Using social media in the non-profit sector

Climbing the Social Media Meow-tain

By IGI Global on Apr 23, 2015
Cases on Strategic Social Media Utilization in the Nonprofit SectorContributed by Gayla Schaefer (Schaefer Freelance and Consulting, USA) and Leigh Nanney Hersey (University of Memphis, USA)

As we talk with other people, questions about how nonprofit organizations use social media often arise. Sometimes it is from people working on the field. Their board members tell them their nonprofit organization should be on Facebook. The professional does not always know how to maximize social media use, so she calls her daughter for tips. Sometimes the questions come from students who know all about social media, but not as a tool for professional use. It is with this background that we decided to research just how nonprofit organizations use social media, and what works.

To explore this question, we worked with Central Brevard Humane Society as they transitioned to making social media an important part of the communications plan. What we found was just how important it is for an organization to have a strategic social media plan, changing the dynamic of the instrument from something that is fun and easy to an actual tool that can help a nonprofit organization reach its mission. CBHS started using social media like many other nonprofit organizations, without a plan and squeezing it in when they had time. Soon, they realized that social media does take time to have impact. They created job descriptions that incorporated social media as a duty. They brought in new staff to handle duties. They started using metrics to measure how their Facebook posts were doing. With this new emphasis of using social media strategically, they saw an increase in fans, posts that were more interactive, and more people knowing about the mission of the organization.

As you work with your own nonprofit organization, whether as an employee or a volunteer, we encourage you to have a plan for how the organization will use social media. Incorporate it into a job description and realize it takes time to be an impactful tool. Determine the metrics you should use to measure the results you want. Invest in training and tools that allow you to maximize your social media. And post, tweet, and pin away.

Gayla Schaefer, MPA, has more than 15 years’ experience in the academic, nonprofit and publishing sectors. In addition to her work as a freelance writer and communications consultant for the past 11 years for clients including Gannett Newspapers, she has also worked in management, ICT and senior marketing roles for Brevard Zoo, the American Heart Association, SCB Media Group, the University of New Orleans and the University of Memphis. She holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida and received her MPA from the University of Memphis in 2012. She currently resides in Freeport, Florida, where her nonprofit volunteer work includes managing online communications strategy for the Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles.

Leigh Nanney Hersey, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Public and Nonprofit Administration at the University of Memphis. She earned her doctorate in Public Administration from Arizona State University with a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Leadership & Management. She was a fundraiser for 13 years, raising money for a number of nonprofit organizations in Phoenix and surrounding communities. During this time, she initiated the Twitter account to promote the 10th anniversary of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. She has volunteered for a number of animal rescue organizations, including Phoenix Animal Care Coalition (PACC), Arizona Beagle Rescue, Weimaraner Rescue of the South and Senior Moments Weimaraner. She currently has a rescue dog and four rescue cats.

Gayla Schaefer and Leigh Nanney Hersey’s chapter "Cat Videos for a Cause: A Nonprofit Social Media Marketing Case Study of the Central Brevard Humane Society", featured in the casebook, Cases on Strategic Social Media Utilization in the Nonprofit Sector, explores the progression of a mid-sized nonprofit organization, the Central Brevard Humane Society (CBHS), as it embraces social media as part of its marketing and communications strategies.

Cases on Strategic Social Media Utilization in the Nonprofit Sector brings together cases and chapters in order to examine both the practical and theoretical components of creating an online social community for nonprofit organizations. The technologies discussed in this publication provide organizations with the necessary cost-effective tools for fundraising, marketing, and civic engagement. This publication is an essential reference source for practitioners, academicians, researchers, and advanced-level students interested in learning how to effectively use social media technologies in the nonprofit sector. For more information on this comprehensive reference source, visit the Cases on Strategic Social Media Utilization in the Nonprofit Sector web site.

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