Empowering Non-Profits to Drive Positive Change via Social Media
Charities stand to gain significant advantage in community outreach and fundraising when they involve themselves in Social Media marketing strategies. According to the second annual Social Charity Index by Visceral Business, the top 100 charities in the UK have a combined seven million likes/followers on Facebook and 3.7 million followers on Twitter.
Although these numbers indicate strong opportunity in reaching individuals and opening doors to engaging people in the community to support a cause, they can also be misleading. Charities and non-profit organizations, like businesses, are just starting to understand social media. The findings in the report support the idea that although presence on social sites is growing and being adopted by many charities, the most efficient strategies for tangible results are yet to be fully applied.
Challenges Faced By Non-Profits
Non-Profits face significant challenges, in understanding how to maximize the impact they can have using social media. According to Anne McCrossan, is the Founding Partner of Visceral Business, "There's something of a disconnect going on at the moment. Charities are ticking the boxes in terms of using social media for reach, and to broadcast messages as they do with conventional communication channels, but aren't necessarily utilising the full potential that can be brought to the party when it comes to supporters wanting to share their own involvement in fundraising activities.", she explains in this article in The Guardian, where she goes on to explain that only 9 out of the 100 charities in the Top 100 are using a social leadership and engagement style yielding content that is standing out as "sharable" on Facebook.
Goal Setting for Non-Profits
The information in the report supports several of the observations I have been making in the recent months around what charities need to understand in running social media based outreach campaigns.
Traditional outreach methods have to be adapted to really zero in on the engagement factors, and focus less on measuring success by numbers of "likes" or follows.
Non-profits need to be focused on interaction and development of true community participation and support, rather than on increasing numbers of fans. An engaged fan is worth significantly more than an empty "like". Someone who likes your Facebook page or follows you on Twitter and never opens dialogue is as useful as a walking zombie - there is no energy, enthusiasm or desire to share coming from these people. As an organisation you need to question the value.
Much like any other marketing strategy, the non-profit organisation must first identify who their target donors and business partners are, and using this profile create content and communications to reach these key individuals or businesses. The critical element, however, is then being able to move these people into action.
As the study suggests, being sharable is a driving factor to success. How can you achieve being sharable?
- Provide content that emotionally moves or entertains your target community. Give them something of value to share - something to talk about . Always ask yourself the question "Why does my target community care about this?" and "What would make them share this?" Although words an certainly be powerful, on social networks items such as video and photos more quickly communicate a message than text. You have very limited time to capture someones attention - share something that will not only entice them to learn more, but that they will feel like sharing with their friends. This can be funny, this can be touching, or even motivational. Non-Profits have to think outside the box - the more creative and interactive they can be the better.
- Develop creative outreach projects. Give fans the opportunity to be the "star". The goal of the social media sites must include initiatives to recognise contributions, ideas & involvement of fans. Whether this involves sharing pictures of fans at real life events, or creating opportunities for fans to submit content that the organisation will then turn around highlight. The best plans will be the ones where the fans are driving content in support of the cause.
Non-Profits Are Stretched Thin
In NGO outreach I have done, through my work with the Aviva Community Fund Competition the most common reason I have heard when I encourage non-profits to get involved is the statement "We just don't have the time". Astounding to me, as taking the time would immediately qualify these grass-roots organizations to qualify for a share of $1,000,000 of funding that Aviva gives away to non-profits with engaged communities every year!
Non-profits have to understand that the value in putting the time and effort into online activities is huge. Rather than reaching one person at a time with mailings or phone calls, the stronger and more interesting their communications online are, the more likely it is that one simple posting could reach hundreds if not thousands of people simply by being sharable.
The choice seems pretty straightforward to me: Write a letter or make a phone call that will reach one person - and end there OR produce some content that will reach several people and if it's engaging, will be shared - multiplying reach to indefinite potential. What do you think?
If I were stretched thin, I would be interested in the increased efficiency social media offers.
The Greatest Challenge :
Understanding How To Keep Engagement Going
Being Responsive as interactions occur and being proactive in creating opportunity for interaction is key. Too many NGO's build their numbers, insert one or two interactions a day, then let their sites go on auto-pilot. Seizing and creating opportunity is essential to a successful strategy. Using tools to monitor keywords in the online space, doing searches for people who might be interested in supporting the cause are all important, but not as important with what you do once you have these contacts and opportunities. Ignite curiosity, spark dialogue then nurture it.
As non-profit organisations start to understand the true potential in social networks, and how engagement needs to be the foremost goal, a great deal of focus will likely change in their approach and we may start to see a great deal more "social good" in our online environments.
People look for positivity, for ways to look good, for ways to show support - the non-profits who embrace this idea and provide these opportunities for the members of their community while promoting their cause are the ones who stand to gain the most ground in their efforts.
I am honored to be in Delaware this weekend discussing this topic at Pod Camp East, in my talk entitled: "Cultivating zombies or activating community—Non-profits challenges competing in the
social media world" - if you happen to be in the area, it would be great to have you join the dialogue as we discuss and examine how to truly empower non-profits with social media tools.
The 2012 Social Charity Index provides some great supporting insight... I will end my post with another quote from the article in the Guardian by Ann McCrossan,
"By becoming a lot more distributed, and by empowering people as agents of social change, the most effective social charities are making great gains, with access to ever increasing numbers of receptive users. The findings of the study suggest charities can convert the loyalty of their supporters into direct and interactive involvement, and generate cost savings by doing so through their use of social business planning and networked media. Forget Facebook "likes" – think, instead, 'formative moments'."
If we can empower NGO's in our communities to use social media for social good and increase community engagement, we all stand to gain as we take these steps and use technology to make this world a truly better place.
- What challenges do you see non-profits facing?
- Do you think NGO's in your area understand how to effectively use social media for outreach and fundraising, or do you think they still struggling?
- What strategies would you suggest to help charities create "formative moments"? Any good examples to share?
Mila Araujo is a Social Business Strategist, Speaker and Director at a financial services firm in Montreal, Quebec. Mila has a diverse background in management, public relations, non-profit, and events. In her previous roles, Mila organized international conferences on health care, as well as programs to promote health for seniors and children in partnership with the Government of Canada. In ...
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