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Social Media: What To Do If Your Boss Doesn’t Get It

November 28, 2011

Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Fundraising Success Magazine where I have written a quarterly column throughout 2011.

In June 2007, I presented my first social media training to a small group of nonprofits in Lowell, MA. At the time, nonprofits were primarily only using Myspace and YouTube. Though Facebook had gone public nine months previous, Facebook Groups were only just beginning to be used as community-building tools by nonprofits and Facebook Pages didn’t exist yet. It was the optimal time for early adoption of social media by nonprofits, and it’s no coincidence that the nonprofits that embraced these new tools in 2006 through 2008 are today the most successful nonprofits on the Social Web. There’s definitely a math to social media synergy, and those that start early have both time and math on their side.

At this first training, it was no surprise that almost all of the attendees were battling the “my boss doesn’t get it” conundrum. The media had made Myspace, and social networking in general, out to be dangerous, life-threatening even. Executives were terrified by the legal implications of using social networking tools. Long-term professional communications and fundraising staff were having a hard time accepting the aesthetic of this new media because it went against everything they had learned in their careers about design and online messaging. And almost all executives were resisting letting go of control and embracing the new concept of empowering supporters and donors to be content creators and fundraisers for their nonprofits online.

Flash forward four and a half years. Executives have come a long way in understanding the Social Web. However, as I travel the country this year giving trainings on social and mobile media to nonprofits of all sizes, I’m somewhat flummoxed that the No. 1 complaint by nonprofit social media practitioners is still that, “My boss doesn’t get it! What can I do to make him understand?”

It is borderline tragic that it is taking this long for the “A-ha!” moment to trickle up. Social media is no longer new, and the Mobile Web is rapidly upon us… now. It’s troublesome to say the least that nonprofit social media practitioners still struggle to get the buy-in and the support they need from executive staff to launch and maintain successful social media campaigns. Social media is not a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in how our supporters communicate with each other and with us, and ultimately in how they donate and get involved with organizations.

If your nonprofit can’t get the support it needs in social and mobile media and is still forced to wing it on a zero budget, here are some tips to help you illuminate and mobilize the skeptics:

Find your voice and channel your enthusiasm 
Be insistent and firm that your nonprofit needs to embrace social and mobile media. If that is that not your personality type, then try to step out of your comfort zone. Asserting yourself at work is often the missing piece to success.

Compile stats to share with executive staff

98 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 use social media. The second most visited website in the U.S. and the world is Facebook; 71 percent of Americans watch online video; Foursquare has surpassed 1 billion check-ins; one in three Americans access the Mobile Web every day; 73 percent of Americans send and receive text messages. A quick Google search of “social media stats 2011” pulls up a wide range of stats to share with unaware executive staff.

Find your competitors the Web
If they have well-executed social media campaigns, send executive staff links to their profiles on FacebookTwitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc., with a note that you fear your nonprofit is falling behind. Odds are that if you have to do this, then your nonprofit probably is falling behind.

Subscribe to social media blogs
Such as MashableNonprofit Tech 2.0, Socialbrite, etc. and then forward executives breaking news on social and mobile media. Get social and mobile media buzz in their e-mail inboxes regularly!

Get training
Learn how to successfully integrate your website, e-newsletter and “Donate Now” campaigns with social and mobile media. Your ROI (and thus your boss’s willingness to invest in social and mobile media) is directly related to how well-integrated these tools and communities are with one another. Trust me… as someone who has browsed more than 100,000 nonprofits on social networking sites over the last (almost) seven years, I know that most nonprofit social media practitioners need training. They don’t think they do, but they do.

Get executive staff on a webinar
I”ll be presenting a free mini-webinar on social and mobile media for executive staff on January 25. Register here!

Be proactive
Add your social and mobile media responsibilities to your job description. Then, at your next annual review, at least seed the idea that you can’t add these new responsibilities to your job description without dropping time spent on other duties. Your boss can say no, but you need to be firm. Perhaps even ask for a raise — it never hurts to ask.

Ask for an office smartphone

You are going to need it. Yes, yes… I know. Your nonprofit has no budget for it. Ask anyway because if your nonprofit is not experimenting with social media on the Mobile Web, then you are missing the early adoption phase and you’ll regret it two-to-three years from now when fundraising is mobile.

All that said, the truth is that there is no magical word or case study that you can present to skeptical executive staff to make them instantly get it. It’s up to you to be proactive, insistent and ultimately not take “no” for an answer. It’s in the best interest of your nonprofit, and ultimately your career in nonprofit communications and fundraising, that you do so.

Related Links:
Free Mini-Webinar: Social and Mobile Media Webinar for Nonprofit Executive Staff
[VIDEO] Social Media Revolution 2011
 Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle Sanders permalink
    November 28, 2011 8:55 am

    GREAT post. Social media is so important now days for nonprofits and businesses. It’s a great way to get your volunteers/fans/contributors involved, as well as spread the word! I find that this is a new concept for most businesses now, not just nonprofits. We are exploring social media at my job as well. Definitely worth the investment!


  2. November 28, 2011 11:09 am

    wow,awesome! no wonder the chinese government need to ban facebook and twiter. but now it seems difficult for them even they ve baned both of them, unless they baned internet, which seems impossible.
    but i still got one questions that is there a specific magazine or web-zine for NGOs as a whole (like published for NGO not for each specific group themselves)?

  3. November 29, 2011 6:26 am

    Excellent, concrete suggestions that anyone can take to their boss. Thanks for sharing.

    Many prospective donors learn about new organizations from friends – on social media! I work with all my clients to better understand that they must have great websites and a social media presence if they want to attract and retain donors.

  4. November 29, 2011 7:58 am

    “98 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 use social media.” – is that a figure for the US only, or worldwide average?

  5. Ashley Ward permalink
    November 29, 2011 11:40 am

    As a 25 year old working for a 50+ year old boss, I truly appreciate this post. Thanks for creating a diplomatic strategy.

  6. November 29, 2011 3:16 pm

    This is a fantastic post. I’ve been running into the same issue when I give presentations – all I hear is that the Directors and CEO’s don’t have time for it and don’t want to make it a priority, they don’t see the benefit. Thanks for the post, well done!

  7. December 1, 2011 10:05 am

    This is so true! I have my own social media company for several small businesses. Most hair stylists generally tend to get this, some real estate agents, ect. But people in the legal field generally don’t tend to get it, even though everyone uses social media. Very few people use the yellow-pages to find a lawyer, they either search for it or ask on facebook. Good post!

  8. December 6, 2011 8:22 pm

    Very True..Now a days the teenagers and the people between the age of 16 to 35 use social medial, the most popular social media site is facebook and twitter, many of them prefer watching videos at Youtube

  9. Tim permalink
    December 9, 2011 4:54 am

    I don’t have a Facebook account, and I consider every contribution carefully before I make it. In that respect, I like writing a check. There are still a few of us left who have employer matching, which takes more paperwork to get you a 100% or even 200% bonus. In contrast, people are so careless about signing up for cellphone accounts that credit counselors refer to phones (and cable TV contracts …. ) as “death by the month”. Yes, I’ll be dead sooner than your archetypal 25 year old. But right now, I give or raise more money than he/she does.

  10. December 12, 2011 12:25 pm

    Non Profit companies need to get better noticed, and this is a good way to do it.


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