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« Playing the Social Media Game with 100 Bay Area Nonprofits | Main | A Tale of Two Nonprofit and Social Media Adoption Surveys »

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Susan/TogetherWeFlourish

The reason I started Together We Flourish is the awareness that many nonprofit organizations in my area did not have the resources for social media. Together We Flourish is a collaborative platform where each of the organizations can post just as if it were their own blog. Not only is the project growing, it is also helping them to get exposure to Twitter and other social networks. More and more are creating their own Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Djanke

I'm not convinced Twitter is an organizational strategy.

Cindy's Twitter feed reads like a personal account (but branded under Teaching Hands). It no doubt helped her get more exposure, but I think it had more to do with Cindy than with Twitter. I imagine that Cindy could simply have hung out at Happy Hours around Boise--chatting and sharing info about Teaching Hands--with similar effect.

Cindy has done a great job creating a community, and Twitter is a good tool for communicating. But, is this a repeatable recipe for other nonprofits?

Your nonprofit needs champions, "the promoters who are good communicators and have a good network to promote the idea through" (http://www.horsepigcow.com/2009/11/credit-where-credit-is-due/). This is something the organization should focus on.

These champions can use a variety of tools. Twitter is one.

It is more than just a symantic difference. It has to do with who makes the decision to use Twitter.

A nonprofit's management should not read this post and say, "we need Twitter". What they need is a champion.

On the other hand, individuals should consider using Twitter as a method of communicating with their network (or recommend Twitter to one of the champions).

Jennifer Scott

For years I've struggled with the sense of community our students feel when they take classes at the BCAE. Once they're in the door and in the class, it's this great experience and you feel really connected to everyone around you. But how to maintain that connection and keep people engaged when they aren't here? How to give potential student a sense of that before they get here to encourage them to register for classes? Social media tools have been an absolute gift to us! We're able to interact with students and instructors in ways we never could before. I'm using mostly Twitter to do this (so easy to see and respond quickly using Tweetdeck), but we have a Facebook fan page and a BCAE Members group as well. It's absolutely changed how people get to know us and interact with us on all levels.

If you're thinking about it, try setting up your own account and using the tools if you haven't already. I thought Twitter was useless until I set up my own and saw how I could use it and how others were. A few months in, I set up our BCAE account and I'm so glad I did!

twitter.com/ArtsAdvocate_MD

As a state-wide Arts Advocacy group, we have only recently moved into the social media world. I don't see it as a fundraising medium for us, but there are other ways it can be helpful. Meaningful interactions, even just a few ones, are important, especially to a regional organizations with only 2 employees!

We have several programs starting up right now...one is our "Arts Step Up for State Employees" program where organizations are offering discounts and promotions to state employees who have been furloughed for 5-10 days this year due to the recesssion...after Tweeting about the program, I got 2 more organizations to sign on. It took far less time to Tweet about it than to call people individually and pitch the program.

Another program we have is the Emerging Arts Advocates Committee. We're gathering a state-wide group of younger arts supporters on their way to becoming the next generation of powerful Arts Advocates. By mentioning the program on facebook, I recruited 2 great Committee members that I wasn't reaching using our typical e-mail lists.

And we have only just begun to use these forms, with less than 300 facebook fans, and just over 400 Twitter followers...once we grow to several thousand, I foresee many more interactions like these taking place.

Stephanie Derrick

People call 2-1-1 for information and referrals to agencies that can help with basic needs like shelter, food, or clothing. I read about local road closings and boil water advisories on Twitter before people called for information. As an employee of a small 2-1-1, I use Twitter to learn what other nonprofits are doing successfully and to learn more about technology.

Rebecca Krause-Hardie

@djanke.. Raises an interesting question. First I don't think Twitter is a strategy, its a tool. And like you say, its about how we use it just like any other type of networking online or offline.

To me the really interesting question here is about how small npo's operate. It is very likely that the smaller the org, the more the org is the person, and they are nearly interchangeable. All the more reason, to reflect personality in one's work.

The larger the org, the harder it has been to keep a sense of personal connection. SM tools allows are transforming that landscape now, allowing big orgs to act like little ones.

