Start using social media
Non-profit and charity organizations have to engage social media branding if they want to survive in today’s economy. The old traditional ways of direct-mail or email blasts are rapidly declining in their effectiveness. I too am guilty of throwing away 99% of mail advertisement because I can’t trust the authenticity of the content being communicated. Email brings phishing attempts and virus threats. However, these were traditionally ways for non-profits and social charity organizations to market their services. Today, more people use technology, i.e., smart phones, social media, and are always connected to web communities. The challenge is sustaining a social presence (existence) by migrating marketing techniques to use social tools like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Social media helps route traffic to your website and presents opportunity to engage interaction. Donors and volunteers are what keep the doors open, so it is important to continually stay engaged with this community.
Monitoring Content and Interactions
Being engaged in social media presents another challenge of managing content and responses to social outlets like Twitter and Facebook. It’s not like a major corporation where jobs are threatened, so rules and policy are harder to monitor. The main thing is to limit the users interacting socially and ensure all communications are run through a committee or governing board. An example of loose monitoring is the case where a Red Cross had to do some major PR damage after a rouge tweet from a social media specialist tweeting about getting drunk (#gettingslizzard). The specialists accidentally tweeted the Red Cross account thinking it was their personal account.
Legal and Ethical Risks
Transparency is expected in non-profits today and rightly so. Having a social media presence doesn’t come without legal and ethical risks. Non-profits stand to lose their IRS Form 990 and Federal Tax Exempt status if accounting rules and laws aren’t strictly followed. Social media will definitely contribute to any shenanigans if they exist, which leads to ethics. New Jersey just settled over some misappropriation of funds in the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation. Not all the money donated was going to the victims.
In summary, technology is driving non-profits need to engage in social media to grow their donor base and reach the community, but keep in mind that there is added responsibility in managing content being communicated and establishing ethical guidelines.