Thursday, June 9, 2011

Traveling the Social Media Highway - Start a Carpool


I have a wacky idea for your small nonprofit: collaboration.

When most people think of collaboration, they think of a number of people working together. But that’s just the start. Working together on a project is just that; working together. Usually, this means each person has a piece for which he or she is responsible and someone (often a project manager) pulls all the pieces together. Collaboration can’t happen unless everyone involved is of the opinion that what they can come up with together is going to be better than what they could do as individuals. So, while tasks may be individualized, looking at the big picture and trying to make sense of it in terms of strategy requires thoughtful energy from everyone.

You have a Board of Directors, but if you’re the Executive Director, it’s still your job to present them with plans for growing/sustaining your nonprofit. The Board will oversee your work, but they’re depending on you to tell them what’s needed and when. Especially when it comes to Web 2.0 and Social Media tools, the information and guidance you can provide can make a big difference. It’s not unusual for an Executive Director with little tech experience and perhaps even some uneasiness when it comes to computers and the internet, to kind of sidestep the whole thing and stick to what they know.

If This is You, Stop it.

If you haven’t heard by now, it’s no longer a question of whether or not to participate in online conversations relating to your mission. It’s imperative that you do.

More likely, you want to get your agency more involved in social media, but you’re not sure how, where, or what you would be looking for. So why not share the load and lighten the burden?

My Proposal – Social Media Strategy Group (the Carpool)

Find a few other people from similarly sized nonprofits in your community who would be willing to get together on a regular basis to learn about social media and help one another get clarity on a social media strategic plan.

Make it more than two or three, because some of them will inevitably drop out along the way. Don’t make it more than ten, because a smaller group will be able to focus better and be more flexible.

Each small nonprofit will potentially come away from these meetings with:
  • Increased understanding of using social media for nonprofits and a plan for facilitating the learning process
  • A clearer understanding of how they want to use social media
  • Their key messages
  • An organized outline for what they hope to accomplish
  • Tactics for measuring outcome and applying critical analysis

Good stuff, but there are additional benefits:
  • Better relations with other agencies
  • Opportunities to share resources, giving your agency more breadth
  • Opportunities to share best practices with others who have similar challenges
  • Brainstorming for tweaking social media tactics after measurement
  • A chance to find friends among colleagues
You might even be able to apply for a grant from your local Community Foundation which could underwrite having experts on specific social media topics come in to provide information. Don’t get carried away with this idea, though. You may bring in consultants down the road, but you still have to know what’s what or you run the risk of investing efforts in the wrong places (MySpace, anyone?).

Right now, the idea of creating social media strategy and policy and communicating it to both board and staff may seem overwhelming. But if you and a few others go through the process of learning together, you may find the journey easier than expected. And even if you don’t, with a carpool, at least you’ll have company.

NOTE: While I was writing this, I took a break and read the latest post from Big Duck. Dan Gunderman’s strategy for always having a blog topic to hand fits right into this post (I’m beginning to think they have mind readers on staff there). A lot of what he says about writers needing to know their personalities and positioning applies to your social media branding. He further suggests making note of your key messages and making a Master Messaging Document. Go read this and use his advice as a conversation starter when you have your first strategic group meeting.

Tool of the Week: Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone

Social Media Birdbrain is a featured blog on this site, which recently got a new look. Upper right on this blog is my badge and below that you’ll see a list of topics. The Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone is organized around categories like these and the number next to it shows how many blog posts there relate to that category. When you select a category, you’ll get a “newspaper” style display that shows the most recent posts on that topic and snippets of particular posts. If you are interested in a particular post, just click “more” and you’ll be taken to that blog. Or use the “Change Edition” link at the top of every page to move back or forward through time to view other posts in the same category. It’s a great resource – kind of a one-stop-shopping for information and insights on marketing and fundraising and some of my favorite blogs provide the content.

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