Looking for input about NPO Boards and Social Networking

When it comes to nonprofit use of social media, most of what I find is related to use by staff and front line volunteers. The role of the Board of Directors in a mature nonprofit is different than a staff role. Are there good (or even bad) examples of actual Board level strategies for using social networking to advance the work of the Board? Do these strategies differ from staff use or is it the same? Are NPO boards (as an entity) even using social networking as a specific tool?
As we plan a Board strategy session on this topic, I would love to get input. There’s the survey here, but even more so, I’d love thoughts and comments.
Thanks, in advance!


August 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Follow You… Follow me: Making Meaningful Connections with Twitter

twitterRecently I attended the monthly “Grand Rapids Social Marketing Meet-Up“. These are casual gatherings where folks can listen, learn and discuss a variety of social media topics.

Following the featured presentation from local web design firm Spearia, attendees divided into three discussion groups. I joined the table talking about Twitter. One questioner from the group asked how to get folks to “follow” you. This lead to a discussion about Twitter culture and what to do (and not do) to encourage new relationships. 

So you’ve become part of the twitter world. You set up your account and start following people like crazy. But you begin to get discouraged. Few are following you back and a fair number are actually blocking you from following them. What gives? 

Are you “selling, selling, selling”? Even if you think your product or service will save the world, it is still (and even increasingly) our nature to disregard the “sales guy”. This is particularly true in social networking. Twitter is a great relationship builder, but that requires a two way interest in who you are, not just what you have to sell. If someone begins to follow me, I look at their profile and their tweeting history. If it’s largely a sales pitch (or anything that resembles one), I’m not following. Period.

Desperation isn’t pretty – Impressions from your “stats” Also, when someone begins following me, I look at their profile stats. Are you following 1000 people but only have 3 who follow you? This info-bit can create  the perception that you’re a desperate to “collect” any friends and it doesn’t really matter who they are. It’s just a numbers game.  It can also appear that others don’t value your contributions. So why should I?  Quickly following a ton of folks when you first join Twitter can set up these negative perceptions – true or not.  Start more slowly. Look  for quality, not quantity. Choose to follow those whose content matters to you.

It isn’t all about you. Conversely, there is another perception about stat balance than can happen when you have lots of folks following you but you only follow a few. When I see this, I  realize this person is not about building a relationship. This may make sense for rock stars, but to get the greatest benefit from social networking, you need to care about what others have to say, as well.

Getting to Know You: So now you have people you are following and some that are following you, but how do you turn those initial connections into fruitful relationships?  A few suggestions that came up in the meet-up included:

1. Engage: Don’t just take in the info from others. Ask questions. Make a comment. Thank people when they begin to follow you. Actively interact so others will see that you are interested and care about what they care about.

2. Ask Advice: One attendee had a cool website to let folks check out and schedule tee times on a wide variety of golf courses. It was suggested that he ask his followers to tell him which for courses they have the most trouble getting a good tee times. People want to contribute meaningful info. Ask.

3. Retweet: When I receive a tweet that I feel is particularly helpful or provides a link to cool info that my friends and colleagues would appreciate, I use the re-tweet function and pass it on to my followers. Not only does this add value for friends who receive your re-tweet, but it tells the original source that you value their contribution.  But a note of caution, use this tool with purpose. Simply re-tweeting everything is no more than junk mail and will quickly create a black mark on your Twitter reputation.

As my mom always said, is “to have a friend you have to be a friend”. A timeless piece advice that works in any social situation…including Twitter.


August 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Citizen Journalism: Increasing Civic Engagement

Coming September 2009

Coming September 2009

Today is an exciting day. After months of community meetings, volunteers, committees and more, Grand Rapids, Michigan is on the cusp of having a new community powered news and information platform: The Rapidian. I say “on the cusp” because today The Rapidian launch countdown clock went LIVE.

On September 15, at 4pm, “The Rapidian” will officially come to life.

Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, this experiment is a robust attempt to increase the flow of local news and information by providing tools, training and platforms for residents to become hyper-local content providers in text, video and audio.

