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