The Social Media Race: How Can Smaller Nonprofits Keep Up?

This week, the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) released a study that found 97%of the top U.S. nonprofits currently use social media. More than businesses, more than academia, it is charities that have wholeheartedly embraced and run with these new modes of communication.

Also interesting was that over the past two years, the correlation between familiarity and usage of social media among charity executives increased. While this might seem like an obvious fact (people are most familiar with the tools they use often), it demonstrates one of the key challenges for smaller nonprofits (or sometimes larger established nonprofits that are comfortable using more “traditional” approaches) – lack of resources.

If faced with choosing between executing on the core mission or investing the time it takes to become familiar with and use social media tools, it seems clear what the answer should be. Yet this only hurts these organizations in the long run, because they can’t compete with other nonprofits for the hearts, minds and dollars of potential donors on these networks. So, how can smaller nonprofits keep up?

1) Start Small – Don’t try to be active in every single network, or you will burn out quickly. Begin at the beginning: start by figuring out who you’re trying to reach and what you want to communicate to them. Then do some research and find out what social tools they use the most. Focus narrowly on your target market and top messages, set achievable goals, and make a realistic commitment of the resources you have.

2) Just Do It – If you’re a newbie, chances are you’re going to be confused about how it all works and struggle to figure out the “right” way to jump in and get started. The only way it gets easier is to actually practice; try out different approaches and see what works for you. Even if you make a mistake, just keep engaging on a genuine basis with people who are interested in your cause and they will forgive you.

3) Get Help – You’re not in this alone. Solicit help from local universities students learning digital media and communications. Start attending local social media events and networking. There are tons of articles and experts out there whose main goal is to teach nonprofits about social media; below is a short list of online resources I have found useful. (Please share your own recommendations in the comments!)

· Socialbrite: A learning hub & sharing community that brings together top experts in social media, causes and online philanthropy, to share tools and best practices for advancing the social good.

· Beth Kanter blog: How Networked Nonprofits Are Using Social Media to Power Change. One of the longest running and most popular blogs about social media for nonprofits; written by Beth Kanter, CEO of an online marketing agency for nonprofits and socially conscious companies.

· Slideshare: You will find tons of helpful presentations and case studies here on almost any subject, like this one with 50 social media tactics to help nonprofits meet their mission.

· Nonprofit Alltop: All the news you can use…literally. Create your own page of news headlines from the top online outlets in any industry, including nonprofits.

This is why Team Up is focused on giving nonprofits the resources they need to reach stakeholders, drum up volunteers, publicize events, share resources or solicit donors. We do this by providing financial support (raising money with Gigs4Good) and professional expertise (conducting social media training sessions with nonprofit staff).

If you want to learn more about us and get involved, come to the next Gigs4Good at the Hard Rock Café Seattle on Thursday, August 19. Two amazing acts will be onstage to raise funds for Seattle Works – soul singer Alex Mercier and local pop/rock band Bekker. Tickets are only $20 and available through Ticketweb.

By Kizha Davidson

You can find Kizha on Twitter @kydinseattle and Team Up @TeamUp4NonProf

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