What Texting Your Kid and Nonprofit Social Media Have in Common

Kids texting from their cell phones

This is how we communicate!

It’s perplexing to still hear folks ask “Do we really need social media?”  Do you need to text and respond to your kid’s texts?  Well… only if you want to be in touch! That question is so 2008.  In 2013 it’s more like “my way or the highway.”

Here’s the problem if you’re a small nonprofit:

You’re resource challenged.  You don’t have enough staff to do everything that needs to be done as it is.  Now you’re supposed to add social media?!  Well, which channels?  You can’t do it all, for goodness sakes. There must be one best channel.  Maybe you can just squeeze that in.

That’s wrong-headed thinking.

There is no one best channel.  Social media is not cookie cutter.  What works for one organization may not work for another.  If your kid’s a texter, you need to text.  A tweeter? You need to tweet. You also can’t just squeeze social media in.  You don’t have to be everywhere, but where you are you’ve got to be all in.

Here’s how to deal with the resources problem.  Forget about it.  It can’t be an excuse anymore. Social media is no longer optional. Your responsibility as a communicator is to use all the tools at your disposal – or at least the ones that will help you achieve your goals.

If you don’t engage with folks, why would you expect them to engage with you? I’m just asking.

You need to reinvent whatever type of relationship you’ve had with social media at your organization. Chances are good that if you have social media it “sprouted” up from a few folks who liked it and advocated for it.  You’re doing something, but it’s not really internalized by the organization as a whole as critically important to your fundraising and marketing goals – let alone your overall business goals.

You can’t silo social media either.  Don’t think it can be somebody else’s responsibility.  It’s everyone’s responsibility.  You know what happens when a development director is stuck in a corner and is told to “go raise money?”  Well, the same holds true for social media.  Folks end up saying “well, we tried that; it didn’t work for us.” Is there any more trying sentence on the planet?!

Every department should be involved in every campaign.  The right hand absolutely must know what the left hand is doing.  Everyone hears stuff and can provide essential feedback – if they know what you’re doing and why you might value it. You also need to share results so everyone learns from everyone else.  What topics are of greatest interest to your constituents?  If you find out, you can change your strategies and messaging to align with constituent expectations and desires.

Try putting social front and center in your organization. Build an inter-disciplinary social task force charged with improving your organization’s strategies for building relationships. Erase the notion that it’s all about advertising and “spin.”

Meet your constituents, and potential donors, where they are. Don’t just do what your board members suggest. Do a bit of research. Find out where your folks hang out. It’s not hard; you’ve just got to listen and then take what you learn and put it into a plan to give folks what they want from you.  Truly, it’s the only way to be of value to folks.  And that’s what makes them want to be of value to you.

Stop the random acts of marketing. Please. You may have started by counting FB friends, Twitter followers and the like.  The more you got, the more you patted yourself on the back. Stop patting! Stop going for the instant gratification as you cross tactics off your list as completed. So what? They won’t provide real results that will help you sustain your organization for the long term. Stop going for the “buzz.” Chances are that no one is buzzing about how many ‘likes’ you have except you.

Figure out where you’re going and make a road map. It’s time to take social media seriously. What do you want folks to do when they get a blog post? A tweet? A share on G+? Begin with content; then leverage it everywhere your constituents are. Set up an editorial calendar to map out all your projects and content.  Think about how you’ll spread it out among different audiences.  What’s it about?  Why are you doing it?  For advocacy? Fundraising? Pure engagement as a precondition to investment?

Strive to drive active engagement, not just passive transactional responses. It’s difficult to measure traditional ROI for social media, so instead measure ROE – return on engagement.  If you’re interesting, you’ll get folks interested.  That’s the first step.  And we know folks are on a journey from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment.

It’s okay if the actual fundraising doesn’t happen here (although it can and, more and more, it is). What you want is to create the preconditions for fundraising. And in today’s marketplace, there may be no better way.  Because social media is social.

There’s been a lot of talk about “disruptive technology.”  Yup.  The digital revolution has disrupted business as usual.  Big change is afoot.  Or it should be. What’s old is not new. It’s old.

Out with the old; in with the new. What if you included something in all staff evaluations about how much that person has supported inter-departmental collaboration of social media initiatives? What if you created a social task force so the same, or similar, conversations were not being duplicated in different departments – often with different solutions coming out of the confab. In other words, what if you stopped competing with yourself?

Winged man

A wing and a prayer is not a strategy for success.

Check out my free webinar: A New Era in Nonprofit Marketing: Why Winging It with Social Media No Longer WorksAnd get the companion Hop on Board Social Media Resource Guide for just 99 cents. Such a deal.

Photo: Flickr, Dayland Shannon and Library of Congress (The naked ornithopter, 1909)


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