Converting the Skeptics: How Social Media Can Help Change the Minds of Non-Profit Naysayers

Non-profits are great. You know it, we know it, but, unfortunately not everyone feels the same way.

We hear the same reasons for not being part of a non-profit over and over again. Good, old-fashioned, one-on-one conversations can help turn the tide and make people realize professional associations, charities or other organizations are worth investing in. But sometimes people need more convincing. Sometimes your organization needs a way to reach not one, but tens, hundreds or thousands of potential connections consistently.

That’s when social media can play a role in turning even the most ardent disbeliever into a loyal member, volunteer, contributor, etc. We looked into a few of the more common situations where social media can help turn the tide, banish myths and highlight the benefits of being part of a non-profit.

Situation #1- The Investment Conundrum

Many people point to high membership dues without upfront value as a main reason for not joining their industry’s association. Many people only see the price tag of membership and not the benefits of it. Helping those in your industry see the true worth of an investment in membership can be done almost every day with social media in both big and small ways.

Let’s start with the small, or indirect, ways. By tweeting, posting, pinning and uploading frequently, your organization becomes the go-to source for information for your industry. All roads to knowledge go through your association. This shows people that it is worth being part of your association for its potential to unlock lessons that could bring their career to a new level.

On a larger, more direct scale, social media is a great outlet to promote events, draw attention to association services and map out exactly how an association plans to meet the needs of its members. Blogs are a great way to achieve this aim in detail and Twitter is a great platform to boost both reach and frequency of your message.

Situation #2- The Effort Theory

Social media is a great tool to show that making a difference is fun, flexible and has a huge impact.

For example, Nonprofit Technology Network announced a creative incentive via a blog and video post to raise $10,000 in scholarship money for people to attend the annual NTC conference. Executive Director Holly Ross let donors vote on which one of three embarrassing things she’d do if NTEN reached their goal. They quickly raised the $10,000 and donors voted for Holly to do a Single Ladies Video.

Using Instagram, Vine or Twitter to highlight the fun and inspiring moments of an event or fundraiser in pictures does more to change peoples’ attitudes than words can ever do.

Showing the extraordinary benefits of contributing can be done very effectively with Pinterest. By pinning an infographic of where someone’s money or time is going as it travels from their pocket to the cause is a great way for people to visualize how they personally are helping out.

Situation #3- The Generational Anomaly

Yes, associations have been around for many a decade and any institution that has been around that long is going to risk being called out of date. But the truth is every new generation breaking into an industry is going to benefit from joining an association more than their more experienced colleagues. Social media can put this into perspective.

Networking is a key ingredient to any young professional’s success and forming social media communities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is a great way to encourage communication between members and show potential members the benefits of joining.

Similarly, highlighting the achievements of young professionals on blogs, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms may encourage others to get involved in your association and work to get recognized.

Situation #4- The Transparency Factor

When anyone gives money, or even time and loyalty, into an organization or a cause, they want to know where it’s going or have a say in the services that organization is providing. For example, many people want to know how much of the money they donated to charity is going to administrative costs and association members want to have a say in the education topics of a conference they are paying for. This is where social media steps in to lend a hand.

Social media gives the public easy access to organizations and makes it simple to start engaging and informative dialogues with the non-profits they get involved in or are thinking of getting involved in. That’s why providing information on spending or impact is easy for charities through Twitter or Facebook and pooling ideas on products and services is a piece of cake for associations on many different platforms.

More transparency means more trust and more trust means a loyal base of members, donors, volunteers and customers.

Battling myths is a past time of social media. That doesn’t mean every naysayer out there is going to turn into your biggest fan just because they are following your organization on Twitter. But a strong social media presence is another tool in your non-profit’s toolbox that be used to encourage participation, conversation and a more informed and active membership.

Facebook Is 10: Why the Social Network is Still Near the Top of the Class

In social media circles, Facebook just became a senior citizen.

Facebook turned 10-years-old last Tuesday, a monumental milestone for the social media giant. Facebook has paved the way for a new wave of networking platforms and has changed the way companies, organizations and individuals connect to others in its decade-long reign as one of the internet’s titans.