Grand Rapids, along with many US cities, is suffering from the downsizing of commercial media outlets. At the same time, neighborhoods are feeling that their issues and stories are not being covered well.

The Rapidian is being designed as both a physical and a virtual project. Physical bureaus will be established in neighborhood-based locations. At these bureaus, neighbors can receive equipment and training, and engage in face-to-face collaboration around news gathering for their immediate area. On the web, visitors will have many options for organizing and personalizing their information streams by location, topics or even journalists.

At the GR Community Media Center, we are honored to be heading up these efforts.  It’s wonderful to see the amazing energy that is being contributed by the community in the form of committees, promotion and training offers. 300 people have joined our initial Facebook group and many more are following on Twitter. I see a community becoming more and more mobilized to ensure that we can be better informed and more engaged. I am also recognizing the immense value of creating a strong face-to-face component to a local project like this.

If you’re interested in keeping track, visit The Rapidian splash page and sign on to follow the progress. We think it’s going to be great!

July 30, 2009 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

Community Media 2.0 Audio Blog

audio blog

A while back, I was honored to participate in a pretty extensive interview for a new audio blog project “Community Media 2.0. The project, made possible by the Surdna Foundation, The Media and Democracy Fund, and the Media Justice Fund, is intended to help community media centers gain insight into how CMC’s can continue to be vibrant and valuable community technology assistance organizations, as tools and technology continue to evolve.

Today, my interviews were posted and included in the Community Media 2.0 blog site. I am honored to be included, especially considering the others whose words are captured there; Sue Buske, a leading expert in the field; Helen Soule, ED of the Alliance for Community Media; and the father of community media, George Stoney. I can only hope that folks find the information helpful to their efforts to build community through media. We’re all in this together.

July 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

Step One – “Listening”

This morning I was going over the American Red Cross’ Social Media Guidelines (thanks to Beth’s Blog). What struck me most was the clarity and simplicity of this guide for RC Chapters. Figuring out how to get started in social networking can be quite a challenge for non-profits and this guide does a great job defining clear steps.listening

Basically, it lays out five chronological steps to developing and engaging in a social media strategy: Listen, Learn, Participate,  Create and Implement.

Listening to what others are saying about you is indeed, a critical first step. It’s rather like the “clipping file” many of of us have to keep track of our organization’s press coverage. These days it means knowing where you are showing up in blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc. Where are you mentioned? Is your online reputation accurate? Or worse, are you not showing up at all? There are numerous online “clipping” services that will, for a price, monitor the web for you. Most PR agencies have added this to their menu of services. However, there are tools to help you do it yourself.

The most common way to start is a simple Google search. Most people have googled their name or their organization and one time or another. In addition to the basic website search, you can use Google to search news, videos, pictures and blogs by date or by relevance. To have google results sent to you automatically, sign up for Google Alerts. This tool will send you email notices on the subjects of your choice weekly, daily, of “as it happens”.

Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks over 100 million blogs. It allows you to easily search for names, keywords and tags. Likewise Twitter’s search feature lets you see what’s being tweeted about you. FriendFeed, a social networking aggregation site, was designed to allow folks to create their own “one stop” site that combines feeds from their friends on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. It too, has a search feature, where you can see where your organization is showing up.

Listening also means following conversations that center around your organization’s mission or related issues. You can use these same tools to find blogs and sites that are engaging in dialogue about the issues that matter to your organization. Sign up to get RSS feeds from the most applicable sites and blogs.

There are many more tools, both free and for a fee, that can help you start listening to what others are saying about your organization, or if you are even on the radar. Tuning into this information is an important first step in using social networking to advance your mission.

But next up? Step 2, of course. Learning. Check back next time for more ideas and resources for nonprofits new to social networking.

July 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

Strategizing on New Media for Nonprofits

New Media NPO presentationcover
On Thursday, July 16th, I had the pleasure of presenting a two-hour seminar on “new media for nonprofit organizations”.  In the audience were 55 or so representatives of organizations in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Brought together by the Winnipeg Foundation, the seminar was designed to introduce new media tools and providing guidelines about how an organization develops a communications strategy given all of the social networking and online content tools available.

