How nonprofits can leverage social media to gain funder support

By Nathan Bemis (WRAG Summer Intern) and
Katy Moore (Director of Member Services)

Last week, Danielle Reyes and Melody Fitzgerald of the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation hosted a social media training for area nonprofits at the Foundation Center. The training offered valuable insight into why grantmakers are interested in the social media presence of their grantees and provided tips on what funders are looking for in grant proposals and reports as they relate to social media.

Using their own experiences, as well as an informal survey of 10 local funders, Danielle and Melody highlighted the possibilities for social media bringing people together by allowing nonprofits to reach broader audiences and build communities.

They highlighted the fact that through social media, an organization can broadcast its story to large numbers of people and recruit volunteers easily and efficiently. Organizations can also engage in effective internal communication through messaging and tools for organizing, which can assist in the process of fundraising.

They then went on to discuss the top reasons grantmakers value their grantees’ social media efforts. First and foremost, nonprofits can’t afford not to be in the social media space given the fact that the rest of society communicates through these networks every day. Moreover, social media has proven to be a low cost way to maximize and identify resources. A local funder said that social media-competent nonprofits “show that they have the capacity as an organization to think and act strategically, and are actively fundraising, advocating and reaching new audiences,” making them more attractive to prospective funders.

Danielle and Melody also offered a few strategies that nonprofits can use for successful social media integration, including:

•  Connecting social media to all communications and program work
•  Inviting funders to subscribe an organization’s blog and promoting links and images
•  Liking funders on their social media sites and interacting with them
•  Adding social media links to staff signatures, voicemail, and letterhead
•  Involving all staff
•  Experimenting and “failing forward”
•  Hiring with a social media lens
•  Continuing to learn

Wrapping up, the presentation dealt with ways to talk to funders about social media. As one local funder pointed out, “information [in grant proposals and reports] is mainly focused on quantitative data (e.g. number of followers).” To this end, attendees were encouraged to make use of visual methods of presenting data – using videos and infographics, for example – and to have stories ready to illustrate the role social media plays in the day-to-day life of their organizations.

At the end of the day, one of the most important components of a successful nonprofit social media strategy is being able to leverage successes to gain support from funders. As, Danielle and Melody advised, the bottom line is measurement. Nonprofits need to be prepared to demonstrate to funders exactly how social media is serving their missions.