Social Media and Nonprofits

November 8, 2010

More and more companies are adding social media to their overall business strategy. According to the Social Media Examiner, small business owners using social media has increased, nearly 20 percent of marketing dollars will go to social media in five years and mastering social media has become a top goal for marketers. With these statistics and others, it shows social media is growing and does not plan to stop.

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Social media can play a significant role in any nonprofit. It is a way to create awareness for your brand by engaging your target audience in meaningful conversations. Social media also saves time and money when used correctly.

To be able to use social media effectively, it takes understanding and research.  I know hiring a social media expert to make sure social media is done correctly can be pricey and not in the budget, so I did some research and found a few ways to make sure your nonprofit organization is using social media effectively.


Before beginning any type of social media, make sure to create a communications plan. When doing this, answer these questions:

  • How does using social media add value to your organizations mission?
  • What goals does your organization want to achieve with social media?
  • How much time can your organization devote to social media?
  • What message does your organization want to convey through social media?

By creating a communications plan, it gives your organization direction. Without having a clear direction, an organization can start using social media without a clear understanding of what it wants to achieve and then not achieve anything.


When your organization begins to use social media, make sure to listen. There are a few things that your organization can do to begin listening:

  • Follow and/or friend companies and organizations that are similar to yours and see how they are using social media
  • Connect with influencers that can bring a voice to your organization
  • Follow your target audience. What are they looking for? What do they want?

By listening first, your organization will have a better idea of what kind of conversations they need to have with its audience.


After listening, it is time to begin the conversation. Social media is all about two-way communication. According to Beth’s Blog, one of the most popular blogs for nonprofits, it is important for nonprofits to move from spreading their message to creating conversations. Beth also recommends to use an excel spreadsheet to plan conversation starters.

Having a plan of what conversations your organization would like to create will help your organization produce content regularly when just beginning social media. This will help create a following.

These are only a few tips on how a nonprofit organization can successfully use social media when starting out.

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Are there any other ways your nonprofit has successfully engaged in its social media?


The success of any nonprofit comes from how visible they are. The more well known a nonprofit is, the more government and community support it will receive.

Public relations practitioners can play a major role in making a nonprofit more successful. It is important for nonprofits to understand how they can utilize public relations to become a more successful organization.

I did some research and found three major areas public relations practitioners can focus on when working for nonprofits. All three of these areas will help increase the overall visibility of a nonprofit organization.

Internal communications

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Communication is the number one key to success for any organization. According to Big Duck, a company that works exclusively with nonprofits to help change the way they communicate, it is important to have someone work primarily on communicating your nonprofits mission, both internally and externally.

Before any organization can focus on external communications, it needs to make sure it has strong internal communications. If an organization cannot successfully communicate with employees, then they will not be able to successfully communicate the organizations mission with its publics.

In order to make sure everyone in the organization is aware of what is happening in all departments, public relations practitioners can create an internal newsletter, hold daily meetings and create and communicate a plan that highlights the organizations overall goals and objectives.

Bizmanualz is a great example of strong internal communications. The company utilizes daily meetings to help increase the success of its internal communications.

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External communications

Once your company has successfully mastered internal communications, it is time for the public relations practitioner to start focusing on external communications (don’t forget to continue working on internal communications while doing so). External communications is extremely important. This communication will determine what your audience thinks of your organization.

The first important step to successful external communications is to understand your audience and what they are looking for from your organization. By conducting research and speaking to members of the community, you will be able to create communication strategies and tactics that meet the needs of your audience.

It is also important to research and get to know the local media and leaders in the community. Call them on the phone and ask to schedule a meeting with them. The more relationships you create with these people, the more positive stories you will get on your organization.

Make-A-Wish Foundation Logo
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The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit that has strong external communications.  The organization utilizes its website, social media and corporate sponsors to reach out to its audience. I recommend taking a look and researching more on its best practices.

Measuring Success

In order to find out if an organization is reaching its goals and objectives for internal and external communications; it must measure its success.

