Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why You Have To Do It Better

The "It" referred to in the title of this post is Social Media. And the problem is nonprofits who are under the impression that Twitter, Facebook, etc., are just about marketing. They think that it's just fine if their postings consist of nothing more than a sales pitch (or, in the nonprofit case, a donation pitch).

Nonprofits can be forgiven, somewhat, for thinking that way. After all, using the news feeds from many local small businesses as examples, that's what we frequently see. But there's a huge difference between, say, a local burger joint and a local food pantry.

Think like a consumer of social media: what benefit do you get from following either of these streams?

The local burger joint can get away with not being social on social media. If I subscribe/follow/like them, the benefit is clear: cheap food. Finding out what's on special, getting that coupon code, learning today's location of the food truck. If I'm getting any of that, I really don't care if they engage in conversation, or provide any information other than saving me a buck on good food.

But what added value do I get from subscribing/following/liking the local nonprofit food pantry? Being asked for yet another donation on an hourly basis? Where's that "unlike" button?

No, nonprofits don't have the luxury of using social media just as another advertising outlet. We have to use it correctly. We have to be social on social media. We have to constantly put our audience's needs ahead of our own.

Subscribe/follow/like others, and engage them in conversation about your area of expertise. Answer questions about your organization, its mission, and the issues that your programs address. Tell about your successes as well as your challenges. Thank your supporters and show how much they're appreciated. Find out what your audience wants to hear from you, and then provide it regularly and clearly.

Sure, you can mention where to donate, or plug your upcoming events or volunteer opportunities. But not every time you sit down to tap out an update. To get (and keep) followers - and turn them into donors later on - you need to figure out your value added proposition. Otherwise, it's just a lot of spam.

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