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[Book Interview] Nonprofit Example of Social Media Excellence: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

November 21, 2010

11/4 UPDATE: The interview below was conducted as research for the newly released Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits. Allison and the Pancreatic Acton Network is featured in Chapter 3: Facebook and Facebook Apps.

[tweetmeme] Organization: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Organization Size: 65 staff in at our national headquarters in Southern California, 5 staff in Washington D.C. at our Government Affairs and Advocacy office
Name: Allison Nassour
Title: Social Media Manager

1. What was the very first social media tool your organization utilized, and when?

The 1st tool was MySpace back in 2007.

2. What social media tools are you currently utilizing? Which tool has been surprisingly useful in getting out the word about your organization and its programs? The least?

The tools I am currently using are Facebook, two Twitter accounts (one for National messaging via @PanCAN and one specifically for advocacy efforts via @Advocate4PanCAN), YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace and Delicious. Facebook has been a highly effective tool and is the strongest in communicating the message of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, but also allows people to connect and offer support to each other. I have noticed that many people on our Facebook page openly offer support to one another and provide advice about grief, caring for a loved one and more.

3. Who maintains your social media campaigns? Are they paid, full-time, part-time?

I am a full-time employee of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and as the Social Media Manager I manage all the social networking efforts for the organization. Another part of my position is coaching the volunteers to embrace social media and use it to mobilize their volunteer base and communicate our message in their communities. We have over 70 affiliates in the U.S.

4. Are you tracking Return on Investment (ROI), and how? Please summarize your ROI.

I am tracking the ROI. I track the ROI a few ways. (1) Using Google Analytics to track referrals to from social networking outlets. (2) Interaction and response from postings (i.e. Comments and Likes on Facebook and LinkedIn postings, retweets and replies on Twitter, and comments on YouTube videos), (3) increase in fan base on the social networking outlets.

Summary of ROI

– Averaging 3,000 referrals per week to from social networking outlets

– Averaging 200 interactions per post on Facebook (this includes comments, likes and wall posts)

– Averaging 3,100 Facebook page views per week

– Averaging over 400 video views per week on YouTube

– When I started at organization in July 2009, the Facebook fan page had about 6,000 fans and now it has over 35,400 fans.  The @PanCAN Twitter handle had less than 1,000 followers at that time and now it has over 2,500.

– Launched the advocacy Twitter handle in January 2010 (@Advocate4PanCAN) and it is growing steadily. It has close to 400 followers.

5. Did you experience resistance from higher ups in the organization initially utilizing about social media, or were they supportive?

The Social Media Manager position was a completely new position and embraced by the entire organization. I was hired in July 2009 to come into the organization and breathe life into social networking, explore new opportunities and empower the volunteers.

There are times I learn of new social media outlets, 3rd party technologies or methods, and if I want to apply something new to the organization, I do my due-diligence and experiment with it, strategize how it can add value to the organization, and lastly I propose it to our executive team.

6. What the best piece of advice you could offer nonprofits about social media, and online communications in general?

Despite the fact that social media evolves quickly and news spreads fast online, success on social media and online communications does not happen overnight. I believe, the more you put into social media efforts and online communications, the more you can get back. Success is a product of being organized in what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate, knowing your audience, and what they’re looking for. It important to find out what tools fit your organization because using ineffective tools is lost opportunity cost. Lastly, to be effective you must stay up-to-speed on the rapidly changing landscape of social media.

7. Are you currently investing resources in mobile marketing i.e, a mobile website, texting, mobile Apps, text-to-give, etc.?

We are planning to launch a mobile version of our website in 2011.

Text communications are new for the organization and I have been thrilled to be part of the team working on the project. We just launched mobile texting and text-to-donate this month (November). Our official launch of text communication will be done at a Los Angeles Kings hockey game on November 27th. The LA Kings have recently embraced the organization as a charity. At the beginning of the game, Lisa Niemi Swayze will be there to do a “puck-drop.” People can text HERO to 30644 to receive information about how they can get involved in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Our official launch of text-to-donate will be January 3, 2011 at another Los Angeles Kings hockey game. People can text ACTION to 25383 make a $10 donation.