To measure the success of internal communications, go back to your employees. Create surveys employees can fill out and look to see if employees feel the internal communications of the organization is strong or weak.

To measure the success of external communications, go back to your audience and the media. Look to see what type of media was generated about your organization and look to see if there was an increase or decrease in funding

These three areas are only some of the areas that public relations practitioners can focus on and improve when working for a nonprofit. Does anyone work for a nonprofit and focus on something different? Do you have any best practices that have helped your nonprofit succeed?  Leave your thoughts in the comments or contact me on Twitter!

Everyone at some point in his or her life will know or love someone that will battle an illness. No matter the illness, there are doctors constantly working to care for the patient. What people may not think about, is that behind every doctor there is a nonprofit organization working to raise money and create awareness for these illnesses, in hopes that one day the people we know and love will not have to battle them anymore.

I know that everyone’s lives get busy and we sometimes are not able to make it to the fundraisers these nonprofits have, or we forgot to send in that donation. It is not that we don’t feel passionately about supporting these nonprofit organizations, but life gets busy and before we know it the event has passed or the donation is still sitting on the kitchen counter.

I tend to be guilty of this. I promise myself that I will get involved in nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but time passes by and I still don’t always do what I promised myself.

A few days ago, I was on Twitter and saw that Smashbox Cosmetics was donating $1 to the Children’s Miracle Network every time a customer made a purchase from its WISH Holiday Collection.

It was then when I realized the holiday season is the perfect time to give back to these nonprofit organizations. Plus, you can do it while you shop! Now don’t worry, I know Christmas is still a little down the road, but it is never too early to start thinking about what gifts you are going buy!

Here are two ways you can give back to nonprofits, while at the same time crossing off that Christmas gift list!

Smashbox gives to Children’s Miracle Network

Smashbox Logo

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I know I mentioned this earlier, but according to Happi Magazine, Smashbox is granting holiday wishes for the second year in a row. For every purchase of its limited edition WISH Holiday Collection, Smash box will donate $1 or up to $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Whether you are looking for your girlfriend, teenage daughter or mother, the WISH Holiday Collection has products for everyone! The collection has everything from eye shadow, eyeliners, lip-gloss and more.

Macy’s Thanks for Sharing Program

Macy's Logo

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I worked at Macy’s over last holiday break, so I know plenty of people shop at Macy’s for holiday gifts.

Just like Smashbox, Macy’s is making donations to nonprofit organizations. According to the Macy’s website, for each Thanks For Sharing enrollment now through December 31, Macy’s will make a $10 donation, or up to $15 million to various nonprofits. The first $3 million raised will benefit the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Movement. The remaining balance, or up to $12 million will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

If you enroll in Thanks for Sharing, you can continue to shop with your Macy’s card while accumulating rewards on most of your Macy’s card purchases. Beginning in February 2011, you will be mailed your accumulated rewards in a Thanks for Sharing Card that you are able to use at any Macy’s store or online.

Why should you participate?

You should participate because it is easy and important. These stores are making it possible for people to be able to give back, while at the same time doing what they need to get done.

You have the power to not only give the person you are buying a gift for a special holiday, but you are helping to give those who can’t be with their families this holiday a chance to be with them for the next one.

Do you know of any other stores or companies that are giving back during the holiday season? Share your thoughts in the comments!

As I write this post I am sitting at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. I am waiting to head to the airport after an amazing five days at the PRSSA National Conference.

Not only was this experience educational, but also life changing. I got to experience Washington D.C. (last time I was here I was on my 8th grade field trip and we were moved together like cattle), become closer to my PRKent friends and learn more about myself and what I wanted out of a career in Public Relations.

Washington, D.C.

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The past five days were packed with amazing sessions that outstanding professionals prepared for us. I made sure to sit down with the program and map out exactly what sessions I wanted to attend, while also making sure to fit time in to experience life in D.C. I mean come on, what is a trip to D.C. without checking out the city?

