3 Success Factors of Nonprofits Using Social Media

Photo by Randy Pertiet

Guest post by Tracy Sestilli.

Recently, NTEN, Common Knowledge, and Blackbaud presented their fourth annual report on social media trends among nonprofits for 2012 at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. From 3,522 respondents, they asked what the top three contributing factors were of those who were successful on social networks.

They all responded that their formula for success was to get a plan, buy-in, and team members to implement and lead the initiative. Their top three success factors were:

  • — Develop a social media strategy (41%)
  • — Prioritization by Executive Management (37%)
  • — Dedicated social media staff (28%)

Conversely, those who didn’t have a presence on social media said it was because of lack of strategy, staff, and budget. This is no surprise.

Here are some tips on how to achieve the above success factors with minimal time, money, and resources.

1.) Developing a Strategy

  • — Create a social media policy using the PolicyTool Maker. Use this as a rough draft and tweak it appropriately.
  • — Determine your goals and don’t let one of them be “get more donations”—that will come as a result of your other true goals, such as:
    • * Engage key constituents
    • * Increase visibility/awareness
    • * Develop thought leadership on your cause
    • * Develop partner relationships
    • * Increased website views
    • * Increased video views, etc.
  • — Identify your different target segments and pick the appropriate networks where you can reach the most of them. Here are some examples:
    1. Women, 35-55: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter
    2. Youth 18-25: Twitter, Facebook
    3. Men 30-55: Google+, Twitter
  • — Get executive and board buy-in by presenting your strategy and new social media policy.
  • — Determine how you will measure your success. These should be directly tied to your goals.

2.) Prioritization by Executive Management

  • — You can only get Executive management to prioritize if you get them to buy in, and the only way they will buy in is if you have a strategy and a policy.
  • — Let them know how they can help support your nonprofit via social networks that they are on, such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

3.) Dedicated Social Media Staff

  • — Try asking for volunteers through volunteer websites.
  • — Work with a local college to see if there are any PR or Marketing majors. See if your nonprofit can be used as a class project or perhaps consider creating an internship with a small stipend (check your state rules about unpaid internships).

My nonprofit, the Beverly Fund, was a class project for a group of seniors at San Jose State University about four years ago. Those students were part of a PR/Marketing class. They helped us create our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as a new website for less than $200. In return, they got class credit, experience, and a reference for when they graduated.

Whatever you decide, remember to do it in three phases: Plan, Execute, Measure, and set milestones for yourself so that you have something to work toward.

What are your thoughts?

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