10 Simple Ways Non-Profits Can Win At Social Media Marketing

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Did you see Google‘s announcement earlier this week about Google For Non-Profits? Here’s the Blog posting from the Official Google Blog titled, Google For Non-Profits:

"Many of you spend your days making this world a better place, and we want to do our part to help. Today, we’re excited to launch Google For Non-Profits, a one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization’s mission in a smart, cost-efficient way… This site features ideas and tutorials for how you can use Google tools to promote your work, raise money and operate more efficiently. And to get inspired, you’ll also find examples of innovative ways other non-profits are using our products to further their causes."

I applaud the effort.

As someone who spends a lot of time in front of people who are either directly connected to a Non-Profit as a Professional, or those who give their own valuable time in a volunteer capacity, I’m constantly flabbergasted by Non-Profits lack of embracing Social Media and Web 2.0 tools to further their goals.

The general feedback I get is, "we don’t have the time because of our limited staff," or "we don’t have the funds to really make it work." Neither statements really hold any water if you know anything about these tools.

1. If Non-Profits did embrace Social Media Marketing tools, my guess is they would save tons of time, and as they started getting their message out there, their communities would help and, in effect, do a lot of the work for them.

2. Most Social Media and Web 2.0 tools are cheap (if not free). So, that statement alone usually signals to me that they don’t even know what’s available to them.

I understand the time commitment when it comes to creating and posting regularly to a Blog, but here are ten simple ways any Non-Profit can create awareness, encourage mass collaboration and get the word out there using Social Media:

1. del.icio.us  – create a centralized location for every piece of content related to your cause that may interest the group. Make sure to encourage people to add their own links, tags and resources there as well.

2. flickr – post photos from your events, and encourage attendees to do the same. Everyone likes seeing those pictures in the society pages of a newspaper, leverage that vibe in the online space.

3. twitter – let people know (short and quickly) where you’re at, what’s happening or what you need. No time to Blog? How about micro-blogging?

4. Google Reader – centralize all of your feeds in one place – save yourself time – every day – by creating watchlists and Google News Alerts. You can even export the OPML file and give it to those who want to follow whatever it is you’re looking at.

5. BarCampPodCamp – check out some free unconferences in your area, and copy the model for your own needs. Free events that are self-organizing might well be the best way for you to learn, and a great new event for you to introduce to your organization. Imagine the learnings you could cull from your own unconference?

6. YouTube – corporate videos, grab some cool clips at an event, video testimonials? create a channel on YouTube (or any other online video sharing site). It’s free, and it could well help with getting your message out there and, if tagged correctly, there might even be some Search Engine Optimization benefits.

7. Google Grants – a small, simple process could get you some free online advertising.

8. Widgets – get your organization on the desktop of the people who matter most to you. There are tons of free tools that let you create desktop widgets for free.

9. Wikis – if anything screams "community," it’s a wiki. Leverage this mass collaboration tool to work on documents, proposals or propose new concepts and future trends by working together as a team.

10. Online Social Networks – groups, fan pages, individual profiles, applications – there are many ways to get involved in spaces like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to engage your community. If you think it’s possible, you can even start your own online social network using Ning.

None of these require much in terms of money. Yes, they will all take time (I know, "time is money"), but once you get rolling, the cost-benefits of engaging in these environments will not only wind up saving you time in the long-term, but will introduce more and more people to your organization and raise awareness. This, in turn (and if done properly) will raise more money and help take your Non-Profit to the next level.

The big challenge to date has been doing it properly. This is not a "build it and they will come" world. To create community you have to give way more than take. You have to provide value and information so others connect and become loyal. That being said, based on the many great Non-Profits I have seen, this should not be a challenge. It’s more a question of creating the right strategy to build online community up-front, instead of trying everything and claiming none of it worked. I’ve been watching this space. Just because you created a Facebook Group does not mean you are using Social Media and Web 2.0 environments. You have to figure out what makes your area unique, who you are trying to reach, and what might they be receptive to and willing to take part in that will add value to their lives as well?

Social Media Marketing is a tool that is already working for big brands. Imagine what it can do for those who are doing everything they can to make the world a better place? 


  1. As a new Marketing VP at a non-profit I have enjoyed learning about social media from you, John Wall & Chris Penn, Albert Maruggi, Todd Henry and many others. I hope to take full advantage of the Google grants program, an upcoming blog we’re putting together and any other suggestions frontier leaders like you have up your sleeve. There is so much potential as you’ve outlined here, so thank you for the additional input.

  2. Good piece again Mitch. In Soctland we have been doing some work with non-profits and I agree with everything you say.
    One major benefit we have highlighted is the ability of the non-profit organisation to provide greater support and exposure for its fundraisers and their events.
    Didn’t know about Google Grants, I will check that out.
    Gordon White

  3. Thanks for this – super interesting piece.
    I’m happy to be working on a social media project with Moisson Montréal, Canada’s largest foodbank.
    Watch for it : it is set to launch by mid-April.

  4. Thank you for all those advices. Michelle Sullivan had the great idea to refer me to your post. I’m working for Moisson Montréal (Montreal Harvest) and I’m learning everyday how to use Social Media in my communications strategies.
    For those who are interested, I talked about a good formation in Montreal who gives tips and tools for free publicity for Non-Profits, on my blog (in French).

  5. Gadgets powered by Google are miniature objects made by Google users like you that offer cool and dynamic content that can be placed on any page on the web.

  6. I’m a Public Relations student hoping to go into working for a non-profit organization. Over the last 3 years while I’ve been attending college, I have been involved in projects some of which we had to find ways to attract people to believe in our cause.
    I did not realize the impact that Social Media Marketing could have for a non-profit organization. If we are to attract more people to take notice of our cause the best way is online. In Ontario 72% of households use a computer, that means that the majority of people are online, which means that online marketing makes a lot of sense.
    I also agree with you that online marketing is cost effective. The small amount of funds that it takes to literally reach thousands of people is most certainly worth it, not to mention the time that is saved by not having to knock on doors or canvass.

  7. This was a really good article. I just formed a partnership that help women who are being released from prison get back on their feet. My responsibility is to bring as much attention I can to the program and to raise $500,000 to cover the expenses of the non-profit.

  8. i really am interrested in this but i am sceptical…and who am i to trust them or you…i am confused and wish i new what to believe
    money and profit

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