Social Marketing for Non-Profits, Part 1: Getting Started

I admit it; I’m spoiled. I work for a corporation that has a budget for marketing our products. We never think we have enough money for what we want to accomplish, but then I go to a committee meeting for one of the non-profits with which I’m involved, and I realize how lucky I am. Many small non-profits have next-to-no staff, and very little room to spend money to promote themselves. I’m always talking about the power of social marketing; the importance of building a trust-based relationship and then empowering your customers spread the message. Nowhere is this more needed than in organizations that are trying to change the world on a shoestring budget. Most of them have great stories to tell. I’ve decided to put my time and money where my mouth is and help a few organizations develop their own social marketing strategies.

I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot in this process; in the hope that this could be of help to others, I am going to document the work as it progresses. In this “part 1”, I’m outlining the overall approach I’m going to take for each organization I plan to work with. One is an arts organization, the other is one of the ministries of my church. I will write this from the perspective of a volunteer, and hopefully some of this will also be helpful to marketing or development directors.

1. Establish a team. It’s the nature of non-profits that a lot of work must be accomplished by volunteers, so the first step is to find folks to help. Discuss the idea with the leader of the non-profit, and get an understanding of if/how staff can participate. Let the organization’s  board know what you are trying to accomplish, and ask that they help you identify people in, or connected to, the organization that have knowledge of marketing, web site and/or database technology, and communications. Include a notice in the organization’s newsletter, email updates, and other existing communication channels. Since everyone is a volunteer, it will be important to establish how much time each person has available to participate, and to organize the work accordingly. Identify who will post content, who will monitor and reply to comments and posts on the page.

2. Establish your objective for social media. Unless you know where you are going, you will never be figure out how to get there. Are you seeking to use social marketing to deepen the organization’s connection to those already involved as volunteers or staff? To build the number of supporters? To build connections between those who benefit from the goods or service provided by the organization? To increase awareness of the organization in the community? Each of these objectives are valid and each require different tactics. The team needs to pick the one that is most critical to the organization right now, and focus there. You can always tackle the others after you nail the first priority.

3. Identify key shareable content. Talk to those who are already connected with the organization and find our what they say to others (after all, one to one conversation is the 1.0 version of social networks). Don’t worry about starting small. According to a (somewhat self-serving) study by Ning, “It only takes 20 people to bring an online community to a significant level of activity and connectivity.” Focus on the content that you already know people are sharing with others; ask them what else they would like to know and give it to them. For example, if your objective is to increase the number of supporters/ donors, talk to existing donors and ask them why they give. Better yet, ask them to invite a few friends for coffee, and listen to how they talk about the organization to their friends. This will give you many ideas about how you should talk to prospective donors. Create a calendar of content so that everyone on the team know what will be posted and when.

4. Pick a platform to start with. You don’t have to do it all at once, so start with one thing. One of the the easiest places to start is by creating a blog on WordPress; your blog can provide the basic infomation about your organization and provide a consistent “landing page” to which you can point other communications. Or you could just create a page within a social network such as Facebook and Twitter (and with Google+ on the horizon).  YouTube might also be appropriate if you have lots of video content. Twitter is organized around interests, and having authority on a certain topic matters. If real-time information is important to your audience, Twitter is a place you will want to be. With Twitter, you will often need to link elsewhere, so you should only choose Twitter if you already have a web site or blog to which you can link. Facebook is centered on connecting with friends and family; because it is so widely adopted, it gives you a good chance of having your content shared with others. If the organization doesn’t already have a web site, you could consider starting a social community site from scratch using a partner such as Ning. There may be a niche social network that is closely related to the work of your non-profit or to your geographic area. The choice depends on your objectives. Gather at least a dozen stories, photos, videos to use as your initial content, and then:

5. Create your presence on the social network of your choice and say hell0 to the world. Contact existing supporters, staff and volunteers in whatever way you can  – by phone, mail , email, posters at gatherings, announcements at meetings. send an email letting everyone know of your presence and asking them to “like” or “follow” the organization. Ask them to post pictures, write stories, tell their friends.

6. Listen! Ask! Answer questions, respond to requests. Show them what the organization is doing to achieve its mission. Encourage the community to create the content themselves. Encourage them to invite others.

Non-profits are created by folks that are passionate about wanting to make something happen. Social Marketing is the perfect way to harness that passion and spread the word to others. If you are working in a non-profit, let me know about how you are using social channels to accomplish your mission!

One thought on “Social Marketing for Non-Profits, Part 1: Getting Started

  1. Pingback: Social Marketing for Non-Profits – Part 2: Content | Digital Discoveries

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