by Despina Freri
We live in a Digital Age, where everything – from grocery shopping to learning and communicating – has moved on the web. Someone would have thought that the global pandemic would have highlighted what everyone else knew: your nonprofit MUST have a Social Media presence. You would have also thought that with 3.6 billion people using social media worldwide, a nonprofit’s presence on social media would be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, a lot of professionals are still trying to make the case for what seems obvious: We need to be online. We need to engage with our audience online. We need to show our work online.
It may be that your nonprofit doesn’t have the resources or that the decision-makers simply aren’t convinced that it is worth the investment. After all, you are a charity – effectively and strategically allocating resources is one of your basic survival methods. Especially in the countries that features like setting up Facebook Fundraisers as a nonprofit or using Instagram Stickers are still not available (oh, yeah! There are plenty of them out there), trying to make a case for a digital marketing budget, a cohesive online messaging and an integrated social media plan can be very frustrating.
The ugly truth is that just because it seems obvious doesn’t mean that everyone will accept and adopt it. And even the ones that are more open-minded when it comes to new technologies and innovative strategies will still need good reasoning to get on board. So, here are some arguments that will help with your pitch to your Board/ Manager/ Supervisor. Remember, like in every strategic plan if you want to see results, you need to take Social Media strategy seriously. Dropping the ball to interns’ or volunteers’ hands won’t help you. Think about it: would you let an intern take over the strategy for your monthly giving program? Or do the whole planning for your annual gala? I don’t think so. You can always use volunteers and interns to let you a hand on social media channels, especially in a fast pace and constantly changing environment like this, but you need them to part of your team, not the whole team.
But the real question here is this: when everybody is out there, where will you be? So, roll up your sleeves, go out there and let your people know why social media should have a part in your organization’s development plan and why it’s a great tool for every fundraising strategy.
1. It Makes You Look Professional
In today’s online world, not having an online presence practically means you don’t exist. Imagine for example, if somebody was trying to find your address, and you weren’t showing up at all. While at the same time, other nonprofits with similar services were showing up. Firstly, you would seem outdated and having left “behind the times”. Secondly, you may have just lost a new donor or volunteer. Having an online presence shows that you are serious about your cause and your mission and it makes it much easier for people to come to you. Besides, it is expected you to be online, as everybody else is too! Having the rising generations of donors and volunteers being constantly online, you wouldn’t want to miss out. Although the generation gap doesn’t seem to be a thing here. According to a study by The Manifest, in the US “More than 80% of every generation uses social media at least once per day making social media part of their daily routine”. And even better, we also know that the easier the access to the Internet in a country is, the larger the numbers of social media usage are. Hinting that internet access almost always goes hand on hand with social media usage.
2. It’s Cost – Effective
Be careful here! When we say “cost-effective”, we don’t mean free. This is a common misconception that can go South very easily. If you want to have an effective Social Media strategy and not to do Social Media for the sake of Social Media make sure to assign a part of your budget to it. And when we say “budget”, don’t get confused with the money you will need for the ads – that’s only a slice of it. First of all, and before anything else, you need someone who knows what they are doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a team, outsourced or inhouse. These depend on the size of your organization, your resources, and the traffic your online accounts have. But you need someone knowledgeable to give you directions, help you navigate through basic scenarios, and make sure that the message you are putting out there is the one you want to. Now, if you have this person on your team, you will soon realize that Social Media is not one-size-fits-all platforms. That means that in an era that people crave for personalization, Social Media can give you an option that other traditional promotional strategies and campaigns don’t have. Thus, it enables you to customize your audience’s experience and create something tailormade based on their interests. That means that every dollar you spend, it’s a well-spend dollar.
3. It Helps You Expand
Social media can be a powerful way to drive traffic to your website from around the world. It has no geographical limitations, and it can open unlimited possibilities. For example, it allows you to get in touch with people who don’t know you or the ones who do know you, but their location is a barrier. Time zones, days and nights, national holidays don’t matter. Your information is out there 24/7 for 12 months per year, available for anyone to use. Practically this means that if you want to learn a few things for a nonprofit in Greece, you don’t need to know that March 25th is their Independence Day, a National Holiday and nobody is available during that day. You would be able to find quite a bit of information online and then decide if you would like to reach out to them for more details. The same thing if you are looking for a nonprofit in India, while it is 4 pm in DC. Time seems irrelevant in the digital world. Moreover, the leads you get are quality ones, and this is an important advantage to the traditional advertising channels, where obtaining interested leads can be challenging.
4. It Builds Trust & Relationships
Every nonprofit has its annual plan strategies to drive engagement and retention. Social Media can be a perfect tool for that. Engaging with people who support you every week, showing your progress and what you are up to, are great for building trusted and meaningful relations with your community. But not only that. Social Media is a two-way street. Not only you can engage with your audience, but they too can engage with you. Additionally, your online approval ratings are an indication of your trustworthiness. And this indication is closely followed by the digital crowds. Think about it as a casual meeting with friends. You sit in a comfortable couch on your backyard with a glass of wine, they tell you their news, you tell them your plans, you discuss and debate about it, you may (or they may) ask for advice and you finish your evening by thanking each other for the lovely time. Now, if the whole event was enjoyable, it will get good word of mouth, so you will gain the reputation of a great host that really cares about their friends and family, and they know how to take care of their guests. And that sense of closeness, comfort, and being taken care of is what builds strong and trusted relations and creates a community. And remember that 91% of people believe in social’s power to connect communities.
5. It Shows You What Works
Data is the key to a successful strategy. But to collect it is not that easy. The metrics of your social media accounts and your website can be your ally with that though. You’ll be able to see numerical proof of what works and what doesn’t, so your campaigns can be more effective. And it’s not only the analytics and the insights that you can take advantage of. Posting polls and taking feedback through comments are also a valuable way of measuring what works or not. All this information can help you make data-backed decisions, optimize your strategies, and find out about problems that have remained out of your sight up till that moment. Analyzing data shouldn’t in any case be an add-on. It should always be an integral part while designing your digital strategy.
6. It Raises Awareness & Builds Your Brand
Just think how many times you have said “google it” when you were looking for an answer. If the number you recall seems rather large, don’t get alarmed. You are not alone. According to Statista, the online search was the second most common internet activity in the US for 2019 (85.4%), only behind email (90.9%). Imagine now, that someone of this 85.4% is looking up online something related to your cause, they “google it” and you are not one of the results. You may have just missed a donor, a volunteer, a beneficiary, or an advocate. Nowadays, Social Media is where your audience interacts with friends and family. And that can be the platform you need to raise awareness for your cause. The way you choose to communicate and showcase your work sets your organization’s tone. In many cases, Social Media is the first point of contact between your nonprofit and somebody who doesn’t know you. And it can be crucial for taking the next step: “Does this organization pass the test?”, “Are they interesting enough for me to contact them and learn more about what they are doing?” or “Do I feel that I can relate with what they stand for?”. And keep in mind that the answer to this question may make all the difference.
7. It Tells Your Story
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is what social media lives up to. Here you don’t need an elevator speech to show who you are, you can show what you are doing and why you are doing it, as often as you want and in any way that you want. And you can also let others speak for you and support your motion. Remember, as we’ve already said Social Media is a two-way street: not only you can share your point of view, but you have the chance to let other people share their point of you for your organization. Your employees, volunteers, donors, advocates, beneficiaries are your ambassadors and social media makes it easy for them to let the world see you through their eyes and tell them how special you are. Let your story get out there and share your vision with the world. This is the best way to do it!