Why You Can’t Get a High School Intern to Do Your Social Media

Coffee Mug- Let's Get the Interns to Write a BlogI know your budget is tight and I understand you’re struggling to pay for your existing staff, but you can no longer afford to ignore the number one way people find out about you – social and mobile.  Digital is the future, it’s increasingly important and increasingly multi-layered, and the time to start building your online community is now. Before it’s too late. Before you’re left behind.

Does Your Nonprofit Need a Social Media Manager? This is a question I’m asked a lot, and my recent post on Maximize Social Business addresses it. I think it’s a kind of funny question for 2013, given the fact that we’re in a digital world, social media is frickin’ huge and people today expect professional online communications and fundraising campaigns. If you want to be taken seriously you need to meet people where they are. And you need to think strategically about your brand and the image you want to project.

Is that something you want to leave to chance?  You need someone who has both communications and online fundraising skills, knows how to write effectively for the social web, understands your programs, knows how to match your mission, vision and values to your constituent’s needs and interests and generally has a sense of you big picture goals. That’s hard to find in a high school intern or volunteer.

You need a social media manager. Everything needs to be managed. As Jeremiah Owyang reminds us: manage your online time as you do money. If you’re not actively managing social media – if you’re still doing social media on a wing and a prayer – you’re making a huge mistake.

I know you’ve got questions. How much time will it take? What tasks will the manager take on?  What skills must they have? Do they need to be full time? It depends, and if you read the full article you’ll get some answers.

I know many of you are still afraid of change. Or your leadership still wants to stick their heads in the sand pretending social media will go away. Maybe some day. Just like newspapers are going away today.  But that took a long time to happen. Meanwhile, you probably hired someone to manage your p.r. and media relations in the 20th century. Well, guess what?  We left that century 13 years ago!

If you have an experience using an intern or volunteer, good or bad, please share. Also let us know if you started there; then transitioned to a staff person or outsourced to a professional company. Please share!

Photo: Flickr, Frank Gruber

Get your ‘Hop on Board’ Social Media Resource Guide – a handy-dandy directory of some of my favorite non-profit and general marketing websites, blogs, articles, tools, templates and books to help you achieve your nonprofit social media objectives. Also check out my free webinar, Why Winging it with Social Media No Longer Works. And if I can help you in any way, please let me know!

Opt In Image
Get Clairification via email and receive free fundraising and nonprofit marketing coaching you can use!

As an added BONUS, you’ll get my popular “Donor Thank Calls E-Book + Script” for free.

About Claire

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.


  1. David Baynes says:


    I am a regular reader who appreciates your insights, but I am surprised and disappointed today in a choice of expression which I do not remember you using before: “social media is frickin’ huge . . .” Consider that “frickin'” is an unpleasant euphemism for a more vulgar word. The fact that it is heard and read more and more frequently does not make it less objectionable. Its use is evidence of the regrettable coarsening of our culture.

    • Thanks for speaking your mind David. I take your point. Of course, it is a euphemism which I happen to think does make it less offensive, especially as it becomes a part of the popular culture and begins to take on its own meaning. Would you have taken offense if I used the word “bleeping?” Here’s the definition of euphemism: The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. There are many words once considered taboo that, at this point in time, are no longer associated with their former meaning. Examples from the 1800s include: “breast”(it was never used in mixed company); “bull” (it was associated with sexual potency, so folks actually used “a gentleman cow,” a “top cow,” or a “seed ox.”

      I appreciate your speaking your mind, as well as your readership. Hope you’ll stick with me! Thanks so much, Claire
      claire Axelrad recently posted…Why You Can’t Get a High School Intern to Do Your Social MediaMy Profile

  2. I am very disturbed by your implication that someone under thirty cannot be a vital part of an organizations efforts to plug-in, fine-tune and maintain social media. I agree that it is vitally important to an organization, but REALLY marginalizing an entire generation? My son works with our organization, has his finger on the pulse of social media, is required by his PRESTIGOUS private school to perform social service hours, has been vitally connected to the trappings of non-profit/charitable organizations for the last three years and you would discriminate against our future leaders…SHAME ON YOU!

    Perhaps you would have been better in labeling your piece…Don’t leave social media to chance, as it has become a very vital part of the fabric of modern society. Just like the days when you wanted to put as much detail into a resume…today if it doesn’t fit on one page and contain enough POWER WORDS you won’t get looked at, if you are not visible through multiple facets of the Internet you won’t get noticed. I have been involved in getting several organizations on the web and still have a handle on websites and ecomerce, but I defer to the younger generation when it comes to social media because they get it. It has been part of their lives, it is how they communicate, interact and thrive. It is almost to the point where a voice phone is a tertiary means of communication and a fax is a dinasour.

    I will give you two more strikes Claire…but I will drop you like a rock if I catch you disrespecting/discriminating, marignalizing or minimizing the contributions of THE ENTIRE community ever again. The one thing that I have demanded of every charitable organization that I have ever been affiliated with is RESPECT. It like loyalty and trust MUST be a two-way street!

    Sorry for getting on my soapbox, but you struck a very sore nerve!!!!!

    • Terry,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please understand I in no way intended to imply that someone under 30 cannot be a vital part of an organization’s social media efforts. My intent was to exhort nonprofits to take social media seriously, and to hire someone to manage their social marketing rather than give this over to an unpaid intern or volunteer. If you don’t think it’s important enough to pay for, you probably don’t think it’s important. Ideally, you want an experienced marketing manager with social marketing skills. This might be someone under the age of 30 (ironically, you mention that when it comes to social media you “defer to the younger generation”) or it might be someone age 60+! I have a number of seasoned colleagues who’ve mastered digital communications, and I certainly wouldn’t want to discriminate against them either.

      We do seem to agree that social media is too important to be left to chance or to be relegated to the back burner. If your son is being managed by someone who has a deep understanding of the depth and breadth of your organization’s mission, programs, constituencies, values and big picture vision, then I’ve no doubt he is able to plug-in his social media savvy to make a tremendous contribution. That’s a different scenario than having no real social media strategy other than bringing in someone simply because they “get” social media and will cost you relatively little. Social media, as you agree, is vitally important today. You need someone with both social media savvy and with management/marketing experience and knowledge of your nonprofit. Ad hoc, wing and a prayer social media is not going to cut it in this day and age.

      Sorry I struck a nerve, and perhaps I should have simply said “intern” rather than “high school” intern.
      Best, Claire

  3. Terry, I feel that you are missing the point of Claire’s article. She is likely not suggesting that age is the deciding factor in determining a qualified social media contact. She is implying that this type of position should be treated with the same care as perhaps a CFO or director of marketing. Would you let an unpaid intern write a legal contract?

    Social media is the most effective form of communication in the modern world. As a result, you would want someone who is highly trained in customer relations interacting with a donor or client base. Younger people (especially high schoolers) are not going to know how to handle this with the tact required. It’s not a comment on age, it’s a recognition of the skill and experience required to achieve successful results.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge