Tag: CEO

Social Media 101 for Organizational Leaders

Here is a quick video talking about why organizational leaders should use social media to promote their brand, and cause:


Team Ronald

I am not sure that organizational leaders for a charity should take themselves too seriously. We do quite serious work, but the ability to have a little bit of fun and even take a little bit of personal embarrassment can be character building. One of our MarComm staff members said to me recently “when you dyed your hair pink and shaved it bald to raise money for the House and the local chapter of Make a Wish-we knew we could probably get you to do almost anything.”  Subsequently I was a willing participant in a fundraising stunt where I had to have a 5 km race with Ronald McDonald at our annual Rock the House Run. Both Ronald and I both raised pledges and the challenge was mainly geared at drawing attention and awareness to our new version of our peer to peer fundraising pledge pages. The stunt was a success as we did raise a little more incremental revenue for the event, but mostly because our pledge fundraisers were able to help us double the ROI for the event. The pledges also become the biggest source of fundraising for this event. In the past our sponsorships and our registrations had made up the majority of the revenue. Both sponsorships and registration went up that year but pledge donations still became the largest source of revenue.

Locally right now the price of oil is down, oil and gas is a major driver in our local economy. When the economy is depressed charitable organizations need to think creatively and be willing to try new things. For leaders of these organizations this is really a good time to personally use your influence to try newer and more innovative fundraising approaches. At this year’s Rock the House run I suppose I couldn’t just race Ronald again, watch the video below to find out what my team has cooked up for me this year.

You need to provide good information to have good governance.



           If you want your board to be able to think strategically and make good governance decisions you need to provide them good reports and good information. Not that most leaders out there are providing bad information or inaccurate information, but you also need to think –if you have the right people on your board they are likely very busy in their personal and professional lives. Therefore you need to provide them information in a format that is easily understandable.  Brinkerhoff (2004) states: “Mission effectiveness, the goal of a good steward, is nearly impossible without an inspired, motivated board and staff. And thus successful stewards have the ability to motivate others, to get them to go beyond the adequate to the excellent, to help them overcome obstacles; set high goals strive to be the best at their chosen craft.”  This is becoming a tall order, you have to provide information that is brief, easy to digest and remember, and it has to be exciting and inspiring.

          A few years back our organization was engaged in a lot of activities and there was a lot of growth going on. At the time our board met monthly (we meet every two months now). Every month my CEO report became bigger and bigger. I realized that quite a few of the board members were not reading the report until the meeting even though I would email it out to them a few days before. There was so many great things going on in the organization that I wanted to report on it all, but in reality as the report became a single spaced twenty plus page document most were not reading it. Not that they were not interested they would usually make me walk them through the whole report during the board meeting. The problem with this is board members were on the spot to decide what there impression of the outcomes in the report were, they did not have a lot of time to consider the reports before at times making decisions about action items. I was getting frustrated as I knew there were a lot of impressive things going on but we were hard pressed to give the items a lot of consideration during the board meetings. I decided to make two major changes. The first was to consider our board members like any other group we would market or promote ourselves too. We do newsletters and collateral for the public, our donor’s, volunteers etc. Essentially I got our Marketing and Communications Director to help create a newsletter format for the board. Not unlike our other newsletters, it has photos of what is going on in the Houses and it is rich with info graphics and charts and not quite so heavy on the text.  There is text for sure describing outcomes and initiatives but it also has a lot more white space and the information is easier to digest. Essentially we knew for our board like any other stakeholder group we needed to grab their attention as their world was full of reports, data and other information competing for their attention.

            The second thing I started to do different was I started sending a weekly email every Friday afternoon. I call it simply “The Top 5”. The email is a list of the most exciting top 5 to 10 things that happened that week. Could be a donor story, someone gave us $100,000 or two little girls had a lemonade stand and raised $49 bucks for us. I try to mix up the items quite a bit, stories about good things that happened to our kids, volunteer statistics, and how many hits on our website that week. Only rule is the “stories” have to be sound bites- each item can only be one sentence or at very most two. Now shortly after I started this practice our board members started talking about how much more they knew about what was going on in the organization. They didn’t need to orient themselves to what was going on –they felt more in the loop. Now the reality was I was actually providing them less total information. The newsletters were less than half as many pages and the text was much thinner. The information however was in formats that were easy to both digest and remember.

            The interesting thing is the practice has had an impact on the internal operations as well. I have been doing the top 5 for six years now. Imagine if you asked the CEO of IBM to list 5 to 10 awesome things that happened in their organization every week, do you think could do it? I don’t know the answer but doing it is an incredible discipline. It forces you to look for great things big and small happening in and for your organization.  To come up with at least 5 sound bites each week takes a little bit of thinking, so I have all my staff on alert to “catch their co-workers doing a good job”. Essentially the whole staff group knows to email ‘Great news stories” to the Director they work for each Friday morning. In turn the Directors email the good news in their department to me. Usually by Friday morning I have a few Top Five items typed and ready to go, but our staff team always has a few items that I hadn’t noticed or wasn’t aware of.  Anyway the short story is our organization has become better at celebrating our successes but also in always attending to items that we should inform and promote to our other stakeholder groups.


Brinckerhoff, P.C (2004) Nonprofit Stewardship: A better way to lead your mission-based organization:

            New York: Fieldstone Alliance

More views on Social CEOs


          If you read my earlier post  https://mathiesonlarry.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/does-your-charitys-ceo-tweet/ you will know that I am pro social media and think that nonprofit leaders should be active on social networks. I ran across an interesting blog post by Lauren Ohnesorge who interviews Dorie Clark a marketing strategist and professor at Duke University about the topic.  Clark points out a few pros and cons in having the boss on twitter. Clark suggests:” If a CEO is committed to being authentic online — and has reasonably good judgment — then tweeting is a terrific way to connect with customers, employees and the broader public.” When I read Ohnesorge’s article I tend to insert “donor” “volunteer” or “ consumer “ where she uses the word “customer”  as I think the CEOs use of social media can be a connection to these groups in much the same way a for profit leader connects with customers. For example Ohnesorge/Clark suggest;” By making themselves accessible on social media, they’re opening up a powerful channel of communication. CEOs often don’t get the straight scoop — they’re shielded from information by their subordinates. This way, if customers or employees or other stakeholders have an opinion, good or bad, it will get to the CEO directly. If they do it right, their presence on Twitter can also humanize them and the company they work for.” Having the ability to directly connect with your stakeholders seems like a pretty good reason to open up that social media account/page to me.


Ohnesorge, L 2014 Should CEOs tweet? We ask an expert. Charlotte Business Journal as retrieved from


Does your charity’s CEO tweet?

          I have to admit two years ago I was a social media skeptic. After seeing what SM could do for our charity I am now more of an addict than a skeptic. For 4 years I ran the Edmonton RMH as well as the Southern and Central Alberta RMHs. While I was running the Edmonton Chapter one of our board members was the co-anchor of the CTV evening news. She was a big fan of our Home for Dinner program in which community groups volunteer to make dinners for the families staying at the House. Erin was determined to get CTV to help us recruit more groups to make dinners. She had a team from the news station cook dinner and shoot a bunch of “b-roll”. They interviewed other volunteer groups about the program. Finally she had me come on to the stations lunch hour newscast and be interviewed while they rolled the tape. It was a long segment and we were thrilled that before the end of the day two new groups had signed up. At this time our twitter site for the house had almost 1000 followers. The day after the segment we figured “what if we tweeted that we needed more dinner groups” We blasted out a tweet and low and behold two more groups signed up. The “a-ha” moment was the tweet had taken about 15 seconds to create and send. We work pretty hard to get traditional media coverage and we don’t get it every day. However using our own social media channel we were able to get the same outcome as our local television station. Not that we have stopped trying to get traditional media coverage, but the situation clearly demonstrated the benefit of using our social media to increase our local profile. A few months after launching our social media channels for the Houses, I was becoming such a fan of SM that I decided I needed to start my own sites/page. At the time none of the other CEOs or Executive Directors for the Canadian Ronald McDonald House was personally on social media, actually I don’t think any of the CEOs for the House in the states were on SM either. More recently some of the CEOs have jumped on the bandwagon, and I have become a firm believer that nonprofit CEOs should have a social media presence.  When the CEO is engaged on SM there can be many benefits for their organization.

