Helping Nonprofits Communicate

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Helping Transition Board Members

Do you ever feel like your managing team or board members look uncomfortable the minute you start talking about social media?

You’re not alone.  Most nonprofit boards and managing teams are compromised of some men and women born before 1955 who are scared of any and all social media. How do you help them see the value in something they don’t understand or are afraid will ruin your organization?

At my most recent social media training I had the opportunity to teach a room full of nonprofit management players primarily 50-65 years old.  There were 9 of us.  Only 3 of us were under the age of 45 and the other 6 had either a) never or rarely used facebook or b) never heard of twitter.  To say it was a steep learning curve would be an understatement.  I walked into this training meeting with a few different presentations in my pocket but quickly realized I wasn’t going to be training them on the turn-key operations of social media.  What was I going to be doing instead?

1. Calm Their Fears

Put it into perspective: Up until about 6 years ago, communications were primarily done on paper and the phone.  Both time and thought (and editing) went into your mass communications.  You had control over your message.  Social media, if not understood, is an uncontrollable monster taking the think you prize most and spreading like wildfire – with typos!

Our clients had legitimate concerns about privacy and risk management.  We took the time to address potential situations and mapped out a social media policy.  The social media policy was very enticing – something ON paper that helped them determine and have control over their message.

2.  Empower Them

Knowledge is power, for our clients the Social Media Policy was the first key to their empowerment.  We went step-by-step explaining how things work on facebook and twitter, providing disclaimers and algorithms transferrable from a “pre-social media world” to now.  We also spent a chunk of time going through the basic functionalities on facebook and twitter.  We practiced making comments, creating status updates, and learning how (and when) to use hashtags.   After practicing and realizing it wasn’t difficult they even got a little excited about the idea.  The idea they could communicate with someone instantaneously via twitter blew their ‘cold calling’ strategies right open.  Once they were empowered with knowledge and confidence they were able to see the benefits of engaging through social media.

3.  Specify Their Goals

Social media can be that elusive ‘shiny object’ if there aren’t concrete goals.  There is nothing worse your board members can think of than a ‘waste of time’ on ‘some kids toy.’  Discuss primary goals and how they can be achieved by social media.  For example, our client wanted to have an online presence to recruit not only more employees but to build awareness in their community.   We created a social media strategy providing a specific content calendar and day-to-day tasks geared to those two goals.  We also gave benchmarks and metrics on how we would determine when and if we were achieving them.  Hard facts are more helpful that ‘feelings,’ board members will be more likely to allow a “social media experiment” when there are set goals and timeframes to prove their worth.

4. Be Patient

Just because YOU see the no-brainer appeal to reaching thousands on a social media platform does not mean they will.  Most likely you will be going over the same ideas and instructions many times until they have confidence (see #2?) and feel empowered.  Be patient.  Remember a time in your life when you learned something out of your realm and how a little patience and understanding would go a long way.

5.  Bring In An Objective Opinion

The client we worked with had a younger team member who had been trying to convince them to engage on social media for over two years.  She finally convinced them to sign up for social media training sessions with us to “just see if they liked it.”  A professional outside opinion can soften the blow and often times be the voice of reason above the usual meeting tension.  We helped ease their fears and helped them understand the importance of an online presence, wrote a working social media policy, and created attainable goals they could work on together.  We will continue to check in on them quarterly to see how their goals are coming and helping them adjust based on their metrics.

Calm their fears, empower them, make attainable goals, be patient and suggest an objective opinion – five steps to making your next marketing meeting a success!


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