I’ve seen two articles this week about non-profits’ adoption of social media. Writing on the Harvard Business Publishing blog, Alexandra Samuel suggests that non-profits are better at social media because they excel at relationship development. (She points to some good examples that are worth checking out.) In the other, Kari Dunn Saratovsky of the Case Foundation riffs on a just-published report from Dartmouth showing how large non-profits have outpaced academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies in their adoption. Why? Kari suggests:
“As an active and interested observer of these trends, my hunch is that as we have begun adopting these tools in other parts of our lives, more people are finding that the social web can allow people who work in nonprofits the ability to connect and collaborate informally and across institutional boundaries in a quick and inexpensive manner. Suddenly nonprofits see value in social media beyond attracting new donors or engaging volunteers, but in crowdsourcing ideas, getting instant and honest feedback, or even in finding new content for programs. “
Having relationships with former colleagues in very large organizations, and now, actively engaged with several very small non-profits, I concur that non-profits are adopting social media more rapidly. While we could spend all day talking about why (and I’ve got my theories), to paraphrase my old boss, the data would qualify as “interesting” but not really “information” that is useful to decision-making.
So here’s my tip: whether you’re in commercial enterprise or you’re a small non-profit, track what non-profits like National Wildlife Federation and American Red Cross are doing on their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up to receive their e-newsletters. Join their Facebook Causes or Fan pages. Track down their handles on Twitter. You can learn a lot from seeing how they use these emerging tools for building engagement and loyalty.