Getting social? Make sure the right person is in charge

Social networks like Twitter can be a great resource, but nonprofits need to ensure responsibility.
Date Published
01/08/2014

Social networking has become a plentiful resource for nonprofit organizations. This communications and marketing channel has expanded the reach of charitable and philanthropic groups on a level that’s not easily replicated by other media. For instance, direct mail is consistently and effectively utilized by many nonprofit groups to distribute information and make appeals for donations. However, this resource doesn’t provide the same potential for interacting with donors as social networking sites.

Similarly, organizational websites are a great way to curate brand reputation and improve online presence. As interactive as websites can be, they don’t often have the same capacity to inspire communication between individual donors and organizations. They’re an excellent resource to distribute content, such as testimonials, case studies and video, but these are mainly consumable kinds of content and not part of a social interaction.

#Maintain professionalism
While there are significant benefits for nonprofits in maintaining a strong social media presence, organizations have to be careful in how they distribute content and who they put in charge of social media strategy. PCWorld highlighted a few instances of organizations that likely put the wrong person in charge of their social networking channels. The online technology resource was at a loss for words trying to explain how a social media representative from the American Red Cross was able to post a questionable tweet. Incorporating the hashtag #gettngslizzerd, the post focused on his or her excellent taste in beer using the organization’s Twitter feed, 

While this is obviously unprofessional, it’s also a lesson in choosing the appropriate employees to be in charge of social media discourse. Every organization should have an individual responsible for monitoring social media, ensuring the quality and integrity of information provided online.

Catching lightning in a bottle
There are relatively few instances where social media faux pas have a beneficial outcome. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently looked into the consequences of one tactless and tasteless tweet from a public relations executive, emphasizing the positive outcome for one nonprofit coalition, Aid for Africa. The high-profile professional tweeted while traveling to South Africa that she was concerned about contracting AIDS, but in the same post retracted the comment, strongly suggesting that the disease only affected non-white individuals. As a result, there was a firestorm of comments on Twitter, and this individual was fired.

At the same time, an anonymous person created a website with the PR executive’s name as the URL, but every visitor to the website was redirected to Aid for Africa’s webpage. The organization is a funnel for donations, collecting them and dispersing them to various charities involved in helping nonprofits and charities working in Africa. The nonprofit alliance received an unexpectedly high number of donations as a consequence, but this represents a rare occurrence. This nontraditional fundraising tactic required the quick and expert work of an individual who likely wanted to help out Aid for Africa.

For the majority of nonprofit organizations, it’s important to put a responsible individual in place to curate their social networking content. At the same time, it’s important to ensure all members of the enterprise must recognize his or her role as quality assurance and control of tweets, posts and other methods of communicating with donors.

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