Bridget Steele

Earlier this year, our nonprofit ventured into the social media waters by starting a blog. (You can check it out at http://learningcentersupport.blogspot.com/) Outside of time, our small department launched the blog at virtually no cost. We checked out library books on building and maintaining a blog, taught ourselves some basic web design techniques – again from library books and online articles – and chose a free blog hosting service.

Our cause, providing free after-school training for children with dyslexia, encompasses centers spread across several states. The blog launch came in the midst of the economic crisis when these centers were facing unprecedented fundraising challenges. Our goal was to provide center staff and their volunteer boards with fundraising tips, inspiration and the opportunity to feel connected to headquarters and other volunteers. We got into a rhythm of doing three posts a week and have been posting faithfully since May.

We saw the real value of the blog when we began using it to provide information on a proposed name change for our charity. Through a rebranding study we had all but settled on a new name, but the negative feedback we received through the blog alerted us to regional problems with our choice that we never would have thought of ourselves. The issue sparked good dialogue among our volunteers, brought our highest readership numbers yet, and showed supporters that we were listening when we chose to rule out the name choice completely.

With our 100th post coming at the close of this year, our staff would agree that the blog has been a great success. We haven’t attempted Twitter yet, but if we win the book we might just give it a try!

Lettie

Twitter is where I find many of my resources now. Works for my org like a compact RSS feed that is almost always on point and easily filtered otherwise.

I've also recently made programming connections with an area college that offers internship money for nonprofits. The program coordinator saw my tweet about an upcoming program we're doing on internships and we connected thanks to the flexibility and transparency of Twitter. She's been added as a speaker with good resources for nonprofit folks.

I have heard many, many similar stories from other nonprofits that I work with about Facebook, Twitter and blogging platforms. They dig the tools/sharing.

We could hear more encouragement on "patience pants" and defining success as I hear from a number of orgs that "they're following the best advice and not reaping success." http://www.nten.org/blog/2009/08/17/putting-your-patience-pants:)

I'm a nonprofit resources librarian at a hopping Cooperating Collection of the Foundation Center, btw. Thanks for asking, Beth;)

Lettie

Oops! I should have added our blog/resource page success! We're using wordpress to push out our class content, local resources and connect folks with people like Beth:)

Our blog is easy, well-used, and dynamic. My intended audience are my local nonprofit readers who I've already built relationships with via programming and reference work.

I'm open to your critiques: http://www.pcnrc.wordpress.com

Amy Teall

I have just started maintaining a Twitter and Facebook account for the non-profit where I work. I am the only person in the marketing/development office and I was worried about spreading myself too thin by adding social media to my plate. Also we provide substance abuse treatment to adults with disabilities and I was concerned about confidentiality issues. So even though I had personal Twitter and FB accounts, I was reluctant to create them for our np. But I changed my mind after I heard Google and Bing were going to start including Tweets in their search results. I'm not sure when this goes into effect, but I'm willing to try anything that helps our SEO.

Jane Adams

I am a twitter addict... there I've said it, I feel better now! I started off really not understanding how it could help the charity that I volunteer for. So I decided to get a twitter account of my own @WildlifeStuff and "play" for a while until I found my feet. Well I think I'm gradually finding them...

There are so many things that I can see Twitter helping us with. We are a relatively small county-wide (just Dorset, UK) wildlife conservation charity and we are always looking for ways to interact with our membership & people further afield that is low cost, easy & fast, Twitter lets us do all those things.

It lets us keep up to date with what other charities are doing (how they are using twitter), read tips from people like you, plus it lets us follow and link up with influential TV broadcasters and Journalists who may be able to help our cause, and it lets us share what we are doing with everyone... (whether it's a bird that's just been seen on one of our reserves, a news item or a blog post from some of our young volunteers).

I've now set up our @DorsetWildlife feed & we already have over 150 followers, and I'm looking forward to expanding the way that we use Twitter in a Christmas campaign.

