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How your non-profit can benefit from social media

How can your nonprofit generate buzz without spending any money? Leveraging social media channels is a great way to start.

I recently taught a breakout session on social media best practices for a group of about 30 designers. All of the designers were members of AIGA (a non-profit design organization), so they had access to other people who were interested in hearing about events, volunteering for programs.

One of the first things I did was take a quick survey of the group to see who was an active participant in publicly available social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc). About 2/3 of the people raised their hand. This is of course higher levels of participation then the general populace, but still low considering the easy wins available within social media for member-based non-profit organizations.

Most successful digital social networks are extensions of real-world groups or interests. Here's some examples:

  • Facebook connections are friends. It's a fairly intimate social network, but businesses are allowed by way of Pages.
  • LinkedIn represents your business network.
  • Twitter (or Flickr or YouTube) are friends or strangers that are sharing things that they find interesting. If you are interested in what they are saying, you subscribe and listen in.

This dynamic of listening in is very important. With the insurgence of social media, people are becoming and selecting their the own media channels.

Apply this to Non-Profits

For the NPOs, who generally have access to a ready pool of volunteers (or employees with a little free time), I recommended creating a Communication Committee with a single volunteer managing each communication channel, be that Facebook, the website, email, etc. This creates a consistent experience for people listening, distributes the workload and allows individual volunteers to get to know the tools they are working with. Dissemination to the volunteers should be a consistent forum of finalized information. This can be email, Basecamp or whatever works for everyone. It's very important that the information is finalized (proofread, etc) before passing it out to the individual channels, as don't want people waiting to make sure it's the very latest information.

Don't Overcommit

If you are just getting started and don't have any volunteers, pick your channels carefully. You should really understand the dynamics of a channel and have a workflow for keeping people engaged before moving on to the next one.

It's important to understand the currency of individual networks to know where and how your non-profit should try to engage people. It's also important to see social media as an organic extension of your general communication strategy including your website, email and any print collateral.

Date posted: October 9, 2009

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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.


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