NPOs – Take social media seriously and donors will, too!

Why so Non-Profit Organizations do so poorly in raising funds with Social Media?

A lovely graduate student from New York attending school in the UK interviewed me over Skype for her dissertation. She was researching why Non-Profit Organizations do so poorly in raising funds with Social Media. (This lends itself to some of the same troubles SMBs have over developing loyal fans.)

We planned on half an hour, but we ran far over an hour as so much of our discussion became more about human behavior than just social media itself.

As a board member of a non-profit organization, and having helped NPOs with their social media and email marketing, here are some observations I shared with her regarding the difficulties non-profit boards appear to have using Facebook and Twitter to grow awareness and raise funds.

“You know how to do social media? Great! It’s all yours!”

This happens a lot. The majority of the board is either not using social media, or if they are, it is just Facebook for family and close friends. Therefore, they don’t understand the difference between posting on a personal profile vs managing a business or group page. Nor do they understand Twitter, LinkedIn or any other platforms for business purposes. And remember, a non-profit organization IS a business.

The board will be thrilled that someone is willing to take it over because they know they are supposed to have a social media presence. That is the priority.

They’ll hope the person who takes it over does understand how to manage a business or group page account, but in many cases, they don’t. They just know social media tools better than most so they got elected for the job, but often fall short on strategies for engaging followers on a business page or group.

“Everyone on the board will help you with content – it’ll be easy.”

This rarely comes to be. If your members of the board are not active on social media now, how will you get them to develop the habit of passing along information tidbits and photos for posting? Unfortunately, posting usually falls totally on the shoulders of the social media/marketing board member.

Why is that unfortunate? Because the NPO social media manager typically only gets information at meetings. By then it’s not timely or maybe even relevant to followers.  And getting pictures from events? Another tough one. Even with digital cameras and SmartPhones, it sometimes takes people weeks to upload their photos and send them forward. They often take a lot of pictures at these events, so it isn’t practical to try to share them on the spot. So the thought is that it’s more practical to wait until they can be uploaded and organized, but…

“How come we aren’t getting donations on Social Media?”

Well, actually you are getting some you aren’t aware of. If you are using PayPal for your donation link, then you aren’t sure where the click originated. And, if someone donates from your website, it could be they arrived on your website from your link on your social media. People aren’t likely to post about donating, so don’t look to that as a tracking source.

But to be realistic, unless at least several board members or volunteers are engaging, what message are you subconsciously sending the followers you DO have? If those running the organization can’t be bothered with their own social media page, why should the public?

So what can you do about it?

We arrived at several  initial conclusions:

  • TAKE SOCIAL MEDIA SERIOUSLY. And it has to come from the top down. If the upper echelon isn’t “into” social media – especially on a business level – then s/he won’t treat it as a priority and the whole board soon treats it like the red-headed stepchild.
  • Education is key. It is important to learn social media business account strategies. It has to be treated like a business to perform like one. Then you must spread that knowledge to the rest of the board and volunteers.
  • It is important to keep your donors informed of what you are doing with their money. If you need to go into detail on some information, there is nothing better than a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter to keep your donors and followers informed.

Take your social media seriously and your donors and followers will take you seriously, too.