Image by tstadler via Flickr"Return on Investment." This is a phrase that's probably going to come up again and again when small nonprofits talk about investing in social media.
At the best of times, a small nonprofit has to watch its pennies. In this economy, you'll be squeezing the them so hard, Lincoln will complain about a sore neck.
So why even consider putting time and effort into social media when you're debating whether to give up coffee or bottled water service?
Because you can't afford not to.
David Alston at Marketing Profs uses a lot of great examples about how social media has improved the fortunes of companies using it to connect with their customer bases and improve customer service (read the article). But for small nonprofits, the real payoff is in reaching your future customers - those people between 18 and 34 who most use social media.
You won't find them by putting ads in the newspaper or through newsletter lists (your own or purchased): your future donors and volunteers don't read them.
But they ARE looking for you. Recent research shows that the younger generations are as interested and passionate about contributing to a better world as any other generation, maybe more so. But to be part of your mission, they have to be able to find you, which means that you must go to where they are.
As David Alston points out at the end of his post, it's valid and necessary to consider the cost of investment in a new strategy and tools, but when you're talking about social media, you should also figure in what NOT being involved can cost you.