In the audience were good folks passionate about their mission. It can be hard to get excited or worked up about technology but yet there is plenty pressure today to get “networked”. As a trainer, planner and consultant focusing on the nonprofit sector I try to remind audiences that social networking for non profits is really about familiar things; building relationships, telling stories and connecting with those you serve. The widgets, gadgets, platforms and applications are nothing more than tools with potential. It’s only when you apply them purposefully to achieve your mission, that they become meaningful in your work. My job is to help match the right technology powered tools to meet the specific and unique goals of each organization.

I really believe in the effectiveness of new media tools to make organizations stronger and more effective, but only if applied strategically.

In this overview presentation we covered four general areas:
1.  Elements of the 2.0 website: Effective organizational websites are those that are not only attractive and functional, but also dynamic (updated content, interconnected with others, and well connected with the visitor’s needs) and interactive (engaging, participatory and interactive). Key takeaways included concepts and useful strategies about how to effectively solicit content from constituents: Think collage…not masterpiece. By creating a small, specific, and simple to use frameworks, visitors will be more likely to contribute content to your site. The Capital Area Foodbank of Texas created a great photo collaboration on Flickr using the theme “Hunger is Unacceptable”. A great example of this concept.

2.  The Socially networked NPO: From Blogs to Facebook to Twitter, we explored many organizational use of social networking tools. One portion of this was to explain the difference between Facebook personal pages, fan pages, groups and causes. Twitter, a rapidly increasing tools for nonprofit communications is apparently not as prevalent in Canada due to the higher cost of mobile connectivity. But the time will come and we talked about the different, effective uses of Twitter for the connected NPO. We also looked and various methods for using video as a communication tool; different platforms and ways to create connections (links, channels, and embedding).

3. Strategic Communications Planning: Now that attendees had a better sense of the tools available, we discussed approaches to “getting started”. The “rule of thirds” is a good reminder that a strong strategy pays equal attention to 1) website presence, 2) providing information/content, and 3) being social/joining the conversation. I also stress the importance of utilizing tools and frameworks that will work with your current organization priorities and structures. We also talked about why “letting go” of message control in necessary to effectiveness. This means empowering multiple voices in your organization and encouraging authentic conversation.

4. Finally, we took a glimpse into the future, discussing trends with mobile access. Many organizations with great websites don’t realize that increasing numbers of clients and friends are accessing content on their iPhone or other mobile device. Testing your current website to see if it functions as a mobile app can be quite eye-opening. Lastly, we looked at 2-D barcoding (aka QR code) and the implications for non profits. More on that in another post.

It was a great session. Now that the stage is set, I look forward to seeing how these innovative Winnipegers expand their communications strategies on the web!

July 19, 2009 at 9:29 pm 1 comment

A Place for Good Stuff

Nonprofits need to be smart and efficient with their communications. That can be a big challenge with so many things to learn and new tools to use. This blog is a place to keep stuff I collect and tell others about. Stuff like cool nonprofit websites, links to social networking tutorials for organizations, and bits of wisdom from web smart people who care about community.

Little of what is here is my original creation, but rather it represents what I have found “out there” that I believe can help organizations better pursue their missions using the power of media and technology. I credit creators where I can, and quietly thank those nameless folks whose ideas and work have brought us to this point.

July 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

Newer Posts

July 9 Winnipeg Foundation Presentation

Recent Workshop Feedback

"Wow – great presentation today! I came into this workshop thinking I knew enough about social media to kick start the organization I work for, but once the presentation began I was immediately taken aback at how much I didn’t know as well. It was a great learning experience and opened the doors to many ideas I now have – in fact I am having a meeting tomorrow with the rest of my colleagues to discuss these ideas! " - Randi-Leigh Michaniuk, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Need Help with your Nonprofit Communications? E-mail Me!

Laurie’s Tweets

Creative Commons License
This work by Laurie Cirivello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www."); document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E")); try { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-11591902-1"); pageTracker._trackPageview(); } catch(err) {}