If you work in PR, communications or fundraising, you likely know by now that social media is not a fad.
Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are part of daily life. People — read: donors — are starting to expect more social engagement from the organizations and causes they give to.
Still, many nonprofits are hesitant to maintain a social media presence. Small nonprofits who operate on shoe-string budgets seem especially adverse to invest time, staff and resources into online platforms whose return on investment is hard to measure.
And understandably so.
After all, spending time on social media can be hard to explain to frugal board members and justify to the boss when your mission is at stake in the face of dwindling donations, decreasing donor engagement and a growing need for the help and services your organization offers.
So, maybe you shouldn’t start growing your online presence on Twitter. Or, maybe — to increase donations and donor engagement — you should.
At the risk of coming across as snarky, here are 10 (facetious) reasons why your nonprofit should stay away from the world’s fastest growing social media site.
1. You have nothing to say
You don’t really care about your mission, you lack any form of passion about the life-changing work your nonprofit is doing every day and nobody cares about your cause anyways.
2. Your donors are on Twitter
If you start engaging on Twitter, chances are you will bump into donors. Know what that means? You’ll have to talk to them, and they’ll likely find out about the amazing work their donations are helping achieve.
3. Your potential donors are on Twitter
With more than 300 million Twitter users as of 2011, chances are some of them will care deeply about your cause and connect with your work in a meaningful way. They may even want to donate to your cause, but that would mean your organization might grow. You probably don’t need their donation anyways.
4. You can monitor your brand & reputation
Twitter allows you to listen in to conversations that people (like donors, stakeholders and people interested in your cause) are having the world over, including your own community. That’s scary. Do you really want to know what people are saying about you online?
5. You can build authority
By tweeting about your mission and spreading knowledge and awareness about your cause, you not only inspire passion for your cause in other people, you also establish yourself as an authority on the work you do. Unfortunately, that can mean higher search engine ranks, increased engagement from followers, increased traffic to your website and potential media requests from journalists/bloggers who are looking for a credible and established voice in the community.
6. You can report back to donors…in real time
Besides connecting donors to your cause every day, Twitter allows you to instantly report back to your donors and community on the good work you are doing. Did children in the after-school mentoring program you run make Christmas cards today with donated craft supplies? No reason to share it with your social network. They’ll read the story, albeit outdated, in your next quarterly newsletter…in Spring…of next year.
7. You can recognize volunteers & donors
Know what made my day last week? A charity publicly thanked me on Twitter after I dropped by for a tour of the place. I didn’t even donate to them (but I probably will now). Twitter allows you to make your volunteers and donors feel like heroes by shining the spotlight on them and praising their efforts to your whole social network. But again, you can just thank them in your quarterly static newsletter.
8. You can update people on your urgent & ongoing needs
The women’s crisis shelter you run is gearing up for the big annual Christmas celebration where guests can pick out toys for their little ones free of charge. There’s only one problem – you’re short on toy donations! You can’t wait until the next quarterly newsletter to ask for more donations, you’ve already exhausted your donors with Christmas appeals and media isn’t picking up on the story. You could take to Twitter, include a local hashtag (city name) and politely ask for donations and retweets…but that would mean you might actually generate buzz around your need. Too much work, I say!
9. You can create buzz & excitement around your (fundraising) event
Because your work is so vital in the community, when it comes to fundraising events, people can’t wait to jump at the chance to show up and throw buckets of money your way. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Twitter can help you build buzz and excitement around your fundraising event. The downside? It might bring people out to the event, pique the interest of media and attract the attention of local businesses who may want to sponsor the event or partner with you.
10. You can build relationships with journalists & bloggers
Many journalists, bloggers and people who work in the media actively engage in Twitter and scan their feeds for story ideas and leads. By interacting with them, helping them out and yes, even pitching stories to them, you run the risk of actually being called by the media for a story that would showcase your work and gain you free exposure to the market you’re trying to connect with.
Editor’s note: There are indeed reasons why Twitter may not be a good tool for many nonprofits. They range from nature of work to donor market, from budget constraints to overburdened short-staffed teams. This post is merely meant to start a discussion and get the small nonprofit thinking how Twitter can actually stimulate donor interaction, drive traffic and increase awareness.