Amidst all of Facebook’s past triumphs are recent questions about the site. Many are wondering if Facebook is in a permanent decline and the social network is fending off attack after attack on its future.

We still think Facebook can be a great tool for non-profit organizations to connect with the community, build relationships and grow. So in honor of Facebook’s 10th birthday, we’re bringing you 10 ways the platform can benefit organizations.

1. Photo Albums

Images can inspire many emotions and effectively send important messages. Both of these are beneficial to non-profits who want to draw new connections and serve current ones. Facebook gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to posting photos, allowing users to upload whole albums, tag people, caption the photo (including hashtags), share them and set the location. Numerous studies also show that Facebook posts generate the most engagement and click-through rate.

2. Contests

Contests can be an interesting and engaging way to connect with members, donors, volunteers and the community and increase awareness. Facebook is a great platform to launch social media contests, especially with its new rules, instated last year, that make competitions easier, cheaper and more effective.

3. Mobile Capability

Mobile usage has exploded in the last couple years and it only keeps growing. More than 50 per cent of mobile users use their mobile device as their primary internet source. Appealing to mobile users is, or should be, a big consideration for organizations.

Facebook has a strong presence on mobile with an easy-to-use app. The social network also develops and releases new apps often. This makes the social experience even easier and more engaging for users and more important for organizations looking to build connections.

4. Videos

Videos are a great way to tell stories and the popularity of Vine, Instagram and YouTube underline how important they are to social networking.

Facebook allows organizations to upload videos to their page, capitalizing on the effectiveness of the medium. Combined with the ease with which connections can comment and share on posts, Facebook’s video capabilities measure up quite well against those of other platforms.

5. “Donate Now” Button

Facebook introduced its “Donate Now” button almost two months ago, making it easier for people to give to non-profits and charities. Online giving increased by over 20 per cent in the last year and it continues to trend upward. The “Donate Now” Button helps organizations capitalize on this trend, makes giving easier, and strengthens relationships between non-profits and the community.

6. Event Planning

Getting the word out and coordinating the details of an event can be difficult. That is why Facebook’s event feature is so effective. It enables organizations to plan gatherings and convey information quickly and simply. It also allows attendees to spread the word themselves, helping initiatives grow and thrive. Last, but not least, Facebook’s event feature is unique among social media platforms. No such thing exists on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

7. Hashtags

Hashtags help organizations appeal to a wider audience and gather great content to share to members and their other connections. While Facebook hashtags took a little while longer to catch on than their Twitter cousins, they are seeing wider acceptance in recent months. Facebook hashtags also keep them level with other social networks that also use hashtags.

8. Networking

Having a space to network with others is the big reason for people to be on social media. Giving people that space will draw people to your organization. Facebook is one of the best platforms to achieve this. Conversations on your organization’s page can be vibrant and sharing the contributions of others can be done in various, engaging ways. At the end of the day, your organization isn’t the only one who will be gaining new friends on Facebook, so will your members.

9. Turning Negative to Positive

Sooner or later, your organization is going to receive some negative feedback. Whether it’s blunt or thinly veiled, criticism is a way of life on social media. The real key is knowing how to deal with negative criticism. Facebook provides a great space to turn that negative into a positive. Other platforms are limited in the amount of characters or the medium you can use and this often limits an organization’s response. Facebook has very few limits and thus provides a forum to turn that frown upside down.

10. Promote Other Platforms

Many non-profits have a multi-faceted approach to social media, using several platforms to serve the community or members. Facebook is a great way to let others know about these other platforms. Promoting your blog, Twitter feed or an infographic you pin on Pinterest is just a click away on Facebook.

Facebook may be getting up there in years, but the social network hasn’t lost its appeal or its effectiveness for non-profits. Happy belated birthday Facebook!

What do you like about Facebook? What non-profits use the platform best? Let us know in the comments!

Twitter’s Nearby App Can Help Non-Profits and Associations

Social media has made it easy to reach out to a global audience, but has also renewed the focus on the local.

Companies, organizations and individuals are starting to pay more attention to those in their own backyard. Twitter’s new mobile app, called Nearby, gives a boost to this community-focused strategy.

