@smcsac explains it all to charities

At its meeting tonight, instead of collecting fees to support its own operations, Social Media Club of Sacramento took up a free will donation to benefit two important local food banks: River City Food Bank and Sacramento Food Bank Services.  CGI, an information technology and outsourcing company, was on hand to match those donations and contribute another $250 to each organization.

The panel discussion, moderated by Clay Nutting of 3Fold Communications (and Concerts 4 Charity), had lively, rapid fire input from four panelists: Misty Avila, eAdvocacy Coordinator, Aspiration Tech; Chris Brune, Director of Creative Services at Macer Media and consultant for Sacramento Food Bank Services; Julie Boernhoeft, Director of Development and Community Relations, WEAVE; and Kate Towson, AmeriCorps volunteer with Sacramento Steps Forward.

The group talked about:

  • the ubiquitousness of Facebook as a “go to” tool
  • the importance of a range of communications tools as ways to have shorter and longer conversations
  • what outcomes they care about achieving through social media, and their view of social media policies
  • social media as fun, and as a conversation (rather than a tool for talking to your audience)
  • the karma loop of social conversation
  • the importance of having an understanding about how social media is used when working with volunteers or staff members involved in a charity
  • use of social media for fundraising, and increasing online donations
  • time management
A few of my favorite quotes from the panelists follow (with apologies in advance if my fingers didn’t keep up with every word… and PS wordpress isn’t liking my new MacBook Pro/Lion OS and it keeps losing spaces between paragraphs… sigh…)
On Facebook’s importance
“We go back to Facebook and website as a foundation.  We’re really focused on building a voice.  Facebook is the go-to for us.  …We’re making decisions based on where our supporters are at. …I was initially one of those who said we’re going to invest our time on donors… and then you saw Facebook skew older.  We also asked college students ‘if you were in a violent relationship, how would you see information?'” (Julie)
“Where do you really want to spend your hours? (I recommend spending) the lion’s share on Facebook.  I would highly recommend investing in your FB strategy.  Facebook is where the conversation right now.  Twitter is great for crisis and soliciting volunteers. …We like to play around with third party applications and build them into Facebook.  We’ve had good experience with wufoo.  It’s a great way to gather email addresses and to circumvent (the new contest rules that Facebook put in place 4-5 months ago).” (Chris)
On integrated communications
 “The website is where we have the most up-to-date information.  But one of our primary tools is our e-newsletter.  We used Constant Contact for a long time and just switched to Mail Chimp.  Facebook we have slowly grown over the past two years (to over 600 from 30). When I chat with people on Facebook, I can explain more (about homelessness).  I use Twitter more to share information with people who do what I do.  I use e-newsletters for even longer conversations.” (Kate)
Outcomes
“We really try to do an appreciative inquiry (with our clients) about what their goals are online.  When you’re an organization online, you have to have a goal. … How do you know if it’s working?” (Misty)
“One of the first things I read was that patience is a virtue.  It doesn’t happen over night.” (Kate)
Social media policies and orientation
“We forget that social media is supposed to be fun…. It’s kind of like giving your 16 year old the keys to the car.  You don’t want to do that unless you’ve had a really good talk.  But back to the fun factor. I think people are getting a little more conservative with their likes. The layman is getting pretty savvy.” (Chris)
The “good karma” loop
“People need to see something hopeful. …I have just learned the value of re-tweeting. A year ago no one shared our materials.  Now I share what other people are talking about and they share what I’m talking about .  …A year ago I was very stern. Then I put more of my own personality into it.  They do want to see you posting about other people’s topics. It will come back to you.  There’s good karma there.” (Kate)
Don’t just talk about yourself – tips to great content
“We work with Uptown Studios and they recommend that we split our conversation into thirds: a third about you, a third about education/fun and a third about someone else.” (Kate)
“We say thank you a lot, specifically with photos and share those.” (Chris)
“I know when we’re getting lazy when we start posting statistics.  One day I posted (on Facebook), ‘If you had one minute with the president, what would you tell them about WEAVE?’  It lit up.  We got the most amazing testimonials from this community about what they value about WEAVE.”  (Julie)
Time management
“I spend about an hour a day.  I used to try to use a tool call Hoot Suite, but I found I was less responsive because I wasn’t actually on Twitter. I usually go on each morning because I’m not quite awake and it’s fun.  I keep it open throughout the day and try to respond.” (Kate)
“I wouldn’t say it’s a love-hate relationship but I have a lot of guilt (not giving Facebook and Twitter enough time).  It’s the fun factor.  I have tried, ‘from 8:15-9:15 is going to be social media’, but that’s not when our supporters are active, I don’t know how much that makes sense.  When I do our postings in the evening, I get a much bigger response.  You need to make time for it.  I’ve had to finally take a step back and say this is a huge part of our overall communications and fundraising strategy, and I’m not doing my job if I treat it as secondary.” (Julie)
Social media policy
“We are now ready to adopt a formal policy that’s not around what you shouldn’t do on social media. …It’s about being an ambassador for the organization.” (Julie)
Fundraising
Sacramento Steps Forward started using social media last year to raise money for the nomadic shelter program.  “We raised about $20,000 in a couple of months for a program that had no data to support it. (But) we had a very respectable website…  With social media we have a direct line of communications with our donors.” (Kate)
WEAVE conducted a fundraising campaign to save the Sexual Assault Response Team entirely online last year and raised $20,000 of its $30,000 goal strictly from email and Facebook; no solicitation was made by direct mail.  To raise money when lost county money for SART.  “Any new donor is coming to WEAVE online. That’s been the trend the last two years. As donors have gotten more comfortable with online bill pay, it’s ease.” (Julie)
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