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[Book Interview] Nonprofit Example of Social Media Excellence: Taproot Foundation

December 20, 2010

[tweetmeme] Organization: Taproot Foundation
Organization Size: 40 Employees
Name (s): Dupé Ajayi and Megan McDonald
Title (s): Manager, External Affairs and Associate, Social Media & Recruitment
Website: www.taprootfoundation.org
Blog: taprootfoundation.org/blog
Facebook: facebook.com/taprootfoundation
Twitter: twitter.com/taprootfound
YouTube: youtube.com/thetaprootfoundation
LinkedIn: taproot-foundation
Jumo: http://bit.ly/gfpe6R


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

Megan: MySpace was probably our first introduction to social media, but not sure the year we created the account.  We don’t use it in our strategy now, which is telling!

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?

Megan: We currently have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Jumo, YouTube and Vimeo.  We use Hootsuite and Sprout Social to manage our accounts and track metrics.  Twitter and Facebook have been crucial in recruiting new pro bono consultants and connecting with nonprofits that could benefit from our Service Grant projects.  And LinkedIn is a perfect space for us as we are targeting professionals with a specific skill set.  Our LinkedIn group for Active pro bono consultants is a great place where these people can connect based on a current interest—giving back using their current skills.

The least effective—probably Friendster 😉

Dupe: I love our blog – I has surprisingly become one of the strongest presence on our website. It’s there that we recognize, inform and direct. Also, it really allows people to see how we as an organization, ‘think.’ It’s an inside look to who we are. I also love Twitter, but that’s just my personal obsession with the tool!

Thus far, Jumo has been the least helpful but it’s been around at this point for less than a month. There’s potential there. We’re trying to figure it out while, I’m sure, they are trying to figure it out too.

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

Dupe: This is a team effort! I drive the strategy for day to day and our campaigns and every now and then, team members that ‘get’ our messaging will hop in and send out a tweet or two. Megan does a fantastic job of keeping the content on link Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn fresh. We also have an External Affairs Visita Volunteer who manages our blog space.

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

Dupe: Our organization has literally just started tracking ROI for using these tools by way of campaigns. We are looking at number of followers, ‘Likes’ and members but are now beginning to tie these numbers to those which directly impact our organization’s new strategic plan which rolled out months ago. A present, all of our marketing and volunteer recruitment campaigns really rely on social media to spread the word and energize our audience and so we use tools built into the aforementioned interfaces to help us measure the effectiveness of a campaign. We tweak and readjust along the way. Data from a recent Facebook contest we ran not show that we not only significantly increased our followers in a short amount of time, but we saw individuals then head over to our website to be engaged further. Also, we use Google analytics to track where our website visitors are coming from and where they go after that. Finally, we are beginning to measure how many volunteer applications come by way of our social media channels as well as using marketing sites like Klout to measure our influence online.

5. Of all the mass communications tools your organization is using (website e-newsletters, social networking sites, mobile), which is resulting in the most online dollars being raised (directly or indirectly)?

Dupe: At present, Taproot is unique in that we don’t raise money in this way. It doesn’t mean, however, that we wouldn’t explore the option in the future. Right now for us, the tools that are mentioned above are being used to raise ‘professional capital’ and build brand awareness.

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

Megan: There definitely wasn’t push-back from management, but being a smaller organization, there was a need to prove the worth in investing staff time in building our online presence.  I saw a gap in our online marketing strategy and took the opportunity to use social media to connect with our pro bono consultants, the nonprofits we work with, and funders in the digital space.  We started out by creating a twitter account and using just a few hours a week to monitor and post, then built out our other channels and cross-promoted our specific campaigns.

Dupe: Taproot is hub for new ideas and collaboration. That has been a plus in this area because while it is typical that higher ups may have reservations, Megan and myself get emails almost every other day from our team about new social media tools and ways to best use the ones that we have. It’s extremely helpful having not only the buy-in of our senior team, but the entire organization as well.

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

Dupe: Have a team to support you. Megan not only loves what she does but also understands this world. That makes executing campaigns so much easier for us. Also, think like a marketer. We are always looking at not only what non profits that we aspire to be like in a social media aspect are doing but also our favorite corporate social media campaigns as well. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Megan: While social media platforms and tools are free, it does take staff time and dedication to keep your channels updated with current content to keep your followers invested.  That said, social media is not a science, so there is no correct way to do things.  If you are a smaller organization, have a few people work together to keep the channels updated and have fun with it.  Take risks and try different things to see what works and what doesn’t.  The beauty of social media is that it’s always adapting to what’s hot, trends form and fade, so decide which you want to try and which makes the most sense for your organization.

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

Dupe: We would love to do a mobile campaign and are looking into ways to make it happen. As mentioned earlier, we’re always looking to the corporate world to see who does this really well, especially because we wouldn’t use mobile as a way to collect donations, but to engage those who are interested in becoming volunteers.  I really like what one of our partners, Gap, have done with mobile and their recent tie in to social media and giving. We all know that mobile is expensive. I believe that if a nonprofit can find a way to integrate mobile as part of sponsorship, they should totally go for it.

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

Megan: Flexibility and enthusiasm for an ever-changing field that requires constant attention is key to anyone involved with social media.  The desire to be social and interact with a wide range of people is also essential–social media is a great way to make connections with like-minded people, but it’s also important to transform online connections into lasting relationships offline.

Dupe: To me, to be a strong social media manager requires a perfect balance of the technical and social. You’ve got to know and understand the tools, how to use them and what to leave behind. All the while, you’ve got to measure, track and re-adjust. At the same time though, you’ve got to like people. You have to listen to what they are saying and not be afraid to jump into a conversation. Finally, you’ve got to love it!

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

In 2011, we’d like to focus on using social media to connect with potential pro bono consultants who might not be aware of our opportunities.  In order to reach more professionals looking to give back in 2011, we need to implement campaigns that increase the level of engagement and create a true community of pro bono. We are also looking to make our website more social, integrating real-time pieces into the space.

11. Anything else?

Dupe: Social media can be over-whelming: new platforms are being created constantly and there is a lot of noise. My advice for a nonprofit that wants to get into the space and get the most from it is to come up with a plan, test a few tools and stick with what works best for them. Also, invest in deeply engaging those that are involved in the community. While a high number of followers is great, that doesn’t matter too much in the end if no one is being actively engaged in a two-way conversation. Finally, you must measure ROI. It’s great to have a presence in the space, but as part of a comprehensive marketing plan, you need to be able to prove that all of the effort that you are putting in is worth it. If, for anything else, the information will motivate your team to do more and work smarter.

Related Links:
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List of Nonprofits Mentioned in the Book

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2010 6:29 am

    I believe it is important that a social media strategy should be largely a group effort.

  2. December 27, 2010 7:10 am

    I am teaching a class on Nonprofits using Foursquare if you want to check it out on Jan. 5th. I always enjoy your blog! – CJ

    http://www.synthesispartnership.com/resources3.html

  3. December 28, 2010 10:05 am

    I love these interviews, they provide some great insight to an industry that is still in its infancy; social media marketing.

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