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The Social Media for Nonprofits Conference Returns

The Social Media for Nonprofits Conference (SM4NP) returned to San Francisco after making its first tour across the country to equip nonprofit leaders with the tips and tricks to get the most out of social media for their causes. The conference again brought together experts from leading social media and technology organizations before a packed house for an intense day of learning.

In the interest of the readers time, the following will take you through some of the more notable points and quotes made by the day’s speakers:

  • Nina Ring, Director, Microsoft Corporation, lead the way with a discussion of how Microsoft, a SM4NP Conference sponsor, helps causes and organizations. Ring wowed the crowd by sharing the fact that Microsoft donates up to $1 million per day as part of its commitment to social good. Information about how Microsoft works with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations can be found at Microsoft Citizenship.
  • Victor d’Allant, Founder, dallant.networks & Executive Director, SocialEdge, provided seven simple but useful tips for nonprofits using social media. Instead of going through all seven tips, which can be found on his presentation, I will elaborate on tip three: “let it go, it will be just fine.” Diving into the social web and building online community requires letting go of some control. Organization leaders cannot expect online supporters to stay exactly on message and getting caught up in the particulars can take away from time better spent on cultivating online relationships in support of your shared cause.
  • Craig Newmark, co-founder & customer service rep, Craigslist; co-founder, craigconnects and Claire Diaz Ortiz, Head of Innovation & Social Impact, Twitter, sat down for a conversation with conference organizer and MC, Darian Rodriguez Heyman. Newmark revealed a very striking finding from the very recent report conducted by craigsconnects, “How the Top 50 Nonprofits Do Social Media,” namely that the size of an organization or its budget does not consistently correlate with how effective that organization is using social media. Organizations who do not feel they have the budgetary means to devote to social media should take heart in this finding as it demonstrates that anyone willing to spend time on social media and use that time well to develop relationships will see success.
  • Chelsa Bocci, Community Marketing Director, and Sonali Kothari, Director of Product Management, Kiva, spoke about the lessons their organization has learned through its use of social media. The folks at Kiva quite possibly have one of the best mottos to guide their approach to social media, “Fail fast, fail forward.” The fearless approach allows for smart risk-taking complimented by a culture where failure is quickly recognized and addressed so that tactics can be shifted in the pursuit of success. Anyone who doubts that this approach works need only look at the number of Kiva’s social networking followers.
  • David Boyce, CEO, Fundly, spoke about social fundraising, highlighting a number of statistical findings on fundraising and some facts on the psychology of engagement. Of note for those looking to fundraise online, is that $300 billion is given by individuals in the US every year with 13% of that given online in 2010, a number which grew by 35-55% over previous years. As much as social media matters for fundraisers, they should remember that “people give through you and not to you” and “happy people give more and giving makes people happier.”
  • Matt Mahan, VP of Social Impact, and Anne Diaz, Manager of Nonprofit Services, at Causes took the age-old advice used by community organizers – growing a cause requires seeking out allies and advocates – and applied it to the online world. Organizations, they advised in their presentation, need to use social networks to identify the people who can and will serve as effective cause ambassadors, educate them and empower them to spread the word. And when empowering your supporters to take action make sure that it’s action that matters but be mindful to create and recognize different levels of involvement.
  • Greg Baldwin, President, VolunteerMatch, provided two important statistics regarding volunteering in his presentation Inside Out: Engaging Volunteers in a Social Media World, namely that two-thirds of volunteers donate to the organization they serve and those same volunteers generally donate 10 times more than donors who do not also volunteer. Baldwin ended his presentation by providing another of the conference’s notable quotes when he said, “it’s not easy to change the world but with social media it’s easier to try.”
  • Meg Garlinghouse, Head of LinkedIn for Good, kicked off her presentation by providing another of the conference’s great quotes – “Volunteerism is the new gateway drug.” Garlinghouse then went on to speak about LinkedIn’s newly launched features designed to help organizations build a LinkedIn presence; connect with supporters; and find and recruit volunteers and board members. One overlooked feature that Garlinghouse advised the audience to take advantage of are LinkedIn’s InMaps, a tool designed to let users to visualize their professional network and look for the “weak” ties which surprisingly represent more connection potential because they can open you up to new and different networks.
  • Christina M. Samala, Director of Online Strategy & Media, The Story of Stuff Project, challenged the idea of the futility of preaching to the choir and instead proposed that organizations are in fact best served when preaching to the choir. Samala’s presentation contends that an organization’s choir, or strongest supporters, are a valuable source of feedback and ideas. Organizations are best served by going where their choir is on the social web; spending time with their community and getting to know them and listening to what they have to say.
  • Evan Bailyn, Author, Outsmarting Google, spoke of his experience learning how to leverage the power of the web to propel his underfunded and newly launched company to the top of search engine results to provide advice on search engine optimization. The first step in the process requires creating good content – consider tapping into what’s popular with audiences, using interesting imagery or making clever commentary on what’s happening now. The next step is spread the word to your contacts and relevant experts and press by appealing to them personally. A successful appeal will result in links to your content which will in turn drive your content up the social engine rankings.
  • Beth Kanter, Co-Author, The Networked Nonprofit, returned to SM4NP to talk about why measuring social media data matters. Kanter recognizes that the idea of measuring data might not be the most appealing task but maintains that by identifying what end measurement will serve and what to measure, an organization is better on track to success. Success will not always be guaranteed but measuring allows organizations to more quickly recognize failure and guide action for positive outcomes.
  • Raven Brooks, Executive Director, Netroots Nation, spoke about advocacy in his presentation, “Social Media Recipes for Change.” Advocacy requires reaching out as far as wide as possible to get coverage for your goals and social media provides a good jumping off point to do this. Utilizing social media, organizations should create compelling content, repackage this content for use on multiple channels and tap into their supporter networks to share this content. Social media should also be used to inject yourself directly into relevant conversations, for instance by using proper hashtags on Twitter or engaging with journalists on Twitter instead of through email. Brooks’ key tips for advocacy are that an organization’s message be: timely, relevant and with a strong theory for change.
  • Marnie Webb, Co-CEO, TechSoup Global, a SM4NP conference sponsor, ended the day on a hopeful note with her presentation, “Creating Change in a Digital World.” Webb wants us to believe that we can build organizations based on abundance. Organizations should not define themselves but what they are not, i.e. not-for-profit, but by what they do and where they are which is where businesses and government is not or is not accessible. Technology has provided access to information that illustrates where the needs are and develop ideas for addressing those needs. It has also created spaces for individuals and groups to connect with one another across distances, share resources and connect. Webb reminded the assembled cause leaders that they do have the resources to make a difference within reach.

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