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[Book Research] Which nonprofits do you think excel in their use social media?

November 5, 2010

I first started utilizing social media to help promote nonprofits on February 1, 2006 by creating At the time very few nonprofits were utilizing social media (with the exception of blogging). Facebook was still closed to the general public, Twitter didn’t exist, and YouTube had only been live one year. The Humane Society, PETA, Oxfam, Invisible Children, and the National Wildlife Federation were the early adopters of MySpace and social media in the nonprofit sector, and all of them have gone on to build massive communities on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube over the last five years. They were getting creative and bold on MySpace long before corporate brands and higher education had even thought of launching social media campaigns. Early adoption served these organizations well.

That said, all five of them are large national and international organizations with very well-known brands. Most of these organizations will be mentioned in the book and hopefully interviewed in coming months (the interviews will be posted on Nonprofit Tech 2.0), but many nonprofit folks have asked that I also discuss and interview small and medium-sized nonprofits that have also been successful at utilizing social media. The reality is that in most cases small and medium-sized nonprofits do not have the same experience with social media as many of the large nonprofits do. Their brands are not as well-known, their supporter base is no where near as large, and many of them just don’t have the capacity that the larger organizations do.

I have some small and medium-sized nonprofits in mind for the book, but I also want hear from you. Which nonprofits do you think excel in their use social media? Whether they are small, medium, or large… regional, national, or international, what nonprofits and nonprofit social media campaigns come to mind? If your nonprofit has had success with social media, please don’t be bashful! Links and specific results would be much appreciated by myself, and I am sure many others.  🙂

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    November 5, 2010 7:41 am

    Do libraries count? While their focus isn’t national, they still do a great job of communicating with their patrons.


    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 5, 2010 7:43 am

      Of course! Thanks. Librarians pioneered social media in the higher ed sector. 🙂

  2. November 5, 2010 7:52 am

    I am the online community & social media manager for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and I’m proud of our robust social media efforts. 😉 We have over 25,000 fans on Facebook ( and most of that growth has been totally organic. We don’t promote it much in other venues; most people just find it on their own in their travels on Facebook. We’ve got some great videos of member success stories on YouTube ( and for the past two years have done a video contest to promote Better Hearing and Speech Month ( We use Twitter to engage members year round and during our annual convention. We also will be using SCVNGR at this year’s upcoming Convention. And, last but certainly not least, we just launched a new blog, written mostly by members (

  3. November 5, 2010 8:22 am

    Hi Heather!

    I just wanted to thank you for mentioning the National Wildlife Federation. I think there are so many nonprofits doing a fantastic job with social media. I look forward to reading these comments!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 5, 2010 8:27 am

      Of course Danielle. You personally have had a big impact on how the nonprofit sector uses social media through your work with NWF. I hope I can contact you in a month or two for an interview! 🙂

  4. November 5, 2010 8:31 am

    We’ve developed a very neat life sciences news site at where you probably won’t even realize you’ve wandered into Facebook country.
    We’re a non-profit genetics funding organization though we get most of our funding from various levels of government in Canada so we may or may not fit your criteria.
    The site is built on an open source code platform developed with the help of The open source community consists of several media outlets with support from the Knight Foundation but our use of the application and platform is pretty much a one-off.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 5, 2010 9:13 am

      I have to say… that’s a first/ I’ll bookmark it. 🙂

  5. November 5, 2010 8:38 am

    Both Heifer International and Amnesty International USA do a fantastic job of communicating with and listening to their supporters via social media.

  6. November 5, 2010 8:48 am

    Heather – thanks for including us, we are honored to be mentioned along side these rockstars. Can’t wait for the book!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 5, 2010 9:12 am

      Thanks Carie. I definitely want to interview you for book! I’ve been surprised by how many nonprofits still say how hard it is to convince higher ups that’s is safe and useful to utilize social media. I just think back to the early adopters like yourself and how hard it must have been to be one of the very first in that respect – and trying to convince them to not fear Myspace no less! Which at the time, as you most likely remember, had its challenges. Myspace was evil, remember? 🙂

      • November 5, 2010 9:29 am

        Do I remember… I still have nightmares. Widgets, HTML coding, approving individual friend requests, ahhh!

        I’d love to talk to you more about the internal piece. Us large nonprofits still had to start somewhere, and with one person. It was a struggle, but it’s paid off for us tremendously.

        At the Convio conference this past week I did a presentation about selling social media to your boss (It was actually called “My Boss Doesn’t Get It”) and it had some tips in there. It was also just a lot of fun!

