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6 Social Media Lessons for Nonprofits

Lori Halley 02 August 2010 1 comments

It’s a great pleasure to welcome special guest Carol Buckheit of NonprofitMediaWorks.com to the Wild Apricot Blog today. Carol’s been studying Idealware’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide – the latest in a line of Idealware’s terrific research-based publications – and she’s kindly agreed to share her top “take-aways” from this new publication:

6 Maine Lessons from the new Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide

I admit it: I’m an unabashed fan of Idealware, that energetic little nonprofit in Portland, Maine that produces terrific Consumer Reports-like reviews of nonprofit software from events management to blogs. Laura Quinn, Idealware’s Executive Director, is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to software for nonprofits out there trying to stretch a dollar. (I’ve taken at least six of her webinars.)

A few months back I ordered my copy of Idealware’s Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits and I swear I didn’t leave my couch for two days. It was a thoroughly engrossing read for a geek like me.

reading Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide[Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed fan of all things Maine—blueberries, lobster, outlet shopping, flannel….But I digress.]

So, Idealware released their Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide last Friday, and yet again I was a weekend couch potato. The guide is unique in that laborious research informed the findings and recommendations—research that spanned 6 months and encompassed surveys, focus groups, and case studies of hundreds of nonprofit staff.

Laura Quinn and Andrea Berry co-authored the document and it’s downloadable from the Idealware website. The Guide also offers handy worksheets so folks can craft their own social media strategic plan.

Some of the findings were intuitive and expected; other findings answered some real questions I had often wondered, yet could only answer anecdotally.

Here we go with my top 6 top (research-based!) take-home lessons for nonprofit organizations from this superb guide:

  1. Twitter is very useful as a tool to get your message in the media, since many reporters and media professionals use Twitter. Lesson: make sure you are following your local media folks (radio, TV, influential bloggers, print) on Twitter. If/when they follow you back, you have a direct line to the folks who can broadcast your public education messages broadly.
  2. You could be losing potential volunteers who look for a Facebook page for your organization and don’t find one. A hefty percentage of Facebook users who responded to the Idealware survey—38%--said they would “definitely” or “probably” look for a Facebook page for an organization with which they were considering volunteering. Quinn and Berry conclude, “It’s worth creating a [Facebook] page simply to ensure that people looking for you can find you.”
  3. A Facebook page with a lot of fans seems considerably more effective than just having a page at all. Interestingly, 31% of people who said they don’t care if you’re using Facebook say they might be moved to volunteer if you have a lot of fans—and 12% of that group say they would be concerned if you didn’t,” said the report.
  4. To optimize success, plan on spending 5 hours per week on social media. Idealware reported that “tangible, substantive results” were reported by 75 nonprofit organizations who each devoted about 5 hours per week to their social media efforts; on average, they were using 2-3 channels apiece.
  5. Blogging was surprisingly underwhelming in its return on investment. However, blogs were useful to nonprofit organizations in a few keys areas, according to Idealware: 1) publicizing your expertise, 2) promoting your cause or educating people, 3) telling stories about your day-to-day work, 4) engaging folks in your decisions or work, 5) promoting your website and online information.
  6. “Use the social media channels that best fit your needs and resources in a way that helps you fulfill your mission.” Wise words from Quinn & Berry. No matter what everyone else is doing with social media, if your social media channels are not helping you reach your organization’s goals, then toss them. You have limited resources—use them wisely.

Carol Buckheit is the President of Nonprofit MediaWorks, helping Connecticut nonprofits advance social change through creative, cutting-edge, strategic communications. (You can find her on Twitter at @NonprofitMediaW.)

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 02 August 2010 at 9:13 AM


  • Jessica Sadoway said:

    Wednesday, 04 August 2010 at 12:17 PM

    Thanks for the great resource! I'll have to take a few hours this weekend myself to go through the report.

    Following local media (reporters, news, radios) is a great idea that never crossed my mind before. I'll be working it into all my planning from now on!

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