8. What do you think are the most important skills necessary in a social media practitioner?

An important skill is knowing how to connect with your constituents online. Connecting and communicating online is different than over the phone or face-to-face; being able to effectively connect and communicate to constituents from all walks of life from all corners of the world is important.

Being proactive and flexible is essential to be able to adapting to changes in Facebook, Twitter and other outlets, as well as acknowledging constituents’ needs. There are times constituents may ask questions about how to get involved with the organization or are looking for information because a loved one has recently been diagnosed. Being able to respond in a timely fashion and answer any questions is important.

Simply being in-tune with the social media industry, its various tools and best practices and effectively implementing them is secret to success.

9. What is on your To Do List for 2011?

(1) I would like to use QR codes at many of our 2011 events. (2) I want to make our website ( more shareable across the web. We currently have a “Share” button on all pages, yet I want to take it a few steps further. (3) Creating a webpage on our website specifically for the social media community and offer Twitter backgrounds, avatars, copy and paste status updates/tweets and downloads for people to use and share. (4) Empower the volunteers to work with local vendors when they plan events to secure Facebook Place deals and special promotions on Foursquare. (5) Launch a mobile version of

10. Anything else?

I do social media reporting at the large events with the objective of creating a virtual experience for those who cannot attend. For example, when the staff and over 500 volunteers were on Capitol Hill for Advocacy Day in June 2010, I documented the whole experience on Twitter (#AdvDay2010) with pictures, video and updates. It helped people connect and experience Advocacy Day 2010 from their homes.

I am currently experimenting with QR codes and will be rolling the first QR code out at the Los Angeles Kings game on November 27th. I look forward to seeing how receptive people are to it.

Related Links:
Book Research & Interviews
Book Tour
Book Tour Sponsors
List of Nonprofits Mentioned in the Book

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2010 11:51 am

    What a great report! Inspiring and relevant. I’ve been doing social media for two years but I still learned a lot here, so thanks.

    I’ve retweeted @KenBurgin ‘s heads up (thanks Ken) and flagged this post to a client of mine who has just started a not-for-profit organisation to address escalating violence at teen parties.

    I’m sure she’ll also appreciate this story . Best regards and well done! P. 🙂

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 21, 2010 11:54 am

      Great. Thanks. I am sure Allison will be glad to hear that!

    • December 2, 2010 9:27 pm

      Thank you Paul! I hope your client friend finds this interview helpful.

  2. November 21, 2010 2:20 pm

    What is a QR Code?

  3. November 22, 2010 6:38 am

    Great reading here! thanks for posting this.


  4. November 22, 2010 11:23 am

    Even after reading the description of what a QR code is, I am still curious to hear how Allison plans to use them in promoting the cause. This is one area I am pretty unfamiliar with, other than to have the little code on our Gift Shop door for visitors to find us online.

    • November 22, 2010 4:44 pm

      Hi Carole!

      I’ll be launching our first QR Code on November 27th. The Los Angeles Kings hockey team have joined forces with us for an awareness night. As part of the evening, all fans will receive a piece of collateral from the organization featuring the keyword to text-in: HERO, facts about pancreatic cancer and there will be a QR Code on it for people to scan in with their phones and get even more info about how to get involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. This is our 1st QR Code launch and I will circle back next week about how it performs.

      Thanks for reading the post!

    • December 2, 2010 9:30 pm

      Hi Carole,

      I’m back with info regarding the QR code at the LA Kings hockey game. The code proved successful. Based on my analytics, people were scanning the code at the hockey game and even a couple days after. I am very excited to roll-out QR codes on our PurpleStride event posters that our volunteers post in their communities. A QR code to a video, a registration website…many possibilities. 🙂

  5. November 23, 2010 5:10 pm

    Great interview and very informative, I wish I had the resources to put a decent effort into social networks

  6. November 29, 2010 3:20 pm

    Great info thanks for sharing this.


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