        Good luck with the book, I can’t imagine the research it takes!

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        November 5, 2010 10:00 am

        Sweet. Very useful. Thanks. I’ll be in touch soon!

  7. November 5, 2010 12:10 pm

    I believe the nonprofit organization which I work for Sustainable Long Island is truly starting to utilize their social media campaigns to great affect. Our website is being redesigned to go hand-in-hand with social media, including our very own blog! On FB and Twitter we’re doing quite well for local-based smaller nonprofit!!/SustainableLI

    Any advice (your blog has really helped) is welcomed!

  8. Richard Cobden permalink
    November 5, 2010 12:55 pm

    UK Wildlife Trust’s are embracing Social Media to engage with the public about their nature conservation & environmental education work. All work on a local scale using their strengths. Check out
    Most are also on Facebook, Flickr & YouTube, Sussex Wildlife Trust (who I tweet for) are also trying out Foursquare and LinkedIN.
    Good luck with the book.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 6, 2010 5:50 am

      Good job with Sussex… I see your brand quite a bit. 🙂

  9. November 6, 2010 6:32 am

    While most nonprofits use social media, a surprising number find it ineffective, according to an August 10 survey of nonprofits ( )by Ventureneer and Caliber. Small and mid-size nonprofits don’t seem to have the time or else the willingness to devote time, to build an online community, which is essential to success with social media. The survey report includes best-practices based on the experience of the power-users of social media, who do find social media effective.

    Small to mid-size nonprofits need to look at social media community building and maintenance as an important part of their development, marketing and outreach budget, and allocate resources accordingly.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 6, 2010 6:48 am

      Thanks… very useful. On my list for when I can finally sit down and start writing. 🙂

  10. Van permalink
    November 6, 2010 10:30 am

    I used to work in a small non-profit, and even though I consider myself pretty tech-savvy and use most of the best practices, it is so difficult to garner support from social media like Facebook and Twitter. I think mentioning small and medium-sized non-profits’ use of media will be extremely useful, because those non-profits are the ones who need social media the most to create their own brand and get more donors/volunteers.

    For smaller organizations, volunteer-driven non-profits seem to have greater success in using social media. For example, Reading to Kids (!/readingtokids) has only 2 paid employees and is largely supported by volunteers. I envy their success, and it will be very helpful to include non-profits like Reading to Kids so that other small/medium-sized nonprofits can follow their examples.=)

  11. November 7, 2010 9:57 pm

    I have been a Playspace Volunteer through Horizons for Homeless Children since December of 2008. There has been a huge rise of users on Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, and thus more and more people are becoming more aware of non-profit organizations such as HHC.

  12. November 8, 2010 2:29 am

    Hi Heather, thanks for the mention of Oxfam. As Carie intimates, it starts with approving all the individual ‘friend’ requests, but then grows exponentially from there, as some social networks like twitter don’t require a ‘follow’back.

    Please contact me if I can help with your research!

    Joel Bassuk
    Digital Communications Manager, Oxfam International

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 8, 2010 6:06 am

      Of course… I’ll be in touch for an interview. I have two more weeks of work, and then can get serious about writing this book!

  13. November 8, 2010 2:27 pm

    I work for LiNK, or Liberty in North Korea. We are the only grassroots organization in North America working full-time on the North Korean human rights issue. For the first time this past year, we worked on developing our social media presence and, in turn, have seen a significant increase of supporters.

    We recently completed an 8-week webisode series sponsored by Ford called The People’s Fleet, which comes alongside local southern California nonprofits by providing a Ford Fiesta. Our org’s story (and the larger story of refugees affected by the North Korea crisis) was told through Danny, a North Korean refugee whom we rescued in 2006 and is now adjusting well to his new life in freedom in Los Angeles thanks to our resettlement program that provides educational and financial assistance, mentorship, among other services.

    Through our Twitter, Facebook group and page, and now The People’s Fleet, we have had the unique opportunity to raise awareness while building a community of passionate people that work together to raise the funds to enable us to continue rescuing refugees and providing emergency relief.


