6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media

Football players pile up

You’ve got to stand out from the amorphous mass

First you get in the game. This should go without saying, but I still hear too many executive directors saying they don’t want to play. Folks: you gotta play to win. And it’s not the lottery.  Your chances of winning are really good.  It’s a game of skill, not luck.

Then you acknowledge that everyone is getting into the game.  So you won’t get noticed just because you’re on the field. An October survey of U.S. nonprofits by VerticalResponse found that more than three out of five nonprofits reported spending more time on social media than they did a year ago. Nearly two out of five reported devoting six or more hours per week to social media. Ninety-six percent of nonprofits said they were on Facebook; 80% of these organizations reported posting on the site multiple times per week. Twitter also gets significant attention from nonprofits. The site was used by nearly three-quarters of nonprofits, and the organizations were more likely to post several times a day on Twitter (19.5%) vs. Facebook (13.8%).

Just because you’re flitting and twitting around doesn’t mean you’re getting anywhere fast. It reminds me a bit of the big pile-up on the football field.  An amorphous mass.


  1. You’ve got to stand out.  You do that by being real and personal and by finding your own voice. And by bringing your constituents’ voices into the story. If you don’t stand out, how can you expect folks to find you in this world of information overload?
  2. You’ve got to be purposeful. You do that by creating an overarching social media plan   and by creating a strategic content plan. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
  3. You’ve got to focus on the message; not the medium. You do that by providing something that’s of value to your constituents, by creating killer content and by not flitting about madly from channel to channel.
  4. You’ve got to make choices based on limited resources. You do that by building your social media engagement plan in phases. If you try to be all things to all people too soon, you’ll wind up meaning very little to too few. Sometimes less is more.
  5. You’ve got to measure what you’re doing. You do that by making sure you’re measuring the right things and by using your data to improve your social networking. If you’re not measuring, how do you know you’re making progress?
  6. You’ve got to invest the resources to achieve your goals. You do that by making hard choices and sometimes by considering outsourcing when this might be more effective.

My guess is that 2013 will be the tipping point for social media. In other words, we’ll stop thinking we’ve landing on the moon and can’t breathe.  As one online marketing enthusiast recently wrote: “Five years ago, social media could have been compared to a James Bond flick. You’re either into it or you’re not. Nowadays social media is more like air, meaning it’s EVERYWHERE. With billions of folks using social media, it would be crazy for nonprofit organizations to skip out on this simple and effective way to spread their message.”

Don’t be crazy; breathe the air. But don’t panic and gulp.  Use purposeful, zen-like breathing. Take your time. Focus. You’ll then find social media to be a powerful ally for the health of your nonprofit.

What’s your key purpose with social media? Are you stymied as to how much to invest, and what kind of outcomes you can expect? Are you uncertain how to measure success? Let’s discuss what you wish you understood better so you can move forward to effectively integrate social media into your marketing/fundraising planning. Please share your thoughts.

Photo: Flickr Matt McGee

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I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.

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