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Social Media 101 for the Philanthropist

I’m a big fan of social media and I’m a philanthropist at heart, so it really bothers me when I see stuff out there for non-profits for any kind of fee. It’s hard enough as it is maintaining a non-profit and it’s a little disappointing that people are profiting off it.

I started a non-profit four years ago. It’s been rather successful and it’s due mostly to viral marketing, social media, and social networking. Facebook started up in 2004 and even though it had eight million users at the time, it wasn’t quite mainstream technology for causes.

But since then social media outlets have exploded. Facebook introduced Causes, YouTube introduced YouTube Call to Action, and LinkedIn, which has been around even longer than some, started using Groups for nonprofit means.

There’s also Flickr, Twitter, and other plug-ins like Add This that you can utilize for your cause. And fund-raising tools like the Pepsi Refresh Project, but you need to utilize social media to win. But before we get into all of that, let’s talk about what you need to do first before engaging your nonprofit in social media.

Community is the best and most powerful vehicle we have in advocating change today. Building that community is the challenge. You can have the best website, the most worthy cause, and even the best idea for a campaign, but you need a community to make it successful. How do you do that?

You need to make sure that your website reflects any social media involvement that your nonprofit partakes in. Let your supporters, fans, volunteers, and prospects know that you have a Facebook Causes or Fan page by displaying it on your website and at the bottom of your newsletter. If you have a Twitter account, let them know by boldly displaying a Twitter button and link to your Twitter page. Get your entire organization to list your social media outlets at the bottom of their email signature along with listing your website.

Get your staff and volunteers to add your nonprofit on their LinkedIn profile. If they don’t have a LinkedIn profile, encourage them to get one. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes to set up. It’s important to have buy-in from your staff and volunteers because without it, you’re doomed to fail simply because you can’t do this all by yourself.

The reason you can’t do it all by yourself is that it takes time and resources. Time is necessary to develop good social media content. Often times we see nonprofit organizations with an online presence using social media and they are no more useful than a Google Alert on their cause.

Engage your constituents with your tweets and posts. How? Include a poll, a survey, or ask a simple question and look for feedback. Respond to any feedback you get because this shows that someone is listening to your constituents and that it’s not going into a black hole.

Resources are important to make updates, tweaks to software, and other techie things. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have redundancy because in the nonprofit world, turnover is frequent.

In order to have good content you need to define what your objective is for using social media. You should develop that into your positioning statement. Next, as with any smart marketing plan, you need to define your target audience, define your message succinctly, and make your audience want to take that extra step to your call to action by letting them know how they will benefit.

Now there are a ton of opportunities out there for you to make a splash. YouTube’s nonprofit campaign where you can overlay a call to action over your video has been pretty powerful. Video is a powerful way to show impact and need for your organization with a designated nonprofit channel on YouTube.

Use a social media plug-in like Add This which is shared on hundreds of thousands of websites and is viewed over twenty billion times per month worldwide. Or you can use ShareThis Button which allows your constituents to connect and share via Facebook, Twitter, Digg, MySpace, etc. If your organization’s website is using you can add in a Twitter plug-in so that people can re-tweet your posts.

It’s true that person to person contact energizes and invokes passion in us that is sometimes lost online. However, you can still use social media to your advantage, create an event for volunteers or constituents, and use social media tools to get them to attend. Another idea? Have a social networking party at a pizza shop and have a donation be optional or partner up with a recruiting agency. Now that you have some information on how to use social media for your nonprofit advantage, go spread the word!