Whether it's with donors or in the workforce, not-for-profit organizations need engagement. Contributors and staff who support the work of your organization keep your operations running smoothly through financial contributions and delivering services and programs to the community you serve.

Not-for-profit organizations can use social media to help drive engagement with internal and external audiences. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms provide low-cost opportunities to publicly recognize the work of your staff and volunteers while also sharing the culture, faces and stories that make your organization unique. Organizations that consider the following as part of their engagement strategy can use social media to its full advantage.

Use Social Media to Attract Donors

There's a lot of talk about "humanizing" marketing efforts, and social media provides an ideal avenue for storytelling. Photos, videos and other posts turn an abstract mission statement into names and faces and highlight the work your organization does. This can be important for enticing support from donors.

Younger generations in particular are curious about how organizations use donations. A 2013 report from online giving platform Blackbaud found that 60 percent of Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995) and nearly 50 percent of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) want to see the impact their donation will have on the organization. Social media can help organizations showcase donor contributions in action.

Communicate with Donors and Volunteers

For community members who are already taking part in your organization, social media channels can function as a communication tool. Volunteer events and donation drives can be promoted through social tools. Many platforms also have options for sponsored posts or targeted ads, which can target audiences in a geographic region. Keep in mind that posts that directly ask for help should be specific and include as much information as possible about the organization's need. Be up front about the goal and try to limit the number of posts that make requests of your audience.

A good way to vary communications with donors and volunteers is to use social media to recognize key donors, board members and volunteers. Publicly thanking the people who help your organization signals to donors, board members and volunteers that their contributions are appreciated, which may encourage future engagement.

Promote the Work of Employees

Both in the for-profit world and in the not-for-profit world, organizations are looking for ways to reward employees for good work. Using social media posts as a social recognition tool can also highlight the work being done by your staff. Your organization may want to encourage employees to make posts that thank one another for their work. Social media also provides managers the opportunity to more publicly show their appreciation for their employees. It's a simple step, but one that may pay off. Companies that use social recognition strategies have reported improvements in employee engagement and in organizational outcomes. For not-for-profit organizations, social media recognitions may have the added benefit of boosting donor confidence. The recognition of high performing staff demonstrates to an external audience that your organization attracts talent.

Generate Goodwill in the Community

Social media activities help drive engagement with the community at-large. Promoting the good work of your organization and its staff demonstrates to the public that your organization is making a difference. Organizations, if they aren't already, should include social media as part of their overall approach to public relations. Feel good stories generate goodwill, and goodwill may turn into increased name recognition in your market and increased support.

Be a Social Strategist

The key to a successful social media approach is to keep posts varied. Organizations can easily fall into a trap of using social media primarily as a promotion tool for events and activities, but the engagement element cannot be understated.

Rules also need to be clearly defined before an organization encourages the use of social media. For liability reasons, it is recommended that your organization have editorial control over social media posts that involve the organization's name and activities. If your organization supports employees posting to social media accounts directly, it should be sure to first educate employees on how to use social media responsibly. In addition to privacy and appropriate subject matter concerns, not-for-profit organizations face penalties if their organization promotes too many commercial activities or ventures.

Organizations should also have a social media policy in place about employees' private use of social media. They should verify that their rules for private use of social media comply with the National Labor Relations Act, which protects certain types of speech about work conditions on social media platforms.

To learn more about engagement best practices and social media risks, please contact us.

Published on April 24, 2017