  14. November 8, 2010 10:03 pm


    I handle the social media properties of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s book publisher (based in India). You can find the links to our social media properties at :

    We use social media to help us further our cause and also to help us with what we call our ‘social publishing strategy’. You can read more about it here:

    (Psst: For more information on other Indian non-profits on Twitter, this page has a small list :

  15. November 9, 2010 3:40 pm

    Hi Heather:

    I handle the social media for Solid Ground, a human services and advocacy agency building community to end poverty in Seattle-King County. We have a pretty active suite of on-line presences that include our website, blog, YouTube channel, primary Facebook page, a few secondary FB pages, and a Twitter feed. Links follow. Collectively these efforts have helped us greatly increase our on-line fundraising and our buzz factor. We have also run a few targeted Facebook-based petition campaigns that successfully impacted local budget decisions re human service funding. We’ve also worked to develop in-house social media policies, users’ support group, etc. to share best practices and brainstorm solutions to problems. We’re working on launching a mobile version of our website and continue to evaluate other opportunites such as text-based fundraising, Yammer, etc. I’ve learned a ton from your blog and would be delighted to talk to you more about our efforts/failings/successes. Thanks
    ~Mike Buchman, Communications Manager, Solid Ground. Mikeb at solid-ground dot org.!/pages/Chefs-Night-Out/83071943607!/pages/Seattle-Community-Voice-Mail/162408277117331

  16. November 10, 2010 1:21 am

    AIESEC, the Biggest World Student NGO has been doing a pretty good job regarding Social Media.
    – Internally they are using a platform called, compose of wikis, groups, social networking features that around 50 000 members are using everyday
    – Externally they are present on facebook, linkedin, youtube, flickr & twitter

    You can check their website at
    Facebook page :

  17. November 10, 2010 6:34 am

    Our Camp is relatively new to using electronic newsletters (about 15 months) and social medial (about 6 months on Facebook). One organization that I receive info from to learn is They have a wonderful enews and their messaging is very impressive. I would recommend them to anyone getting started in this new arena!

  18. November 10, 2010 6:50 am

    Check out everything the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is doing. Article in the Boston Globe today:

  19. November 15, 2010 8:27 am

    Well, I feel we are successful because of social media and only because of social media could we help as much as we do. Started out selling art and decided to sell for victims of Katrina, now a charity, we generate Money from stuff and give to other non- profits. We are helping non- profits learn how to do the same. We would like to expand to help more, but the small scale seems to cost less and passing on the knowlege seems right, along with free thinking social media. So, I guess I’m trying to say True Thrift exists because of social media and is able to stay small, ” grass roots” because of social media. Sociologists have proven that smaller organizations do more for others before they grow large and spend more on their own beuraucracy. I certainly wish we were richer to fuel our good ideas, but slow and steady win the race, not large, fast and filthy rich.

  20. Nikki Carter permalink
    November 17, 2010 8:52 pm

    I worked with Meals on Wheels SA in South Australia, Australia on their Social Media Campaign. We have Facebook ( and Twitter ( a great platform to communicate with existing volunteers, find new volunteers and promote our events. It’s also a great way to get the message out about what Meals on Wheels do for the community as many are not aware of what they actual do!

    We had great success with building our Facebook community by running a competition at an offline event – The Royal Adelaide Show – which required people to sign up to our Page to find out how to enter the competition.

    And we are soon to begin a blog about the founder of Meals on Wheels, Doris Taylor, where we will be asking for people to share their stories and memories of Doris.

  21. November 22, 2010 5:51 am

    Engineers Without Borders does a pretty good job with their social media. Also SOS Children’s Villages Canada has a lot of Twitter followers but I’m not sure how effective they’ve been at converting those into $$ donations.

  22. December 27, 2010 10:15 pm

    I manage social media for Freedom to Create, a global grant making and prize-giving organisation. It would be great to see thoughts in your book on what the funders, as well as the fund-raisers, can do with social media. How we can best use social media to support grantees, projects, collaborations, etc.

    As a grant maker, we currently use social media to:
    – promote our annual prize / grants opportunities
    – promote activities by the projects that we support
    – develop a likeminded community
    – (and have plans to build more)

    Some of the biggest challenges we have encountered so far are:
    – the language barriers when trying to reach grassroots organisations / individuals at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ in different countries across the world
    – learning which social media platforms are most effective for outreach in each country/language, and how to manage multiple platforms in multiple languages
    – internet access levels in the developing world and how to utilise SMS as an alternative medium for selected countries, especially when operating in another country

    Good luck and thanks for opening up your book writing process to us!

    Please feel free to visit our slowly growing social media spaces at:

  23. Susan Davis permalink
    February 6, 2011 11:43 am

    What do you think about non profits that deal with such touchy subjects as domestic violence and child abuse? Do you know any of these type organizations that are using SM effectively and what advice do you have for us?

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