          Larry Kaplan suggests:” Businesses are now realizing that the CEO must be involved in social media activities. It raises a company’s thought leadership and credibility.” He goes on to describe: This is especially true for nonprofits, where thought leadership and credibility are much more critical to an organizations brand. Nonprofits are often defined by their policies, services and relationships with their communities-to a much greater extent than a business selling a product for example.”  Beth Kanter would further suggest that;” There are definitely some benefits to having your executive director or CEO present on social media channels. They can provide a human face to your organizations work, unique viewpoint, and serve as a thought leader in your field. “

           It may go beyond benefits for a charity, our world may be changing in such a way that an Executive may not have a lot of options in the future as to whether they chose to be social media savvy. Boards recruiting a new CEO want individuals who know finance, marketing, fundraising as well as how to design and deliver programs. Will social media prowess become a “must have: for executives in the nonprofit job market. Kaplan quotes Ann Charles in describing: “The role of the CEO has been transformed by social media and CEOs have no choice but to become more visible, social and accessible than ever before.”

          As CEOs of a charity we are concerned with spreading the word about our nonprofits mission and programs, we are also pretty concerned about attracting donors and financial supporters. To attract new supporters people need to know what you do, know that you are doing a good job at delivering this service and above all they need to trust your organization. This leads to another reason the nonprofit CEO may want to be active on social media. Zoe Amar points out;” 8 out of 10 people say they’re likely to trust an organization whose CEO and team use social media…[as well as] 8 out of 10 people are more likely to buy from an organization whose leaders use social media.”

          I am more than willing to accept that the sector may be changing in a way that social media usage will become a requirement of the job as a charity leader. I would go as far as to say I think the benefits far outweigh the costs of being engaged in/on SM. However like most CEOs the biggest challenge in being active on social media is the time commitment. About a year after I had started my own twitter (@larrymathieson) one of the other Ronald McDonald House CEOs asked me where I got someone to” do my twitter site? She would start twitter if she could find someone like that.” I laughed and told her I did all my own tweets. Jill manages the social media for our Houses but I did all my own tweets. It is an investment of time and I do think there could be some room for your staff assisting you in managing these feeds. Kaplan suggests;” It’s also important for the CEO to be personally engaged in social media. It’s okay to have staff (usually the public relations or communications officer, and sometimes the development department) manage and organize social media activity, and even ghost write portions of it. But the CEO needs to own and on some level create what goes out over his/her signature with minimal delegation.”  I would not disagree with Kaplan’s suggestion but I do lean a little more towards Kanter’s views in this area. She states;” …a CEO presence on social media is nothing that should be “ghost” written. It has to be authentic, reflect the CEO’s personality.”

          So you are a nonprofit leader and I have managed to convince you that you should be on social media, how do you find time?  I am not sure; when I first started working in the sector I didn’t have email. At some point answering and responding to email became part of my job, like everyone else I had to figure out a way fit it in. In some ways I think Amar in her Social Media for Charity Leaders: A Quick How to Guide, has some really practical advice.  She recommends;” I always say that social media is like exercise, even 10 minutes a day will make a difference, and the more you do the greater the return.”  I wish you luck in your own efforts and I think you will find Amar is right “the more you do the greater the return.”  By the way if you want to follow me –you can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram all using the handle @larrymathieson .



Amar, Z (2013) The Top 30 Charity CEOs on Social Media, Zoe Amar, as retrieved from: http://zoeamar.com/2013/11/22/the-top-30-charity-ceos-on-social-media/

Amar, Z & Collins, M (2013) Social Media for Charity Leaders; A Quick “How to” Guide, Zoe Amar Communications

Kanter, B (2010) Should CEOs and Executive Directors Use Social Media? On Beth’s Blog, as retrieved from: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2010/02/should-ceos-and-executive-directors-use-social-media.html

Kaplan, L . (2013) CEOs Must Embrace Social Media…Finally Nonprofit Quarterly,  as retrieved from : http://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22767-ceos-must-embrace-social-media-finally.html