Note: A version of this post originally ran on my website, Good Neighbor Stories.
I’ve shared some of the things I learned from attending the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference in Mountain View in 2012, like how nonprofits can best use Facebook, Eventbrite, and LinkedIn. There was plenty more info jam packed into the conference, but here’s one of my final takeaways: nonprofits have to get good at social media.
As the editor of Good Neighbor Stories, I’m on what I affectionately call the “do gooder beat,” because I talk to numerous nonprofit leaders who are doing good in the world. One of the consistent threads I notice between all small nonprofits is that the leaders are overwhelmed, and often social media is at the bottom of the to do list.
But the numbers are clear, social media engagement is only going to grow, especially since children and youth are growing up embracing the social media lifestyle. Meaning, future volunteers, supporters and leaders are hanging out in the social media space, so if nonprofits aren’t hanging out there, too, they’re missing out on a huge segment of the population.
Don’t Call Them Slacktivists
Lee Fox, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Koodooz.com, presented numbers from one report showing that youth want to connect through websites and social media, but no so much through printed materials and face-to-face contact. It also showed that 67 percent of youth said they had interacted with a nonprofit on Facebook.
She also shared that youth don’t see traditional “activist” activities, like going to a rally, fundraising or donating, or even volunteering, as rewarding. Instead, youth want to interact online, sharing their passions and interests “with a single click.”
But don’t call youth “slacktivists,” a term coined with some derision for people who click their way through online petitions and forward pleas to their Facebook friends. Fox said research shows these so-called slacktivists are four times as likely to ask others to sign a petition or contact a politician as others, and twice as likely to volunteer, donate or attend an event.
Lee called the interactions between friends and contacts on social media “knowledge sharing,” and said it appears this kind of sharing is the first step toward more traditional types of volunteer and donor engagement.
She encouraged nonprofits to give youth as many points of entry into the work they are doing, and to make it as friendship and interest driven as possible.
Make it A Part of Your Routine
There were more statistics and anecdotes presented at the conference about why it’s important for nonprofits to embrace change and dive into the world of social media. And as I said earlier, I hear often from nonprofit leaders they don’t have time.
My advice: view it like brushing your teeth. You’ve got to do it every day, or there’s going to be a price to pay in the future.
And the good news at the conference was that it doesn’t have to be done by one person. Darian Rodriguez Heyman, one of the conference organizers, suggested the “many hands, light work” approach. Put some proper policies and guidelines are in place first, so people know the boundaries.
Find people who like to hang out on Facebook, or Twitter, or know their way around LinkedIn, and then ask them to help you keep your nonprofit in the stream. Don’t know how to get started? Again, ask someone you know who loves social media to help you. Or throw your question into a search engine. It’s not that difficult to set up a Facebook Page, or a Twitter account. Honest.
And please, don’t assume all you need is that years-old Yahoo group you’ve been using. Yes, it’s been a great way to keep up with your core supporters, but it’s not going to cut it anymore. You’re missing potential new volunteers and donors who aren’t in your group by not having a presence on Facebook or other social media sites.
Once your accounts are set up, start “brushing your teeth” every day, by taking at least a few moments to update and see what your supporters are saying and doing. You might even find you enjoy doing it, and then you might find yourself having to put a time limit on your social media activities.
And While I’m At It…
And while I’m here asking nonprofit leaders to make social media a part of their routines, I have one other request: find volunteers to keep your websites updated.
Websites that are woefully out of date are only going to discourage potential volunteers and donors from supporting you. One thing I’ve noticed is that nonprofits are sometimes keeping their Facebook Pages up to date, but ignoring the website. As massively popular as Facebook is, not everyone is on it or willing to check out your page, so you’ve got to give people a place to find the latest and greatest info.
I know, I know, it seems like a lot, but once you embrace the changes brought on by social media, you’ll wonder how you operated without it all these years.
If you need help navigating the world of social media for your organization or business, please contact me.