • Sue Anne Reed said:

    Saturday, 10 April 2010 at 8:21 PM

    Would love your feedback about what we might be able to do differently. We are on Facebook and Twitter but don't seem to be getting a lot of engagement -- especially RTs on Twitter.

  • Joshua said:

    Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 3:21 PM

    I think the biggest problem for our start-up non-profit is answering the question of income.

    Social Media provides a wealth of opportunity for fund-raising, from traditional donation/pledge based models to more web 2.0 sponsored or advertising funded activities... but no one can seem to tell us whether or not this constitutes "unrelated business income."

    Since we can't answer this question accurately, we're unable to even finish filing our 501c3 paperwork. Perhaps someone on here(or even Paul, if you've got the time/space) can answer this?


  • Paul Cheney said:

    Monday, 12 April 2010 at 6:02 AM

    Hi Joshua,

    That sounds like a question for a good lawyer or accountant. Not sure I can help with that. Good luck!

  • Paul Cheney said:

    Monday, 12 April 2010 at 6:06 AM

    Alright Everyone! It's officially Monday. Everyone who left a comment asking for help will get a free hour with me on the phone. I'll be in touch.

    If you haven't commented yet, you have until midnight tonight to do so and qualify for a chance at the free hour.

    Happy Commenting!


  • Joshua said:

    Monday, 12 April 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Hi Paul,

    I've been in touch with a handful of lawyers, but none of them were tech savvy enough to get a grasp on the matter. If you have a referral, I would be much obliged :D

    Thank you!

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

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 12 April 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Joshua, is that a question you could take to the government folks who decide which orgs qualify for 501c3 status (and maybe try to get their response in writing, just to be on the safe side if it comes up again in future)?

  • Joyce M. said:

    Tuesday, 13 April 2010 at 5:30 AM

    Hi, I'm having a difficult time engaging supporters through social media.  I'll definitely look at the examples you gave to see what I can do to spice things up.  I'm open to suggestions, so if I can be one of the 10, just let me know!

  • Maureen said:

    Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 7:14 AM

    We are a non-profit Association for non-profits. So, our business is to help our non-profit members do what they do better - which is to provide human services. We need to be able to lead them and to do that we need to set an example. Unfortunately, the entire Association is run by three part-time staff and I am the entire web and IT department. Us and the 140 members we support would love your advice!  

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


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