Social media has become something of a cultural touchstone: grandmas and toddlers alike engage in some form of social media on a regular basis. And while social media has done wonders to connect people from across the globe, it has also made us a little complacent. We tend to think social media can take care of all of our essential marketing and communication, and that simply isn’t true. Social media is a wonderful tool—and it should be utilized—but relying entirely on social media isn’t the way to go.
It’s all about the people.
Nonprofits are made up of passionate individuals. Whether you’re a founder or a semi-regular volunteer, you are an integral part of the organization and its operations. These passionate individuals should make up the face of your nonprofit, not a logo or a profile picture on Facebook. Social media is great for reaching wider audiences and communicating events, but when it comes to the meat and potatoes of your organization—what truly defines it—it’s all about the people.
Why face time is so important.
In the age of conference calls and digital communication, the value of face-to-face interactions is often overlooked. No matter what kind of industry you work in, we’re all in the people business. Not only is it easier to clearly communicate in-person using body language and other nonverbals, but people are much more likely to remember a face than, say, a name or an email address. Additionally, it’s much harder for potential donors or sponsors to say no in the flesh than it is over email.
Regardless of what type of organization you’re running, building relationships is at the core of it all. And it’s much easier—and much more effective—to do it in-person.
Your first goal is to gain supporters, then to get them so excited about your mission that they become advocates for your organization and talk about what you’re doing with their friends and family. Going viral on social media is one thing, but the original version of “going viral” is word of mouth spreading like wildfire. Gaining advocates for your organization will help you create a more engaged following, and will make it easier to recruit staff, volunteers and donors.
How to give your organization more face time.
Ask for sponsorships.
Don’t be afraid to ask for sponsorships; the worst thing they can say is no. Many companies have funds reserved for charitable giving, and donating to nonprofits makes them look good too. Research fundraising opportunities at restaurants or sporting events, and reach out to local news and radio stations for press. Again, what’s the worst that could happen? Sponsorships and giving days dedicated to your organization have the potential to put your name in front of hundreds or even thousands of people.
Get involved in your community.
Volunteer with members of your organization at a charity event (and wear your organization’s t-shirt). When a bunch of like-minded, passionate people work together toward a great cause, it’s hard not to notice. This is also a great time to shamelessly plug your own organization (hence wearing your organization’s shirt). After all, if these people are willing to volunteer for one cause, maybe they’re willing to volunteer for yours. Never limit your involvement to your own organization. Other nonprofits need help, too, and they’re almost always willing to reciprocate.
You can also create events that are open to the public. Inviting your community to come together on your behalf is a great way to get your message out there.
Just get out there.
Putting yourself out there is half the battle. If no one knows your organization exists, how are they supposed to support you? Visit schools and community centers—you’d be surprised at how willing they are to sacrifice ten or fifteen minutes of their time. Sometimes it’s as simple as standing outside of community hotspots like grocery stores and libraries to interact with people and hand out materials about your organization. As they say, no press is bad press. And, because the members of your organization are so incredible, they’ll be sure to impress those grocery shoppers and book checker-outers. If that’s not quite your style, getting involved in various networking groups will give you a great opportunity to talk about what your organization is up to with new people.
Social media is a great vehicle, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Putting all your eggs in the social media basket is a recipe for disaster. Instead, create an integrated digital marketing plan and save a few eggs for the people—they’ll take better care of them anyway.