The feature, which has been in test mode for more than a month, allows users to see a collection of tweets from people close to your location.

While the blogosphere has been abuzz about Nearby’s potential for local businesses, we thought it would be an amazing tool for non-profits and associations to capitalize on.

Here are a few ways organizations could benefit if Nearby is rolled out in full.

Volunteer Searches 

There are probably as many non-profits looking for volunteers as there are people looking for an opportunity to help with events, fundraising and day-to-day work. It’s a match made in heaven, right? Not necessarily.

Finding the right people to help in the right locations can be tricky. Nearby would give organizations a chance to target a local audience with their tweets. This would be the easiest and best way to contact future volunteers while ensuring they are from the area.

Local Chapter Initiatives

Many associations have local chapters that may struggle to be heard over the roar of their national, state or provincial counterparts on social media. Nearby could go a long way to fixing this.

Local chapters are all about drawing local members. By targeting local Twitter users with tweets about local issues, these smaller chapters will be able to cut through the noise to reach their target audience. For example, when promoting an upcoming local chapter event, the posting would show up to a much more select and captive audience than you would be likely to get without Nearby.

Business Improvement Areas

Business Improvement Areas, or BIAs, are the definition of a local non-profit. BIAs, for the most part, advocate for businesses in a small area of a city or town. Nearby seems like a dream app for these organizations. Both their members and their members’ customers are most likely in the area. Knowing who is tweeting what in the area and connecting with these users opens up a whole new way to engage the community.

Promoting Local Sponsors/Members

Every association has members who are doing great things in their community and every non-profit has a sponsor or donor who is dedicated to improving their local area. The Nearby app would be a great way to showcase both these groups and increase awareness of your organization’s partners in a place where they will gain the most benefit and recognition.

By recognizing a sponsor, donor or member and what they are doing in a certain city, it will increase their exposure to an audience that will be most interested and captive. This will go a long way to creating long-lasting relationships between your organization, your sponsors/donors/members and the community they serve.

Although Twitter’s Nearby mobile app is still in its infancy, it’s potential to positively impact non-profits and associations is already sky-high. From fostering relationships to building new ones, Nearby is a great tool for going local and doing so with a bang.

Check it out on your mobile device and let us know what you think. Also feel free to comment below and tell us how your organization connects with the local community. Stay social everyone!

The Biggest Social Media Tools for Non-Profits in 2014

One of the best things about social media is its ability to be exciting. Platforms and tools are constantly being created and improved. People are finding new ways to use established forms of social media every day.

Similarly, non-profits and associations must also grow, evolve and change with the times and the people they serve. By utilizing social media tools, both the young-gun ones and those of the old guard, organizations can continue to connect with the most integral part of their business: people.

Keeping up with the latest trends and platforms on social media is crucial to reaching a broad audience and serving that audience best, while achieving your organization’s goals. Here is a list of a few of social media platforms to keep an eye on in 2014 and why they could game-changers for your non-profit or association.

Google+

It’s time for organizations to start embracing Google+ with the zeal and zest Twitter and Facebook programs have received over the past couple years. Google+ offers a complete platform for non-profits and associations looking to boost awareness, education and engagement. With features like Google Hangouts (which could revolutionize webinar education sessions), the ability to share updates, links, etc., and the ease with which to connect with others, Google+ can be a one-stop shop for organizations looking to boost their reach and impact on social media.

There are other benefits to setting up a profile on the platform of the biggest search engine in the world. The main advantage is the SEO boost you could receive from getting attention on Google+. Better SEO means your organization will turn up higher on search lists when someone types in a query on Google, like “Canadian Trade Associations” or “Volunteer positions, Non-profits, Toronto”.

Google+ plus is trending upward and if you want your organization to do likewise, this platform would be a great investment.

Spotify

A much deserved round of kudos goes to this article by Jennifer James that mentions Spotify as a growing platform for brands and organizations to increase exposure and awareness. Indeed, there are over 24 million active users on Spotify in over 50 markets worldwide.

That got us thinking, how could non-profits and associations use Spotify to draw engagement?

