November 15, 2012
I recently gave a presentation on nonprofit trends in social media. At the end of the discussion, I was asked a question. “Why don’t nonprofits spend more money on this? It’s the one thing that could help them get donors.”
My response at the time was, “They would rather help clients than help their organization.”
But is it really that simple? Think about it: You’re the director of a homeless youth shelter… and it’s sunk. The economy has been too hard, the marketplace has been too competitive, and there’s just too many kids coming to you for help. You’re down to your last $5,000 of the fiscal year.
You have two choices:
- Spend it helping ten more kids. That’s what you’re here for. That’s what you do. These kids need it – desperately – and without it they’re going to be on the street.
- Spend it on six months’ worth of publicity. You need donors. You need grants. You need… money. Without this last big push, you’re shutting down the doors in two months.
Sound like an impossible choice? It’s not too difficult to see why so many take the first road. We’re human. When someone comes to us desperately seeking help and we have the resources to change their lives – we give it to them. Simple as that.
But as someone who’s worked for nonprofits that have failed (and nonprofits that are thriving) I can tell you one thing: If you don’t make the second choice, you will run the risk of failing.
So if I could tell you one way to spend your publicity dollars in 2013, it would be this:
I know – I can hear you laughing now. Who does this girl think she is? She thinks we have the budget for social media?! We barely have a website!
But hold that thought. Give me the next 60 seconds to explain.
- Social media was literally made for cause publicity. The #Kony2012 campaign got 57 million views in four days. Caine’s Arcade? It raised $500,000 in four days. Social media was made for this. Letting the public spread the word about things they care about is what it does best. If you’re not on social media, well… you’re missing the boat on the biggest public relations opportunity – ever.
- Your client base is already here. Facebook has one billion active users. Your clients are reaching out, talking to one another, sharing stories – and more than likely, already talking about you. If you want one central place where you can reach *everyone*… this is it.
- Your donors expect it. The recession has been hard on everyone, but especially the middle class. Yet families are surviving through hard work and gumption – and that’s what they expect from their charities. A heart-tugging “we need money” plea is not going to work anymore. In order for donors to give, they need to see your non-profit thriving and succeeding despite the economy, just like they have. Social media is the one place they’ll see these results.
Staving off immediate services for organizational longevity is always a tough decision to make. But the two choices aren’t mutually-exclusive. There’s a reason airlines tell parents to help themselves before they help their kids – by taking care of yourself first, you can take care of more people in the long run.
I once worked in a newspaper office that had a sign hanging in their ads department: “Without advertising, a terrible thing happens – nothing.” Investing the time and resources now to publicize and gain donors will ensure that, a year from now, clients don’t arrive at your doorstep and see… nothing.