Image by Ed.ward via FlickrBig companies and big funders are slowly coming around to the idea of social media. Some small nonprofits have jumped on it, but plenty more aren't sure where to start and whether the effort would be worth it.
Right now I'm working with two small nonprofits. One has a Marketing Director who is excited about using social media. The other has a Development Director who hates and would avoid it if there were any way to do so.
You might think the Marketing Director would be easier to work with than the Development Director, but it's almost the opposite.
Glub Glub Glub
The Marketing Director is currently in an internal struggle with the person who handles their website and IT support. She wants to jump into the deep end of the social media pool and start swimming. The problem with that is that she hasn't convinced the IT manager that this isn't going to turn into another responsibility for him. Social media isn't his thing and he doesn't want the Marketing Director to make it his thing.
The Development Director at the other nonprofit is almost sure there is some benefit to be had from social networking, she just isn't sure what it is and how to get it. Then too, she's concerned that adding social media might not pay off in a way that would justify the time it would take, especially right now when both donations AND volunteerism has fallen off for her nonprofit.
Us? You got a frog in your pocket?
Other concerns aside, deciding who will be responsible for the online relationships developed is very important.
It can't be stressed too often that social media is a two-way street.
You can't update a blog once a month and consider that you're doing your part in the conversation. It takes effort and patience and interest to develop the trust and commitment hoped for. Which means that someone has to sign on for the duration. Something a small staff with a lot of ground already to cover may roll their eyes at.
But what if you start small? What if you start out with one social media account like Flickr? Most all nonprofits take pictures of events that illustrate the way their programs and services are being used in the community. Instead of tucking them away in an album or a CD library, how about uploading them and making them publicly viewable along with something about the nonprofit's mission? A little more doable and probably not much more work than it takes to file the pictures. And with an added benefit of having the pictures available via the web anywhere so they can be used for presentations or on-the-fly donor cultivation.
If you're having a problem wrapping your head around the concept of social media and how it might benefit your small nonprofit, you might be better off sticking a toe in the water rather than wading into the flood.