When I saw there was a session being offered on Values-Driven Communication that was going to talk about nonprofit public relations, I knew I had to attend. From reading my blog it’s obvious I have an interest in nonprofit public relations, but as I move closer to graduation I start to second-guess myself on what I truly want to do. Is working in nonprofit public relations something I would truly enjoy? I know I enjoy working for a cause, but volunteering can be completely different than a full time career!

Three panelists that shared their experiences in nonprofit public relations held the session.

Although this session gave great tips and insight about a career in nonprofit public relations, it also taught me something much more. It taught me that to be able to enjoy working in nonprofit public relations it takes a special kind of person.

Seventy years ago there were only a few thousand nonprofits, and today there are almost 2 million. All of the millions of people who make those 2 million nonprofits successful are not in a career for the money, benefits or perks. They are in it to make a difference. Those millions of people are so passionate about the cause they are working towards, it makes me want to jump in and help out.

There are also great advantages to working in nonprofit public relations.

  • Your career is something that is important to you
  • Your career links to value
  • You work with great people who all share the same passion for a cause
  • You get experience in all aspects of public relations

Of course there are also disadvantages to working in nonprofit public relations.

  • Small budget
  • Little resources
  • Fundraising
  • Having to wear multiple hats in the workplace

After the session I know that the people who work for a nonprofit deserve a special thanks. Whether that person is working in religion, healthcare or politics, they are the backbone in making this world a better place.

Thanks Washington, D.C. and the PRSSA National Conference for showing me that no matter if I work in corporate PR, agency PR or nonprofit PR, I am lucky to be entering such a great career field filled with amazing professionals.

2010 PRSSA National Conference Logo

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Whether your nonprofit organization is on a college campus or nationwide, fundraising is a key to success. Since being involved in organizations on my college campus, the one challenge I have continually faced is how to fundraise. It is always difficult to find a fundraiser that will not only make a profit, but will interest our target audience.

I was doing some research and found three fundraisers that could work for both small and large nonprofit organizations.

I hope you can find some to be useful for your organization!

Scratch card fundraiser

I found the idea for a scratch card fundraiser at this website. Scratch cards are known to be one of the most profitable nonprofit fundraisers, where you have the potential to raise $100 per card. Supporters are given a card and asked to scratch off the dots on the side of the card—the dots indicate how much a supporter will donate. After the supporter makes his or her appropriate donation then he or she gets to keep the scratch card. Each scratch card has coupons that were carefully selected to ensure that your supporters would be encouraged to help make your fundraising campaign a success.

Scratch Card Fundraising Card Example

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Some coupon savings on the card are:

• Pizza Hut
• A&W
• AMC Theaters
•Jiffy lube

The profit you can make from this fundraiser is outstanding. You can find a profit calculator here. By using this calculator you can insert the number of participants for the fundraiser and the calculator will calculate your potential profit for you!

One more thing—you can customize the scratch card to relate to your specific organization! Talk about brand awareness. How cool is that?

Online fundraiser

I found this fundraiser here and believe it to be the easiest fundraiser out of the three I talk about in this post. The online fundraiser is free to your organization and involves no handling of products. This fundraiser gives your supporters a place online where they can sign up or renew their magazine subscriptions with an 85% savings from the news stand price. Your organization gets 40 percent of the profit for all magazine subscriptions made through the website!

Some of the magazine subscriptions offered are:

• People
• Readers Digest
• Sports Illustrated

Restaurant gift card fundraiser

I found this last fundraiser here! Your organization can purchase gift cards for $10 and sell them to your supporters for $20. This allows your organization to make a 50 percent profit. After each supporter purchases a gift card, they can go online and redeem their $20 gift card for a $50 gift card—at no cost. These gift cards work at 14,000 restaurants nationwide. When considering this fundraiser for your organization, make sure to ask the company what restaurants in your area work with the gift card!

This fundraiser is a great for tough economic times. If a family can purchase a gift card for $20, but redeem it for $50, they were able to save money and also enjoy a great dinner out on the town!

Restaurant Gift Card Example

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I hope some of these ideas will be able to help your organization have a successful fundraising campaign! Do you have any other fundraisers that were a success for your nonprofit organization? Please leave the ideas in the comments or message me on Twitter!