One success we have had so far was in the Spring when we set up a live streaming nestbox camera for a Kestrel on our website & watched 5 chicks develop and fledge - along with a public twitter feed @KestrelCam on the same page - we had over 23000 page visits & hundreds of tweets. Just amazing. In 2010 we are going to have 4 nest cameras (hopefully with public twittering as well) & hope to encourage more donations/membership, sales & followers!

Things for the future... well I can't wait to try out Twibbons & Tweet-Giving (via hash-tag sponsorship)... but oh could I do with a copy of Twitter for Dummies - I think my head is about to explode!

Julio Vasconcellos

I disagree with the point of view that severely time-strapped small nonprofits should significant time to social media. This is especially true if their goals in using social media is for fundraising, which I would posit is the primary goal of most. Too often we look at the few success cases and make decisions based on those, without considering what the most likely outcome is. Just wrote some of my thoughts (and data) in this blog post: http://www.armchairfounder.com/2009/11/why-small-nonprofits-should-tread.html

- @JulioV

Sarah

A three-person organization, we've used twitter to connect with supporters in our community and have gained new volunteers and people to run local races for our charity. We've also connected with local businesses that want to support our cause! An hour or so a day, and we continue to expand! www.twitter.com/thinkcure

Julio Vasconcellos

Beth, here's another follow-up on how small nonprofits can leverage social media. Perhaps we're a bit closer in our thinking?

http://www.armchairfounder.com/2009/11/how-small-nonprofits-can-leverage.html

Kelley Coyner

Doorways for Women and Children recruited a volunteer (me) to help them use social media. My motto is use social media to do what you already need to do--- don't make it a support disconnect effort. And I use a more friendly version of the KISS principle-- Keep It Simple and Small (and Short)

Doorways has use Social Media both initiated from staff and from volunteers to increase its return on direct mail, to do mini giving challenges, to have an online campaign, to run a twitter feed on its website of current client needs, to celebrate volunteers, to publicize educational events, and so forth.

Doorways is begining to ask supporters to "retweet" across social media.. eg post on neihborhood listservs, Personal Facebook, group, and fan pages etc.

Kim Connolly

United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area is a 12-employee nonprofit in Charlottesville, VA. We have been very successful in employing social media (blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)to build and maintain relationships with our community and supporters. Our blog, http://livingunited.typepad.com/ has been in existence for nearly two years, and last year was featured on local TV as an example of an excellent local blog. We use it to great effect to publicly thank and link to local businesses and people and other nonprofits, and well as to put a human face on our activities. Last March we ran a month-long blog marathon to create awareness of the need for more mentors in our community. We asked all the local nonprofits who use volunteer mentors and tutors to submit testimonials from mentors, mentees and their executive directors. Each day featured a new post from a different organization. Even the mayor of Charlottesville wrote a post for us. We saw a 100% increase in visitors to our blog that month. The local daily paper did a feature story on the blog marathon. Our blog feeds in to our Facebook page and on to several employee's personal pages as well.

Mike Trainor

I agree with those that say that Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites are really only tools not a strategy. Likewise I think social media itself is really a tool to be used as a part of a comprehensive constituent contact and communication strategy. The unique value as I see it of social media as a tool is that it can be utilized to increase the effectiveness of virtually every other element of your overall constituent contact strategy. Also it has applications to any organization regardless of size. It can make a large organization seem friendlier and more personal if that is of value. Likewise it can create the perception for a smaller organization of being much larger in size and scope within their space, if that is of value. I believe that organizations of all sizes should be employing the tools and concepts available today that embody industry best practices. The rapid pace of technology development in the nonprofit market is making that more possible than ever before. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
http://www.stratuslive.com/Fundraising-Futurist/

Women's Cancer Resource Center

Women's Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) of Oakland, CA has used Facebook and other social media to promote our events, most recently our annual Swim a Mile fundraiser.

