Tag Archives: nonprofits

dear diary: a travelogue for social media

Beth Kanter recently posted on the importance of outcome-based thinking for nonprofits getting involved in social media, and, with Alex de Carvalho, generated a great list of ways to address some of the challenges presented by social media. I’m just going to pull two items out of this list and expand on the theme a bit:

Discuss and set objectives at the outset, and not just quantitative objectives. Figure out what is measurable and be sure to include the systems to track progress. If systems to track qualitative results are not in place, then keep a journal and also be sure to share positive and negative feedback from customers with the organization.

Determine goals first and break them out into short-, medium- and long-term. Don’t get into social media if you’re not planning to stick with it over the long-term.

Objectives and outcomes have to come first. You don’t set out on a trip without knowing your destination — this is the same thing.

Think of it as a journey, and decide where it is you want to go. Then choose the right tool for the job. A day trip to the next city over calls for a car or a bus, whereas a trip across the country with several different stops will call for a more layered approach, involving planes, buses, taxis, public transportation, and yes, even walking.

Once you’ve chosen your tools, picture what success will look like. Include both quantitative and qualitative measurements.

I love Alex’s idea of keeping a journal to track qualitative results as time goes by. This method emphasizes the fact that you will not just be measuring results at the end of the trip, but all along the way as well. So keep a journal on your trip, and encourage any staff involved to contribute. Maybe a nice, inside-the-firewall blog with multiple authors would do the trick.

Think about it for the long haul. Put systems in place for the continuation of your social media use that don’t depend on certain people remaining on staff — add these skills to that person’s job description so that their successors will be chosen wisely, and so that the project doesn’t get dropped when staff changes occur.

This point also backs up why it is important to define your goals and objectives at the outset — what if there is a complete staff turnover at your nonprofit during the course of your social media journey? How will the new staff, board, executive director, understand why you started down this path in the first place?

Document your goals, strategies, milestones, and measurement plans so that your organization maintains a depth of institutional memory about the project. Nonprofits have a famously high staff turnover rate — accept this possibility as a likelihood.

Beth is right –there is a lot in Alex’s list to unpack and discuss how it applies to nonprofits. I’ve looked at two points — what do you have to say?

a wrench for every nut

How do you prevent certain stakeholders from seeing all this newfangled stuff…the videos, the blogging, etc. and not think that they’re spending too much money on all this stuff. In other words, how does an organization get buy-in from key people it needs? Prior to establishing these strategies?

(From a comment left recently on The Nonprofit Consultant Blog, via Beth Kanter.)

This is something I struggle with every day, and I know I’m not alone. I touched on the topic recently in this post, in which I just talked about blogging, but really it extends to all this “new media” stuff.

Here’s the thing: it’s tough to pitch new products to people without addressing a pre-existing need.

Yes, yes, I know and you know that blogs, podcasting, and other social media are cheap, easy, and highly scalable. But try telling that to the folks who make the decisions in your organization — they probably just go tediously banging on about your “mission” or your “bottom line.” What a drag.

Well, they’re right. Anything you do should advance your mission, and be cost-effective.

Also, you’re right. Social media can be highly effective in advancing the missions of nonprofits of many kinds, while keeping the finance committee very happy, lighthearted, and gay.

But how to bridge the gap? You both want the same thing, really.

Honestly, there’s a reason why they call it “buy-in.” This is sales.

How do you sell? As Geoff Livingston put it so succinctly in his latest Seesmic post (and, a few minutes later, he blogged it)

  1. Know who you’re talking to, and
  2. What they care about.

Or, to put it another way, you have to convince your audience that what you are proposing is a solution to a problem.

So, what’s the problem?

What matters most to your board of directors, your executive director, at this point in your organization’s evolution?

Is it:

  • Getting more donors (individual, discrete people)
  • Getting more donations overall (total dollar amount)
  • Increasing awareness of your mission/cause/services
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Increasing staff efficiency and internal systems

These are all common concerns of nonprofit boards. What sort of technology/system/social media/software would best address each of these needs?

You have to remember that technology is just a tool, a way, a means. Focus on the end, not the means, and the answer will reveal itself.

What’s your (or your board’s, or your organization’s) greatest need? What’s the most pressing goal?

Select your tool accordingly.

Now when you go in to suggest an organizational blog, twitter account, wiki space, podcast (or whatever), you aren’t suggesting a blog (etc) at all. You’re suggesting an innovative, inexpensive, and scalable solution to a problem both you and your audience agree you have.

Remember: you and your board/organization/executive director are all on the same side. You all want the same thing. For the organization to thrive, fulfill its mission, and remain sustainable.

You just happen to have a slightly different tool kit than they are used to. It won’t matter, if you can show them how well you can tighten that bolt.