A Social Media Primer for Non-Profit Organizations

Mar 2011


Photo credit: @porcelain_rose
Photo credit: @porcelain_rose

At this stage of the social media game even the most tone deaf non-profit organization has some presence online.  Non-profit organizations run their operations differently than a for profit company.  Granted the business elements and financials are similar, but the culture of a 501c3 is entirely different.

For the 501c3 organization your social media efforts can be hugely successful, with a couple tips.

Prepare for bad news

Regardless of how noble your cause is someone out there will have a beef with you, your finances or your employees.  When, not if, when you receive criticism figure out if it’s a troll or if they’re pointing out a valid flaw and respond ASAP.  If you don’t respond within 24 hours you will look weak and non responsive.

Talk to your supporters, don’t preach

You are a non-profit organization, you need donations, and we get it. But, if all of your messages tell me about your need for money- then I’ll lose interest very quick.  Keep it at a 9 to 1 ratio of information to ask, at least.  I’m following you because I like what your cause, don’t taint my love with overkill.

If your communication streams are all outgoing messages and don’t include any conversations then you’re in trouble.  They are rare, but a couple charities that I follow only send out information.

They don’t speak to people, comment or make it feel like a human is behind the group.  So why do I follow them?  Maybe I’m a competitor, ex employee, vendor or board member.  Why I’m following them isn’t important, why they need to change their social media habits is.

Your Board will panic or be scared

My board is very progressive and they all have social media accounts, surely they won’t be scared or panic?  I can’t guarantee it, but it’s an almost certainty that somebody won’t understand something happening on social media and try to pause the unstoppable.

Your supporters will knock down any false comments made about your organization.  If they don’t do it in a timely manner then the organization needs to do it.  It’s unrealistic for a conversation to be 100% positive all the time.  Prepare your board for anything when you start the organization’s social media efforts and it’ll save you headaches down the road.

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