I have used FB and to a lesser extent Twitter to create a buzz about what we are doing. I don't think that it is an accident that we added 20% more swimmers this year and will break all previous records of funds raised for the Swim A Mile - and in an economy where most non-profits are struggling, slashing budgets and even closing. I think a large part is that more people are more aware of us and the impact our work makes through regular media (we've had lovely feature articles in Edible East Bay and the Monthly among other places - and there are links to those on our wall. And many of the individual swimmers used FB to promote their individual fundraising for the event - I definitely saw that happening and enjoyed seeing people give updates about their training and fundraising. I'm sure that it was a good and easy way to remind people to sponsor them.

When I look through our posts the people who comment and "like" the posts are a wonderful mix of clients, volunteers, staff and supporters. FB has helped us create a virtual community. I also I feel that FB has been very useful for is promoting news articles that articulate our mission and values and educate people - particularly about the politics of cancer and environmental issues.

Most of the funds that we raised were from one person's cause on our behalf but a few other donations have come in as well. Other things that have happened is we have promoted other events and had people attend only because they saw it on FB. We have had people make donations of services because of things they saw our FB posts. We have gotten at least one new volunteer from postings and found the musicians for our art show tomorrow on FB.

http://www.facebook.com/wcrc.org

Noah Goodman

Beth,

Thank you for bringing a spotlight to the use of social media by smaller NPOs. I feel like most of what we hear from NTEN and the NPTech community is from Wendy Harmans. I love hearing from these people and they have obviously used the tools in innovative ways, but their stories are only partially relevant to majority of us who work in smaller organizations. It's nice to hear other voices from this community and the ways they have used they've used their smaller capacities to use social media to further their organization's mission.

I am the Director of Social Media for a startup organization in Harlem called Facebook Page as a way to get everybody in the organization used to the concept and rhythm of social media before we move on to other platforms. We have been using Facebook as a way to keep donors updated about our cause and our organization, as well as a place to meet new partners and learn new techniques.

We recently partnered up with a documentarian who found us through Facebook and were invited to speak on the panel of her screening here in New York. We have also been using social bookmarking sites like Delicious internally as a way for members of our organization to keep each other up to date on relevant articles, organizations, and events related to our cause.

Noah Goodman

Something got confused in the formatting of that post. Our name is Global Language Project (not Facebook Page :P). You can check out our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/globallanguageproject.

Noah Goodman

Something got confused in the formatting of that post. Our name is Global Language Project (not Facebook Page :P). You can check out our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/globallanguageproject.

Ryan Quiel

Yes, I think small non-profits have more to gain then anyone else, because of the case Mike Trainor laid out in a earlier comment:

"Likewise it can create the perception for a smaller organization of being much larger in size and scope within their space"

Small nonprofits like @Camfed (who I work for & only 5 of us in the US office) can be associated with some of the largest, trusted nonprofits in the US when our reach, followers and supporters are equivalent numbers, seen by new supporters online.

With online reach comes leverage and being able to enter into social partnerships online that you would not have otherwise been able to enter. Keep at it and good luck!

@Quiel

twitter.com/RiverwoodWriter

The Shenandoah Community Foundation (http://www.shenandoahcommunityfoundation.org) has not yet dipped its toe in the social media waters, but we're about to. Many other community foundations in Virginia and beyond are using social media successfully and finding that it offers wonderful tools for executing their strategy of "connecting people who care with causes that matter." The investment is almost completely time, not money, and often volunteers can be recruited to help.

twitter.com/nonprofitbridge

As the winning organizations of America's Giving Challenge recently demonstrated, social media allows small nonprofits to compete with the 'big guys.' See my blog post at http://www.nonprofitbridge.com.

Simon Duncan

I've been working with small voluntary and community organisations (VCO) in the UK for the last three years and the whole area of social media is a real challenge to them. The problem is that most approaches focus on the technology and leave out the unique approach and circumstances of each small organisation. However rather than just rule it out I am running a Social Media and VCO experiment #socialmediavco.
I'm exploring the main social media technologies, applying them to our small social enterprise and extrapolating out to discuss how different technologies may be able to help different types of groups.
It has been great so far and I've been getting a fantastic response and am starting to find out how some of these small VCOs are using social media to help them to achieve their goals.
You can follow my progress at http://yhictchampion.wordpress.com/category/socialmediavco/
See you there and wish me luck.
Simon

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