Know how deep the water is before diving into social media

in Cultivation & Stewardship,Integrated Multichannel Fundraising & Marketing,Social Media

Social media for nonprofits – used wisely – is a beneficial tactic to use.  But not without first developing a strategy for how it’s integrated into everything else you do. 

For example: Would you dive into direct mail or email marketing without a plan?  Without knowing what goals or objectives your nonprofit has for the marketing channel?  Without knowing all the ways you’ll use it such as acquisition, renewal and cultivation, fundraising, cultivation, sharing news, etc.?  Hopefully not!! 

Same holds true for social media (i.e., blogs, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, social bookmarking, video, and so on).  Don’t dive in until you know what you’re going to do; how you’re going to do it; and why you’re going to do it.  Diving in without a strategic plan is as risky as diving into water without knowing how deep it is.  You can get hurt.

I’m not referring to writing a social media policy.  I AM talking about how it is integrated into everything else you do for a multi-channel approach.

In my opinion, if you participate in social media then it needs to receive the same attention as direct mail, your website, and email when you develop your annual fundraising and marketing plans.  Why?  Because anything that taxes your precious resources deserves careful thought.

More ways to use social media (SM) wisely:

> Don’t limit the use of SM to sending out blasts.  You need to be involved in an exchange.  For example: Where does it make sense for you to participate in someone else’s conversation?  It could be with consultants like me.  It could also be with organizations like the DMANF, AFP, Chronicle of Philanthropy, ASAE, the Foundation Center, etc.  And in some cases with other complimentary nonprofits. 

    You’ll show that you understand the true nature of social media – sharing.  You will also get more exposure for your nonprofit.

> Someone needs to be designated as the person responsible for monitoring the conversations that might be taking place about your nonprofit, the industry you’re in (applicable to associations and trade orgs), or events in the news that influence your organization within the social media channels.

> Whoever is out there representing you, well… make certain they have some customer service and people skills.  HOW they respond – tone and what they say – to people has a profound impact on your nonprofit.  This is true for any marketing and fundraising channel.

> Add value to the conversation.  Share your expertise without always clamoring for funds.  Share with supporters info they’re interested in.  Remember: What’s most important to them may not be what is most important to you. 

> Social media is an easy and effective way to recognize and praise donors, volunteers, and others. 

> This is a prime cultivation channel.  Nurture and cultivate your relationships with members, donors, advocates, volunteers, and corporate partners. 

> Search the social networks for people passionate about what you do.  Who is already talking about protecting children; helping adults read; living green; their love of animals; their love of music and the arts; etc.?  Compliment their insights without bragging about yourself.  Just start a conversation.  Your community of followers ought to grow.  Plus these folks with likely turn into 3rd party endorsements for what you do which is far more powerful than saying it yourself.  CULTIVATE the influencers and super users of SM.

> If you decide to also use SM for fundraising, trends show that a specific small project over a short time frame is generally the most effective approach.  For example: Over the next two weeks your goal is to raise $2,000 to send three adults to literacy night school classes.  Give progress updates on the campaign.   And if at all possible, updates from the beneficiaries once classes start.

Finally, don’t dive into social media until your website and email marketing are working well for you.  These are the two most important online tools which social media can compliment nicely. 

Integrate social media into your overall fundraising and marketing plans.  And based on your goals, dedicate the corresponding resources to support it in order for social media to be effective for your nonprofit.  Just don’t dive in blindly.