social media and charity stephanie boyette nelson sbn marketing charlotte ncpost by Stephanie Nelson

Last week, I was asked by a blogging client to do a post about giving back during the holidays. At about the same time, I agreed to be a social media volunteer with an up-and-coming non-profit called All Sounds Fair. (I say “up-and-coming” because they’re still working toward their official 501c3 status.) Two things struck me: (A) Charlotte has an AMAZING number of ridiculously fabulous charities. Seriously. The hardest part of writing that post was weeding it down to an acceptable length! And (B) social media makes a huge difference for non-profits.

It goes without saying that most non-profits have small budgets overall, and budgets for marketing/getting the word out are slim to none. That’s part of what makes social media a perfect platform for them. Posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc is all free. Even though Facebook has moved to more of a pay-to-play model, where the algorithm limits your posts’ reach unless you pay to boost them, you can get a seriously targeted audience and really reach the folks you want to reach for a small amount of money…if you know what you’re doing. In addition, the barrier to entry is low. There’s not a lot of work or a series of applications to fill out to start using social media outlets, and the set up processes are pretty easy and user-friendly, so founders can usually at least get started on their own.

The downside is that it takes time to build an audience organically. And it takes a committed audience to raise funds. And people don’t want to support a charity that’s not giving back. So non-profits, especially those that are just starting, can be perpetually chasing their tails if they don’t start off with a well-connected group of supporters that are willing to share the online posts with their own audiences. Even non-profits that do have that well-connected group of supporters can miss out on opportunities to grow their online audiences if they forget to ask for the shares.

The other downside is that social media/online marketing takes some know-how and time. Just like with all marketing, you need a strategy, not just posting stuff willy nilly. To set a strategy, you need to have a working knowledge of the outlets, a budget to hire someone, or a good volunteer with that know-how to do it. You also have to have the time to do the actual posts…or that same budget to hire or the ability to find a good volunteer or intern. If a charity’s budget is small, or there’s not one at all to pay someone, unfortunately the non-profit may get what it pays for in terms of work.

So what’s a non-profit to do? In my opinion, the founder(s) should first get the temperature of their connections. Who is willing to help financially? Who is willing to repost messages shared on blogs and social media? Get a feel for who’s really “in” and who’s just giving platitudes.

Second, be honest about the budget. If there’s not money to pay for a social media person, build the marketing around a volunteer or reach out to local colleges about intern programs. Be aware that most interns will only be able to be with you for a semester or summer for credit, so there will probably be a higher turnover rate with interns. But interns are also desperate for real-life experience to put on a resume and good references for that post-college job search, so the pros may outweigh the cons.

Third, also be honest about the work that’s needed. Is there a strategy that just needs to be implemented? Or will your person/volunteer/intern be starting 100% from scratch – to include keyword and hashtag research, editorial calendars, etc? That will determine what type of person you need, but the person filling the role also needs to know because the needs will also determine what kind of time is required. It may not be something one unpaid person can take on alone.

Do you have experience working with non-profits and their online marketing campaigns? Do you agree with what I’ve said here? Anything you’d like to add? Let me know!