I use to believe social media was just a fad. I thought after everyone had his or her fill, it would fade away. I remember being angry with my public relations professor when I was told to learn as much as I could about social media to help further my career in public relations. I couldn’t figure out how people enjoyed using Twitter and writing blogs for everyone to see.

Well, you guessed it, I am now one of those “people” who use social media multiple times a day to connect with friends, check up on my favorite organizations and learn from the professionals in my field. I now understand that social media is not a fad, but the fastest growing communication platform. Who else knows this? The first and largest nonprofit medical group in the world does.

According to this article, the Mayo Clinic announced its plans to launch an Online Social Media Health Network that will be part of its new Center for Social Media. The announcement came at the Second Annual Social Media Summit hosted on the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, FL.

Mayo Clinic Logo

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What is the Online Social Media Health Network?

According to the Mayo Clinic Social Media Center website, the network is a group dedicated to using social media to help promote health, improve health care and to fight disease. The network will also provide health care practitioners with the resources needed to speed the adoption of social media in the health care field. The website for the network will launch Oct. 25.

Why is the Mayo Clinic implementing this network?

Health care has fallen short in adopting social media tools over other industries. Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Networking List shows less than 900 of the more than 5,000 hospitals have engaged in social media.

Why should your organization learn from the Mayo Clinic?

Even if your nonprofit organization is not in the healthcare field, it is important to understand how social media is changing the way people communicate. With social media growing at such a fast rate, your organization needs to stay ahead of the game.

The Online Social Media Health Network is a great example of how your company can be a leader and help your industry learn how to incorporate social media externally and internally.

It is important to work together instead of working against each other. The Mayo Clinic is providing hospitals a place to learn and grow with social media. In a world that is rapidly changing, it is important for organizations to help one another. To grow together.

I love what the Mayo Clinic is doing. The largest medical group in the world is lending a helping hand for a communication platform that is still so unfamiliar.

Even if your organization already has the social media stuff figured out—take a stab at another area of interest and help other organizations in your field.

One more thing, if you don’t believe social media is becoming one of the fastest  growing communication platforms– check out this video!

Currently I sport my 2004 black Saturn Ion. I got my car in November 2008 and for the past two years it has gotten me safely to my destination. Even though I love my Saturn dearly, I began to miss my little silver 2003 Hyundai Elantra (even if I did have to share it with my younger brother) after I learned what Hyundai is doing to help kids fight cancer.

According to the Hope on Wheels website, what started in 1998 as an initiative by New England Hyundai dealers has now evolved into an independent nonprofit organization. Hope on Wheels is a national partnership between all of Hyundai’s more than 800 dealers and Hyundai Motor America. At the end of 2010, Hope on Wheels will have donated more than $23 million to children’s hospitals nationwide to help kids fight cancer.

Hope on Wheels Logo

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This September—Childhood Cancer Awareness Month—Hope on Wheels has expanded its commitment by creating the “Hyundai Gives Hope on Wheels” program. Through this program Hyundai dealers nationwide and Hyundai Motor America will donate $6.8 million dollars to children’s hospitals and other nonprofit organizations.

According to the Medical News, Hope on Wheels will visit about sixty organizations across the country to distribute Hyundai Hope Grants in the amount of $100,000. These funds will go towards research that will hopefully help cure the cancers that strike these children.

How has Hope on Wheels created success? I believe the way Hope on Wheels utilized the World Wide Web to create awareness for its campaign contributed to it being so successful. Its interactive website and its use of social media is a best practice for public relations professionals working in nonprofit public relations.

Interactive website

The Hope on Wheels website gives its audience many outlets to find out information and to become connected to the organization and its mission. The website has a strong strategic approach that goes beyond the basics.

• Meet the Kids. Visitors of the website are able to read stories on some of the kids that were helped through Hope on Wheels. By giving the visitors of the website a chance to connect with these kids, it allows for an emotional connection. If someone is emotionally connected, they are more likely to support your organization.

