Benefits of social media for the non-profit sector

publication date: Aug 22, 2018
author/source: Margaret Buttner

“Social media is not just an activity; it is an investment of valuable time and resources. Surround yourself with people who not just support you and stay with you, but inform your thinking about ways to WOW your online presence” – Sean Gardner (@2morrowknight)

Without a doubt, social media has had its reputation tarnished in the past two years, and the word “interference” has taken on new connotations other than a penalty in sports.

Regardless, social media has much to offer both businesses and non-profits, and organizations who succumb to the personal bias of an executive director (or other senior director) and dismiss its value are committing a huge tactical error.

After joining my present organization late last year, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the consistent and strategic social media created by my new team members, and very quickly, my photos, videos and stories were integrated into new Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts.

While there are many benefits of social media, here are some particularly important ones.

  1. Affordability: Today’s smart phones have great video and camera functions, so staff and volunteers can often capture important moments at festivals, cheque presentations and other special events and share them easily with their marketing teams.
  2. Staying in touch with stakeholders: Donors (especially corporate) will typically ask about a charity’s social media presence as part of partnership negotiations. Videos and photos can easily be shared and tagged, creating twice as much exposure for both the charity and their donors. Here’s one example – Vancouver International Airport promoting their support for the Pacific Salmon Foundation:
  3. Developing and maintaining relationships: Just as Facebook and other social media platforms enable friends and relatives to stay in touch and informed on the latest news, social media enables charities share stories and other news quickly with their donors. Equally important, volunteer groups can also be sharing their stories about how their efforts are helping your charity succeed in its mission.
  4. Creative storytelling: Most smart phones have a variety of tools to quickly create content for posting so it’s well worth exploring those options (or finding free “how to” videos online”).
  5. Immediacy: Social media can be your “virtual newsletter” for your followers, especially if the topic is currently in the news. Your CEO or Board Chair can be filmed and the resulting comments uploaded very quickly.
  6. Business tools: from surveys to gala invitations to contests, social media can assist with these functions and much more. Be sure to research YouTube’s non-profit program – videos uploaded may include a “call to action” overlay.

Social media can be your friend – watching charities that do it well is a pleasure and a learning experience – watching non-profits not using it just makes me scratch my head and wonder where they are headed (and is it worth investing in them).

Margaret has been a fundraiser since 2001 and is currently Manager of Annual and Planned Giving for the Pacific Salmon Foundation. She often manages social media for local sporting events in her spare time.

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