Do you find social media to be a big, fat time waster for your nonprofit?
It may be tempting to read articles with provocative titles like Matt Collins’ recent post for The Guardian, “It’s time for charities to stop wasting money on social media”, while nodding vehemently and pumping your fists up and down.
You may be thinking:“FINALLY! Finally, someone told me that it was ok to quit using social media for my nonprofit! I was right all along!”
Well, no. This kind of outdated thinking isn’t just wrong, it’s unhelpful and even risky to nonprofits.
My main beef with articles like Collins’ is that the logic often contradicts itself. His article starts out saying that “social media has changed the world” but then claims that, despite this universal shift in communications, charities should just ignore these channels and continue on with the status quo.
The only problem is that social media has BECOME the status quo. It’s become the norm.
Social media has revolutionized the very way in which humans interact with each other. The platforms have completely changed how we discover and share information we care about (friends, family, news, work, causes, to name a few).
Collins claims that charities have “dormant email lists of thousands of people”. I think that if he bothered to talk with a wide variety of nonprofits, he would find that they are struggling to grow and build their email lists, as well as to communicate with their email subscribers in a meaningful way. His recommendation of simply sending “more emails” is faulty, and could alienate email subscribers if overdone.
I do agree with his assertion that nonprofits (and businesses, and individuals) need to prioritize the places where they spend their precious time. Focusing efforts on Google AdWords and search engine optimization is certainly worthwhile and yields results for many nonprofit organizations. Phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, and in-person donor meetings will never be replaced with a tweet or LinkedIn message.
My point is that social media will never replace tried-and-true fundraising methods for nonprofits. It will never replace direct mail for most of us (at least not in the foreseeable future) or events (as much as I wish it would).
You are assuredly wasting precious time and money on social media if:
**You do not have a plan or a strategy.
**You do not know who you are reaching or why you want to reach them.
**You are only using social media to push out event announcements.
**You are not responding to or acknowledging comments, shares, likes, and retweets.
**You are not building relationships with the people that fan and follow you.
**You are not attempting to use social media to build your email list (where the real digital marketing ROI lives).
**You are only posting once per week and it’s only because your ED reminds you.
Absolutely anything can be a waste of time, if you do it incorrectly or haphazardly.
However, when done strategically, thoughtfully, and consistently, social media can augment your fundraising efforts. It can enable you to stay top of mind with your donors, and allow them to connect with you in different spaces.
Julia Campbell - Digital Do-Gooder & Online Fundraising Strategist