Using Social Media: 3 perspectives

July 15, 2010 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

OGF recently asked staff at three foundations about their use of social media. Here’s an excerpt of what they said. Read more of the discussion in the summer edition of OGF Connection, our quarterly print newsletter, available online to members. Thanks to Tara Pringle Jefferson (The Cleveland Foundation), Christine Mulvin (The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati) and Dan Sharpe (The Columbus Foundation) for their comments.

OGF: What social media tools does your foundation use? Why did you choose them?
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati has a blog that is updated twice a week. We started the blog to talk with our grantees in a different way. We wanted to encourage more conversations and share informal, “insider” information that we had no other way to share. For example, one of our blog entries was on what makes a good site visit. We could have typed up a formal list of guidelines and agendas, etc. A blog seemed like a better choice because is more personable and authentic. And it was well received—we got comments through e-mail, the blog site, and in-person conversations that the list was helpful and useful. We also use the blog to give grantees a different perspective on our foundation. Our blog is written in the voices of our individual staff members and they share what they find interesting. This gives our audience a look at who our staff are as individuals, not just as foundation representatives. We also monitor conversations on Twitter, although we do not actively participate in Twitter, and are beginning to get our staff and board connected through LinkedIn.

Dan: We primarily focus our attention on Facebook and Twitter. We have a presence, which we look forward to growing on YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, and with other multimedia vehicles. These tools were very strategically selected to help us interact with our audiences in alignment with Columbus Foundation goals. We have had great success with our core communications on Facebook and Twitter. We are looking forward to phase two of our Online Media Development plan, which will involve the creation of more creative, multimedia communications.

We use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, and, as well as blogs and podcasts. We chose these particular tools because we wanted to meet people where they were, and have a two-way conversation with residents who believe in Cleveland.

OGF: What drove your foundation to use social media?

Christine: We had things to say and no other way to say them. Much of our communications are formal and related to the business of the foundation. We wanted to show our grantees the human side of our foundation and give them a glimpse into the personalities of our staff and organizational culture. We also wanted an outlet to share our thoughts and the things that go on “behind the curtain” to give insight into how the foundation works.

Dan: Philanthropy has so many stories to tell, from successful nonprofits, donors making creative community investments, to immediate community needs. Social media became a great way for the foundation to help share these great stories while communicating our ability to be the trusted philanthropic advisor and a community resource. More and more of our donors and grant recipients are in the social media space. We value these unique relationships and feel social media is both a strategic and effective way to communicate with them.

Tara: We began using social media tools in 2008. We wanted to go where people’s attention was turning and that’s social media. We tend to think of social media as something that complements our work. It’s not just “something else to do.” Got wonderful news about a program we funded? Let’s tweet about it. Grantees want to hear from us regularly? Let’s start blogging. It’s about matching what we already do with these tools that allow us to spread that message.

How would you answer these questions?


Entry filed under: Communications.

How Do You Stack Up? If you build it, they might come

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