From telling stories, to highlighting successes, to recruiting volunteers and even helping to raise funds, social media provides non-profit organizations with a dazzling array of tools to accomplish their goals.
“I think social media has made our communications so much more exciting,” Darcy Kubichka of Operation Fresh Start told the Social Media Breakfast Madison audience gathered in the Salvation Army gymnasium on Madison’s East Side. Darcy was one of six panelists who manage social media for Madison area non-profit organizations.
Social media helps her share the stories of people in the organization which excites them while helping the community become more aware of the issues they face and realize the positive impact the organization has, Darcy said. It also “makes our young people feel they are being portrayed in the community as a success,” she said, citing the example of a 17-year-old feeling pride after images of him putting up drywall appear across social media.
The six panelists agreed that four social media platforms are their bread and butter: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Facebook stands out for each of them, while most said Instagram is becoming increasingly important.
Mallory Shotwell from Madison Community Discourse, an arts organization, said she asks people to take pictures of how art represents joyful moments in our lives. “Sharing that collective experience is powerful,” she said. “It can be a refreshing thing to hear a story, to hear the stories we collect throughout the community – the wonderful moment I had with my son – and share them on social media, and then people can relate to them.”
“Social media connects the community to the art that’s being made …. as it develops,” Mallory said. “And in turn you can see the artist develop, and that can be a beautiful process. Allowing the community to connect to that experience through social media is wonderful.”
Mayra Medrano from the Latino Chamber of Dane County likes to capture those “aha moments” with Latino businesses that help her spread the word on the economic impact that Latino businesses have in Madison. “We just had our Latino Art Fair last month, and Facebook helped us create a buzz around that,” she said. “And we’re helping them build a business model around selling their art.”
Jason Hafeman from Project Home uses social media to “bring awareness of energy efficient projects” by sharing expertise and information such as simple tips to be more energy efficient. Jason said the beauty of social media is everyone working on projects is able to share their own pictures and experiences, which helps circulate the information and “gives them a voice to recognize themselves.” In past, he noted, “there was not an outlet for our volunteers to say look at the great things we did today.”
Rowan Childs from the Madison Reading Project said social media is great for explaining stories “in small chunks” that make it easier for people to follow along. “And getting the community’s involvement through social media has worked extremely well for us,” she added.
Rowan, who is an SMBMAD Board member, said she used social media – mainly Facebook and LinkedIn – to find 30 volunteer mentors in just three weeks.
Danika Brubaker from Cool Choices – which promotes sustainable practices through an online game – said she shares photos of sustainable items and activities, from water bottles to compost “to build a movement” while focusing on engagement. At the same time, she said, she uses social media to reward supporters. For example, she would Tweet about prizes donated by local businesses and then take pictures of the winners with the prizes, giving credit to the businesses that are showing they are committed to sustainability.
Darcy said Operation Fresh Start was very successful in using social media to highlight special events such as their Gala, open houses, and this fall’s unveiling of the “bird in flight” observation deck at Patrick Marsh in Sun Prairie. People were even able to follow along with its construction. In addition, she said, she uses social media to teach people how to make affordable housing energy efficient, “sharing those stories and highlighting our partnerships in the community.”
Jason said he was successful using video to highlight volunteer work, such as people “crawling around in attics or crawl spaces and then sharing that to get people to get a better understanding of weatherization and what Project Home is and some of the things we do.” He said he posts video on all platforms, including YouTube, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.
Most panelists said they do not use social media directly for fund-raising but that everything they post helps spread the word about their accomplishments, which generates support that leads to donations. And they do give social media shout-outs to donors.
“It isn’t an active ‘ask’ in our social media all the time, but it is lurking there,” Rowan said.
Jason said he used social media last year to drive Project Home’s participation in the Big Share – the community’s first online giving day – “and it was pretty successful.”
Myra said one of social media’s strengths is that it facilitates the dissemination of “real-time news.”
“Some things just can’t wait for the weekly newsletter,” she said. “We live in a world where news from an hour ago is old news.”
Among other observations from the panelists:
Mallory: “I use Facebook to connect with the local community; I use Instagram to connect with national community.”
Rowan: “We’ve done Facebook ads to promote events, and it has worked extremely well.”
Darcy: “Using the right hashtags for a post is really important.”
Everyone: Use photo release forms.
Everyone: Monitor your analytics to identify what works and what doesn’t and to spot the best times to post for your particular audience.
Jason: “Most important: Be yourself and be true to your organization and who you are, and if you keep that in mind you’ll have a good strategy.”
Thanks also to our moderator, Alnissa Allgood.
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.