Connecting meaningfully with people is a top priority for nonprofits: our business goals—donations, advocates and volunteers—can only be achieved when people really care about what we do.
More and more nonprofits are realizing the power of social media to forge those relationships, and are allocating precious marketing communications budgets to creating social media roles. The real-time and very public nature of the medium makes it essential to have dedicated, knowledgeable people crafting a digital strategy, monitoring and responding, and developing great, shareable content.
And it’s just a great place for people to get to know you!
The Winnipeg Foundation is one of the city’s largest nonprofits, making grants of almost $21 million to over 670 local charities (including my organization, United Way of Winnipeg). Just a few months ago, the Foundation created a social role to better engage the public and spread understanding of their work.
So what are this nonprofit’s plans for their first ‘official’ year in social media? I chat with Jenette Martens, the Foundation’s new Social Media Convenor.
Erica Glasier: Your position at Winnipeg Foundation is very new, just 2 months old. Had the Foundation started dabbling in social media and found that they needed someone to take it over full time, or are you the first person to foray into it? How did your position come to be? How are you the right person for your job (education, tech interest, social butterfly)?
Jenette Martens: I was introduced to The Winnipeg Foundation as an intern on a three-week work placement earlier this year through the Creative Communications program at Red River College. The internship introduced me to a variety of tasks at the Foundation, and because of personal interest, I gravitated toward social media.
The Foundation was already using some social media tools when I started. For example, our CEO, Rick Frost, had a monthly blog and the Foundation already had a Twitter account. During my internship, I organized Twitter lists, set us up with HootSuite, and introduced tweet scheduling.
The Foundation recognized the increased demands created by social media and the timing of my internship put me in the right place at the right time! There is an endless supply of great grant stories and good causes for the Foundation to talk about online.
My training in public relations also helps me in my new role. I understand from my studies the importance of being strategic and creating objectives. When I was hired, one of my first goals was drafting a social media strategy. We do evaluations to make sure we’re on the right track to achieving our goals.
EG: Is your job part of a larger interactive communications strategy?
JM: My job is very closely linked with the Foundation’s overall strategic communications. Our online voice needs to match our other communications.
The Foundation interacts with the community in a lot of ways: we speak at and attend community events, have TV, print and radio ads, and much more.
My job doing social media is just another way we talk with people, get feedback, and help the public understand who we are and what we do.
EG: How have you been using social media so far? (platforms, presences, contests, data gathering?) Who’s your audience?
JM: I’ve only been here for a few months, and we’ve just started creating our social media identity. We use Twitter regularly to positive effect. Our followers grow a little every day and we’re starting to see a regular response to our tweets which is very exciting. We’ve started a Foundation Facebook page and I’m working on collecting pictures and videos to post on it. I don’t think people realize how many projects The Winnipeg Foundation has supported so we’re using Twitter and Facebook to tell these stories. For example, I’m making a video right now about the new Plug In ICA building which we recently supported with a grant.
We haven’t created any contests. Though we’re working on a new Facebook promotion right now and we’re looking into a geocaching activity that may have a competitive aspect to it.
As to how I gather information; I’m working on setting up the Foundation’s Google Analytics for our Twitter and Facebook page. I use Tweetalarm on top of Twitter searches to watch what people are saying about the Foundation on Twitter. I use Google Reader to watch close to 50 blogs (include yours Erica!). HootSuite and Facebook have some built in stats, so I check those often. I also have Google Alerts set up for our organization.
The Foundation has more than one audience. Through social media tools, we’re trying to build awareness with young professionals about The Winnipeg Foundation, what we do and what sort of things are going on in philanthropy in Winnipeg. We also want our social media platforms to be interesting and useful to Winnipeg charities and other community foundations.
EG: What have you learned about social media and the non-profit world so far? How responsive and active online do you feel Winnipeggers are?
JM: I have learned a lot about social media since I’ve joined The Winnipeg Foundation and even more about the non-profit world.
In my position, I don’t just need to know what The Winnipeg Foundation is up to and how we operate, but what all the charities in the city are up to. There is a lot to learn!
I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’d say Winnipeggers are reasonably active online and this will only increase as time goes on.
Social media is quite new to many so I hear a variety of responses when I tell people what I do. Some people don’t know what social media is, some think it’s a fad, some use it solely for connecting with family and friends, and some start talking about social media tools that I’ve never heard of before!
EG: What strategic goals are you concerned with achieving in your first year? Why is the Foundation using social media? (promotion, awareness, publicity, customer service, donor relations, donor acquisition?)
JM: In our first year we are most concerned with building awareness with the Foundation’s new audiences. We want people to know who we are, and what we do. We want them to consider our social media platforms as a go-to source for information about philanthropy and of course, we want to build relationships with individuals, non-profits, and community foundations.
EG: What do you plan to do tactically to achieve your strategic goals? I’ll make that sound less boring—how will you interact with Winnipeggers?
There’s not just one way, it’s going to be a thousand little things. We’ll try to provide content that is interesting, invite feedback, comment on what other people are doing and try to participate more fully in the Winnipeg online community. We’ll make sure we’re not just talking, but also listening. We’re going to start another blog related to philanthropy and have a variety of people contribute to it.
Once we’ve established a solid presence on the main social media sites, we’ll be able to expand and join more niche sites. We watch our sector colleagues closely and are always getting ideas from what other people are doing. Our strategy will change based on what’s happening around us.
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