• Photo Gallery. The website also has a photo gallery with a variety of pictures that range from patients to hospital employees receiving the grants. Allowing your audience to see what the organization is doing through visuals also creates that intimate connection.

• Interactive Map. Hope on Wheels has created an interactive map that shows where the campaign has gone and is heading. From this map, visitors of the website can see if and when Hope on Wheels is coming to their area. By allowing your audience to see where you are going keeps them constantly updated and connected.

Social media

Hope on Wheels also has incorporated social media into its campaign. Utilizing social media in today’s society is a great way to reach a large audience in a quick amount of time. Social media also allows the organization to update its audiences on a 24/7 basis.

• Twitter. Hope on Wheels has its own Twitter account. According to this blog post, Twitter has become one of the fastest growing platforms for communicating, organizing and networking. By using a Twitter and creating valuable information, it keeps your audience coming back.

• Facebook. Hope on Wheels also utilizes a Facebook page. Through its Facebook, Hope on Wheels connects with its audience through pictures, videos and event listings. Facebook also allows visitors to comment and share their story with the Hope on Wheels Campaign.

By keeping your audience connected through your website and social media, you will continue to create a strong following for your organization. In todays society, a majority of people are using the Web. By knowing this, it gives nonprofits another outlet to reach its audience. Without support from your audience, a nonprofit organization has a hard time existing.

Let me know what you guys think of Hope on Wheels. What else do you think they are doing that makes the organization successful? Do you even find it to be successful? Leave your thoughts in the comments or feel free to message me on Twitter.

Oh– one more thing! Can I switch back to my Hyundai Elantra now? Pretty please.

2003 Hyundai Elantra

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The first “real” sport I played was the wonderful game of soccer. My parents signed my brother and me up at our local YMCA. Within a few weeks of participating in the sport—I quit. I told my parents that soccer was stupid, and all you did was “get dirty and kick a ball.” To this day, I regret quitting the game.

Although I didn’t participate in any other sports at my local YMCA, it was still a large part of my life. My dad has been working out there for over 20 years!

Well Dad, you will be happy to know that the YMCA is giving itself a facelift to what you have been calling it since you walked into the building.

What is the YMCA doing?

The YMCA is one of the largest nonprofits that are giving its organization a new brand and logo to create more public awareness around all of the services it offers—a brilliant idea.

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According to a reported article from Naples Daily News, the most visible change to the brand is the updated Y logo. The article reports that the new logo uses a stylized delta or arrowhead shape plus a triangle to form the letter y (the y is lowercase in the logo). The new logo also comes in five different color variations.

Why is this a brilliant idea?

I think the new brand and logo will help the Y communicate its organization more effectively. For years people have been referring to the YMCA as the Y. I never once thought twice about where my dad was going when he told me he “was stopping at the Y on his way home from work.”

With new brands being introduced in the masses, it is important for nonprofit organizations to keep its brand from becoming to generic. Organizations need to continually research how it is perceived and how to connect with its surrounding communities.

Most, if not all nonprofits rely solely on community and/or government support. The more a nonprofit can connect with its community and let the community appreciate all it does, the more successful it will be.

According to an article from the NonProfit Times, two years of research went into the new brand strategy and will reflect the vibrancy and diversity of the organization. It will also provide a framework that focuses resources on three core areas: youth development, healthy living and social responsibly. The new Y logo defines those three areas.

The Y introduced its brand through a national campaign on September 18, and within the next five years all 2,680 affiliates will transition.

Why is this important for PR professionals?

I think public relation professionals working for nonprofits should take a lesson from the Y. Refocusing your brand strategy will only make your organization stronger and help keep a loyal following. By conducting research every few years, public relation professionals will be able to keep its organizations mission current with the needs and wants of its audience.

I applaud the Y and its new branding strategy, and so will my dad! I am excited to see how its new face will strengthen its organization and its relations within its community.

What do you think?

Do you guys think the Y is making a smart decision in changing its brand and logo? Do you think its new brand and logo represents the organization? Should nonprofits be aware of the wants and needs of its audience when it comes to their brand identity? Leave your thoughts in the comments or send me a reply on Twitter!