Imagine creating a playlist for a conference, a playlist of songs volunteers can listen to while helping out or even a list of your members’ songs if your association represented the music industry.

With a bit of creativity and work, the possibilities are endless when you combine the universal love of music, an on-the-rise social platform and your organization. It’s fun, it’s different and it leaves the hard-sell out of the equation.

Vine

Vine exploded onto the scene in 2013 and it looks like it’s here to stay in 2014.

You wouldn’t think that a video service that only allows six-second videos can be versatile, but that’s exactly what Vine is. By breaking free from the usual constraints of filming, editing and uploading longer videos, Vine allows users to share quick, visual updates to their connections.

Non-profits and associations can capitalize on this feature by providing great updates during events (“Wait, I missed that at the conference!? Well, I’m definitely going next year!”) and to donors (“It’s great to see the impact of my support”). It keeps from bogging down busy sponsors, members, volunteers, etc. with long and heavy videos. Besides, Vine lends itself to more creative applications, like contests or humorous clips.

Twitter and Blogs

Twitters and blogs are the old faithfuls of social media, which is saying something about how fast a platform can age in a relatively young area of marketing.

When put together, Twitter and blogs can be a dynamic duo for your organization. Great content is important to building an audience that recognizes your organization as expert and interesting. Leveraging blogs and the myriad of options they bring, is a great way to do this.

Twitter is the vehicle to get your blog out there. Passing on great content and generating discussion from your posts will boost engagement, build lasting relationships and increase awareness.

Social media has changed the way non-profits and associations serve their members and the community. These platforms will no doubt evolve, grow and emerge in 2014. Utilizing these platforms will help your organization thrive with hard work, creativity and consistency.

Which social media platforms do you think will have a major impact in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Why Using Social Media Will Keep Your Association From Being Lazy

Associations Now published a piece on its website last week explaining that association membership is a two-way street and detailed the dangers of thinking of members as “my members”.

Here’s a great quote from the post,

“It’s true that, once a member has paid her dues for the year, that dues money belongs to you. But that’s it. The member’s time, attention, energy, and loyalty don’t belong to you. They never do. They must constantly be earned.”

What the author, Joe Rominiecki, is saying makes a lot of sense; members don’t have to engage whatsoever with their association if they don’t want to. Member dues are important (especially financially), but an association’s value is also bolstered by member participation in seminars, conferences, committees, lobbying and publications. And this is just naming a few times organizations rely on members to contribute.

In other words, complacency is a real association killer. An active presence on social media can help stomp complacency out, draw more members in and hold their loyalty and participation longer.

The big reason why this is true is, social media allows an almost 24/7 direct line to association staff and provides a forum where you can engage members in a two-way conversation. It’s almost impossible to be complacent with a consistent social media presence.

An organization is relaying news and promoting its services via Facebook, answering questions and replying to comments on Twitter, addressing recent issues and innovations with a blog and encouraging networking between members with LinkedIn. YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are making all these pieces of information engaging and interactive. Oh, and associations are also doing all these things daily.

Here are some more concrete examples of how social media can get members involved and keep them from seeing their association as complacent:

  • Members will always have suggestions on how to make an annual event better. No conference is perfect, right? Twitter gives members a place to voice their suggestions and for the association to engage in a dialogue about these comments. Openness to change and improvement are the exact opposite of resting of your laurels.
  • Recognizing members who have been honoured with special achievements or awards definitely shows members that you don’t just appreciate them when their dues comes in. Profiling these members in an association blog or through YouTube is a great way to show association support comes all year long.
  • Introducing and moderating a weekly discussion topic on LinkedIn drives engagement, allows the association to identify obstacles its members may be facing and connects them with other members that may be able to share solutions, hands-on help or words of advice. This marks your organization as one that constantly supports its members and is always up-to-date on the issues affecting them.

These are just a few scenarios where social media can be used to help members daily and to show them that their association is not complacent and always operates by asking, “How can we continue to better serve those who are a part of this association?”

So just remember, membership is a two-way street and social media keeps the relationship between member and association from getting bogged down by traffic.