The other day, I was talking with a young friend who I tutor after school. In a moment of honesty, she confessed to me that she often fails to complete her homework because she can’t pull herself away from Facebook, You Tube and other all-too-available online distractions.
It was hard for me to offer advice, because I too spend too much time online – just like almost everyone I know! I periodically entertain a lengthy internal monologue about the value of social media websites, and the time I spend using them. Usually, I am left feeling guilty and lazy, and resolve to limit my time online to checking emails and doing research for work. And maybe one visit to Facebook a day…
Thankfully, not all uses of social media are purely self-indulgent, and not all time spent browsing around online is wasted! If your New Year’s Resolution is to be more purposeful with your time online, please read further.
The following is a list of easy things everyone can do to help the nonprofits they care about – all without leaving the comfort of your computer!
1.) “Like” your favorite nonprofit’s Facebook page
The more people an organization reaches regularly, the more attractive it is to funders. Facebook provides a quick snapshot of an organization’s reach, and its numbers are relatively trustworthy, in that they are not easily feigned or exaggerated. Many applications for grants and sponsorships even require applicants to list how many Facebook friends they have.
A nonprofit boasting 2,500 Facebook followers is better positioned to receive funding than a similar nonprofit with only 300. When strong applicants are up against one another, number of Facebook followers can be a deciding factor in which one gets the grant.
A word of caution: Be judicious when “liking” the pages of nonprofits and charities. With lots of Facebook friends involved in lots of causes, we get dozens of requests to “like” pages. Keep in mind that Facebook followers sometimes do play a role in determining who gets grants. If you don’t believe in the mission, you can quietly decline to “like” a page. Learn more about how nonprofits use Facebook.
2.) Explore your nonprofit’s website
Just like Facebook friends, web traffic is another metric that foundations and corporations use to gauge organizational reach. Google Analytics makes information about web traffic readily available, and most nonprofits track this information for use in grants and sponsorship proposals.
Corporate funders are especially interested in how many unique visitors are perusing the sites of their beneficiaries. In exchange for financial support, nonprofits provide sponsors with exposure and publicity. This usually includes acknowledgement on the organization’s website, with links to the sponsoring company’s site.
If you think an organization’s mission is particularly compelling, take a moment to browse its site. Click through the different pages, and read up on the latest news. You will learn more about the organization, and boost its numbers for unique visitors and pages visits.
And, if you really want to help the organization maintain good standing with corporate sponsors, click through to the sponsoring company’s website! The company will see that the nonprofit is driving users to its site, and appreciate the marketing value of the sponsorship.
3.) Join the e-mail list
Mailing lists are another important way to offer marketing value to sponsors, and most sponsorship agreements involve recognition in email blasts and e-newsletters.
For instance, if Bank ABC provides support for a concert, all related emails are likely to include the language “Presented by Bank ABC” or “Made possible by Bank ABC”, with a link to the company’s website.
Potential sponsors want to know how far this recognition will go, and almost always ask for the number of subscribers on a nonprofit’s mailing list. The more subscribers a nonprofit has, the more attractive its proposal is to potential funders.
Of course, I wouldn’t advise anyone to sign up for any and every nonprofit newsletter, which is one quick way to clutter up your inbox. But if there’s an organization that you really like, whose emails you don’t yet receive, you may want to consider joining the mailing list. It’s a quick and easy way to lend a hand.
4.) Take it a step further: join the conversation!
Having lots of friends and followers doesn’t mean much if users aren’t engaged.
Many nonprofits have staff members dedicated solely to social media, whose job it is to get conversations started with the public. Take a few moments to respond to their posts, answer questions, or comment on a new photo. Use these public forums to express your support for the organization. Re-tweet and share information from your nonprofit, and ask friends to follow or subscribe. Tag your nonprofit in your status updates, and let friends know when you are attending an event, performance, volunteer opportunity or fundraiser.
When a nonprofit asks for feedback – whether its via an email survey, a Facebook post or an online forum – take a moment to respond. Your input matters! Nonprofit administrators are listening, and funders appreciate the evidence of community involvement.
The value of social media can only be as great as its ability to further our interests, ideals, and connections with the world around us. These sites are endless fountains of money for their creators – luckily, with minimal effort, we can use them to direct a little bit of money to nonprofits as well.