Non-profits make a real difference in the world and they deserve support and recognition. But in order for your organization to be effective, you need to attract and engage the attention of those who share your vision, care about your cause and can make meaningful contributions to move your work forward.
In today’s online world, social media is a non-profit’s best friend.
As social media continues to change the way people communicate, it has become an increasingly important tool for non-profit organizations. Learning which social network appeals most to your target audience, how to master the unique tools and features on each platform, and how to listen and engage with your audience is essential. The sooner your organization masters content distribution and engagement on social networks, the more likely (and faster) your fundraising and marketing efforts will result in success.
We’ll look at 2 social media case studies to show you how non-profit organizations are doing social media right. We’ll also take a look at a small organization that recently started using social media and point out ways they can build their online presence and garner support.
UNICEF is leading the pack when it comes to creating powerful social media campaigns and rallying online support. With 4.9 million Facebook fans, 4.02 million Twitter followers and more than 64,000 YouTube subscribers, UNICEF is the 3rd highest ranking non-profit organization on social media.
What are they doing well?
While brand recognition certainly played a role in garnering support and becoming a powerful social media influencer, UNICEF also takes a front-seat when it comes to implementing best practices. They create compelling content through the use of visual and audio-visual storytelling methods, respond promptly to community feedback, and harmonize their various platforms with common goals by seizing every opportunity to direct users to donation, information and action pages for their initiatives.
Within an increasingly ‘virtual’ world, most activist groups and non-profits were using social media to capture public attention and rally support for various causes. While other organizations were racing to attract followers, fans and likes, UNICEF took a radically different approach making this bold statement: “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”
UNICEF’s campaign ripped open the debate between slacktivism – or ‘armchair activists’ – and the need to contribute in a more meaningful and tangible way while highlighting the fact that social shares aren’t enough.
Their risky approach was recognized by Nonprofithub.org as one of the Top 4 Non-Profit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 because they used social media in an unexpected way, drove home the fact that monetary donations make a greater impact than social media likes and motivated people to donate rather than simply clicking a like button.
Case Study 2: CARE
CARE is one of my favourite international non-government organizations and I was fortunate enough to volunteer with the Canada office during the summer of 2008. They do amazing work around the world and they have a good handle on using social media as a platform to build awareness and support fundraising initiatives.
Due to the organizational set-up, CARE’s social media efforts are not quite as unified as UNICEF. However, they did place 42nd is the list of highest ranking non-profit organizations on social media in 2014.
What are they doing well?
CARE’s individual country webpages maintain a similar layout and design with an attractive home page featuring their most relevant initiatives around the world catagorized by type of project. This enables visitors to find the type of work they’re most interested in quickly and easily.
CARE makes extensive use of storytelling in their online campaigns. Stories show visitors what it’s like to work on the ground and invite us into the lives of the people they help using vivid and compelling photography, videos, quotes and personal interviews.
While CARE has an exemplary online presence, there are areas where they could improve the efficiency of their social media efforts. For example while they do provide compelling content and provide space for visitor engagement, they lack a demonstrable call-to-action. CARE would be wise to take a hint from UNICEF’s campaign by including a handy ‘donate now’ button at the end of each video. While increased awareness is a worthy pursuit, a clear call-to-action will increase the likelihood of turning ‘armchair activists’ into potential donors.
The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force facilitates community partnerships to advocate for poverty reduction and elimination. Their values include:
Collaboration / Partnership – Building trust and respect across community stakeholders through dialogue and purposeful partnerships;
- Understanding Poverty Issues and Each Other – Working together to educate each other, share creative solutions and develop a common understanding of issues related to poverty;
- Equality / Justice – Working to improve lives within the community, while ensuring the services are accessible, affordable, humanitarian, equitable, and provides choice;
- Advocacy – Acting in partnership to leverage our community knowledge and expertise to advocate for change;
- Com(passion) for Change – Acting with compassion to make meaningful change for individuals and families when they need it most;
Collective Synergies – Recognizing that our collective energies are greater than that of any individual. Individually we can do little, together we can move mountains.
In terms of online presence and social media engagement, the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force represents the tail end of the spectrum. With only 133 Facebook fans, one active and one inactive Facebook page, no Twitter or YouTube account and a WordPress site that flickers between private and public settings, the Task Force has no where to go but up.
Many of Task Force’s values – e.g. collaboration, partnership, advocacy, awareness building, public education – combined with lack of financial resources available for traditional advertising and marketing campaigns make social media an ideal platform for achieving success.
Some immediate objectives the Task Force might consider implementing in their social media approach include:
- Determining how they would like to be perceived and developing a vision for their organizational brand;
- Developing a social media strategy with well-established goals and clear objectives;
- Explore different social media platforms to discover where their audience is most present and engaged while identifying a list of topic influencers to follow;
- Determine which platforms best suit their organization’s vision and goals and developing a list of measurable key performance indicators which they can monitor and evaluate;
- Create a digital filing system to store content, find creative ways to re-use or re-vamp content and develop a content distribution plan;
- Listen to their communities and begin to engage in the conversation.
As a small advocacy and awareness group, the Task Force faces a number of barriers, such as a small staff responsible for multiple tasks, lack of a dedicated social media or communications officer, etc.
To help overcome these challenges, I’ll be working with the Task Force to get their website back online, providing an evaluation of their existing social media efforts and helping them develop a social media strategy that they can carry forward into the future.
What do you think?
Do you have any other Social Media tips for Non-Profits?
Please comment below!
Want to learn more?
This post was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!