Social Media Then and Now

Eight years ago, I wrote a post discussing the role of social media in planned giving based on an interview with Beth Kanter, a leading expert on the use of social media by non-profits. It’s amazing how much and how little has changed in that time. While social media has taken off for outright giving, it remains primarily a vehicle for engagement and stewardship for planned giving.

The following questions Beth Kanter raised in her interview about social media are still relevant today, regardless of where you are on the social media spectrum. So, how much have things changed or improved for you in your use of social media since then?

“To understand how social media can help your cause, you must be clear about what you are trying to accomplish and then determine which avenues will take you there.”
Beth Kanter
Q: What should organizations ask themselves before diving into social media?
  • What are your guiding principles – how will you define success? It’s about building relationships, not just about numbers.
  • What resources do you have available and what is your staff experience?
  • Does leadership understand the risks that are inherent in this channel?
  • Does your leadership understand the potential value and are they willing to invest in low risk experimentations? In other words, not say up front, “show me the money.”
  • Have you created reasonable starter goals, not related to how much money you want to raise, but rather how much time you will invest? Is your audience there? Do you know what they are saying about you?
  • Are you keeping things as simple as possible? One of the most common organizational pitfalls is making the process and expectations too complex in the beginning.
  • Are you ready to engage and have a conversation with your donors?
Q: How do you tie all of your various social media outlets together? 
All of the channels, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. should be tied together by your goals and your metrics. Your social media activity can be further integrated by automating feeds to share content among channels. Content sharing can also be done manually without taking a lot of time, so that content is artfully selected. Make an inventory and ask yourself if you are strategically and purposefully cross-pollinating content and conversations, weaving content among networks?
Q: How do you measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts?
After 6-18 months of experimentation, your organization is ready to move into the area of measuring engagement (comments on blogs, liking or commenting, listening post – create a mini-focus group) and conversion (traffic, acquiring email addresses, and outright fundraising).
Q: What are some suggestions for online strategies and managing expectations?
  • Provide updates and reports at intervals of a marketing campaign.
  • Storytelling is important, so have a plan: (1) what’s the impact of money (2) talk about your supporters (3) talk about your recipients (4) and why do people like your organization and its cause?
  • Say thank you – often.
Q: How important is it for non-profits to monitor their brand?
It is essential because if you are not listening or at least tracking your organization in this space, you’ll become irrelevant. At minimum, set Google alerts when your organization name is mentioned on social media. Monitor your brand for sentiment, volume, and tone. Remember, bad comments are gifts in disguise, because it’s an opportunity to engage.
Q: What is the future for social media in the non-profit world?
Social media will permeate the entire organization. The organization will, as a result, become more open, and people will be receptive to receiving feedback. Social media channels will be less like isolated islands, and more like colonies.

Here are a few examples of what organizations are doing in terms of planned giving social media. The majority of these examples are either through the organization's blog or Facebook page.