the grass is greener on the internet

Thoughts on social media for NFPs
November 26, 2008, 2:41 pm
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Some thoughts on applying Chris Brogan’s social media tips to not-for-profits…

Before you even start, you need to look at:

  • the structure of your organisation – core group of evangelists or shifting/rotating membership?
  • your cause
  • if you’re advocating, who are your targets?

One advantage that NFPs do have is that often people relate to their cause immediately. Before Coke was popular we had to be convinced that drinking dark sugary fizzy acid was cool, but we already know that heart disease is an issue. It’s more about finding and connecting your evangelists than, well, creating them.

So the first step is to listen.

It’s time to be an anthropologist – there’s a social media community, and within that there might already be a community for your cause. You need to find it and get immersed in it, or figure out the unspoken social media rules to create your own community.

Then you need to find a platform.

It might be a blog – this is popular with CSR as there’s plenty of stories to be shared (example here). However, some causes aren’t as dynamic, like poverty, homelessness or cancer. They may benefit from more interactive platforms like forums or wikis. Think Nabuur – the possibilities for conversation are endless.

Setting up outposts for the cause draws in the ‘stragglers’.

They don’t want to talk about your cause every day but they don’t mind hearing about it occasionally. That’s why you need to use apps like Twitter.

Finding a username for these accounts can be tricky, but I think the key difference between NFPs and companies is that the NFP is more likely to talk about others. Their name is a cause that we want to connect with.

So I would say that for well-known causes, especially where leadership changes often, the organisation name is the way to go. However, if you have a small, close-knit group of people working together for a cause their passion would come through much better with a personal account.

Finding the right content for your audience is key.

This depends highly on the cause. With advocacy, like Amnesty International, the aim is not just to get people talking about human rights issues but to show political bodies that there are people acting on these issues. Their content focusses on action and giving a forum for personal opinions.

The Australian site ActNow aims to educate youth about a broad range of issues so they also encourage the sharing of knowledge. World Vision, on the other hand, mainly raises funds and so they focus on their own projects/events.

The last thing is to experiment.

I’ve seen a few forays into social media – #CSR_Trend_Watch on Twitter for example. I don’t know if many are really connecting yet though.

Often resources are tight for NFPs – time, people, money. But social media is a way for them to find the people out there who already care about their cause and get them involved, without spending much money.


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