If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m a big believer in the power of nonprofits. I love helping organizations incorporate traditional and “new” tools to strengthen communication. I had the opportunity to work with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida when they decided to begin participating in social media, which is why I’m thrilled to share this guest post from the Coalition’s Shari Orr.
When Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida first discussed the possibility of utilizing social media, our primary concerns were whether we could find time to manage yet another “to do” item and whether our efforts would actually contribute to overall communication goals. While we are still not experts, our Communications team has realized through an increasingly successful “Connect with the Coalition” campaign the importance and benefits of integrating social media into our comprehensive communications plan. This has included both promoting the social media sites through our traditional communication methods, as well as utilizing this new platform to advance our common messages. And thankfully, we have discovered tricks of the trade to make this enormous task more manageable.
Integrating Social Media into Traditional Communication
After a “soft” beginning to the campaign, we began to promote social media sites in our traditional forms of communication. The ideas listed below are those we recommend as the most effective, least time-consuming, and most frugal (always a plus for nonprofits):
- Creating links to each social media site on all website pages and eblasts
- Inviting staff to include standard social media links in email signatures
- Including social media icons in our printed collateral, such as the quarterly newsletter and new promotional calendar
- Linking to relevant blog posts from website pages, eblasts, and email communications
Using Social Media for Common Communication
Beyond introducing social media into all communication platforms, we have encouraged staff to see this new initiative as part of our overall communication strategies. At first, this involved a lot of requests for “fodder” on our part: “Would you like me to do a blog post on that upcoming event?” and “Do we have any volunteer needs I can tweet about?” were common questions. As time passed and we began to see positive results from our online efforts, the tolerant (but still suspicious) staff attitude toward those “tweeter” and “MyFace” sites transitioned into one of excitement: social media is now seen by staff as a quick way to spread news and meet needs.
For the first time, our Communications Team is able to share highly-personalized news from all departments with people who are actively seeking information about our organization. This is exciting stuff!
We are now frequently asked by staff to share a client success story on the blog, to tweet an urgent need for personal hygiene products, or to create a Facebook event for an upcoming fundraiser. An especially exciting and useful part of this campaign is our periodic “Challenges.” In the past, we’ve asked our supporters to donate blankets during a cold spell, to live on $15 a day, and to show they “can” care by donating food items. Recently, our volunteer services department requested help in finding 30 additional sponsors for our holiday gift program. Amazingly, we were even able to close the “Give Homelessness a Holiday” Challenge early due to an enthusiastic response from our sponsors. The responses received to these more formalized “Challenges” have shown that social media is capable of both spreading a message and gaining tangible results for our nonprofit.
Allowing Interplay Between Mediums
One of our continuing goals in this campaign is to avoid reinventing the wheel with each new social media site. We are reaching different audiences through our blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr, so we do not see the need to post completely separate information on each site. Instead, we encourage interplay between the sites, allowing our users to access needed information from a tweet, for example, by clicking on a link to our blog. This is true with our traditional communications efforts as well. For example, we share a client’s story in both a direct mail piece and a blog post, and promote an event both on our website and as a Facebook event. By reusing material across different platforms when possible, we ensure that we reach the largest audience and provide multiple opportunities for supporters to interact with us. This makes most of our staff time and resources.
In all, our social media efforts have enabled us to reach a broad (and often new) audience with the message of our nonprofit, offering a glimpse into our opinions, current events and needs. This has enhanced our communication efforts and we are positive that by continuing to creatively integrate both new and traditional media, we will experience ongoing success.
PS – For more information about the Coalition’s social media efforts, check out the presentation on nonprofits and social media Heather previously posted, in which we were a case study.