Building NPOs Social Media Capacity

August 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm 4 comments

In preparation for a recent presentation on social media fundraising for nonprofits, my co-presenter and I scoured our brains for examples of local nonprofits’ success with social media to share with our audience.

While many nonprofits were using social media, we couldn’t readily locate outstanding examples.

Maybe nonprofits really weren’t having any success with social media. Or, we thought, maybe they were and no one knew about it.

No one was sharing that information and spreading the word that it could be done.  As a result, we figured many nonprofits were probably giving up on their social media efforts or not giving 100%. Tons of potential was going to waste.

What if we could connect these nonprofits, I thought. What if we could get nonprofits to dedicate an uninterrupted block of time to the idea that they could be doing more with their social media and learn from their peers how to do it better? What could happen?

As the social media manager at the Cleveland Foundation, I first sent out a simple tweet on Twitter to gauge interest in a nonprofit “meet-up” to discuss social media:

Within an hour, I had responses from 20 organizations, saying they’d love to come together to share ideas. I posted the same question on our Facebook page – 10 more organizations said they wanted to know more.

And so the planning began.

I was a little nervous about the turnout in the days before, but it turns out I shouldn’t have worried. We had more than 30 organizations represented at the first social media meet-up, hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland.

Our discussion was lively but the most eye-opening moments for me came in the beginning and at the very end.

To begin the “meeting,” I asked each participant to introduce themselves and give us a social media success story or a current frustration with social media.

One by one they went around the room and told their stories. One organization used social media to increase the number of participants in its annual 5K. One community development corporation used Twitter to lure new businesses to the area. It was amazing to hear these little stories that are often under the radar.

And at the end of the meeting, after we spoke at length about the best ways to increase engagement with our audiences, we adjourned.

Instead of running back to their respective workplaces, everyone lingered just a bit longer. I saw business cards exchanged, in-depth conversations about the value of having a Twitter account and lots of laughter.  See what can happen when you bring people together for an hour and a half?

Most people know the Cleveland Foundation as a grantmaker. They’re right – it’s a huge part of what we do. But we also pride ourselves on connecting organizations and making an impact beyond our grantmaking. Helping nonprofits connect to each other and the community furthers our mission and social media is a perfect conduit for making it happen.

Tara Pringle Jefferson, Guest Blogger
The Cleveland Foundation
Public Affairs Associate


Entry filed under: Communications.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda Apostol  |  August 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Tara-Thanks for organizing the event. It really was a great opportunity to meet other professionals in Cleveland learning more about social media and coming up with strategies to address their struggles. In fact, I saw many of them at the Red Cross Social Media workshop this morning. I can’t wait for the next meet-up!

  • 2. Barb Bushman  |  August 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I am sorry I was not able to attend. Do you have handouts that you can e-mail to me?

  • 3. Tara Jefferson  |  August 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Barb,

    The first meeting was a simple meet-up, with a quick presentation by MOCA on its social media efforts, and then everyone else shared where they were with social media. I can send you MOCA’s presentation, if you would like to see it.

  • […] a series of social media meet-ups to help other nonprofits boost their social media outreach. Check it out! Let me know what you think  August 28, 2010  tmpringl […]


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