Spotlight the People Your Nonprofit Helps on Social Media

Author and nonprofit social media expert Beth Kanter just published a fascinating article on Beth’s Blog. In “Unicef’s Little Bet on Pinboard” Kanter explored the charity’s risky (and ultimately advantageous) use of Pinterest to demonstrate glaring differences between Unicef’s fundraising audience and its beneficiaries.

As Kanter explains, Unicef created a fictional profile for a young girl from Sierra Leone, Ami Musa. Musa’s faux board, “Really want these” wasn’t full of designer clothes or extravagant jewelry. Musa wanted what Unicef’s audience (indeed, most of us) take for granted, like soap. Kanter went on to compare Unicef’s Pinterest board with Peter Sims’ “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.” The book recommends taking small, experimental steps (little bets) toward new ideas for an eventually extraordinary outcome.

Kanter offers Sims’ idea as a model for nonprofit discovery through social media. And her analysis of Unicef’s Pinterest page got us thinking about how nonprofits can better spotlight the people they serve. Let clientele have their say on your nonprofit’s social media properties. We’re willing to bet that a renewed focus on your beneficiaries will yield more donor support and audience engagement.

Mirror, Mirror

Although our navel-gazing tendencies seem to put philanthropy at risk, they don’t always. Kanter’s analysis of Unicef’s board by Ami Musa shows that social media sites shouldn’t fixate on the user. Musa’s board subtly suggests that pinners focus too much on material goods and not enough on others.

Encourage outward thinking on social media by reminding readers of your cause during seasons of peak distraction. The holiday shopping frenzy is an opportune time to remind donors of your need for support.

Inclusive Gratitude

Organizations that thank individual donors on social media encourage continued donations. Enrich the message by including the beneficiary’s name if your nonprofit employs this strategy.

Just make sure your beneficiary is as willing as your benefactor. It’s a major risk—not a little bet—to share constituents’ stories without their express permission.

Story Discovery

The American Red Cross on Pinterest is vibrant with calls to action (some lighthearted, others urgent). The Red Cross also shares pictures of volunteers and historical artifacts like an ambulance from 1898. Their Nonprofit Media board brims with videos of people who’ve found relief with the Red Cross. But the generality of “Nonprofit Media” could easily be overlooked by supporters. A breakout board with a title devoted to their beneficiaries’ stories would better spotlight their cause. The American Red Cross page shows that the idea of small bets may be as simple as renaming or reorganizing your Pinterest boards. Check that your nonprofit’s clientele-focused content isn’t buried. Put it front and center instead.

The little bets that Sims and Kanter want nonprofits to make spark innovation. Don’t be afraid to take small risks in your social media strategy so that the people your nonprofit help can have the platform they deserve.

What kind of little bets does your nonprofit make with its social media strategy, and how can you experiment with social media to spotlight your nonprofit’s beneficiaries?


Jill Havlat

November 29, 2012

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