P.C.Pop with Pablo

NPO Social Media and Marketing – Unique Culture of Non Profits

In Leadership, Malavenda, marketing, Pablo Malavenda, social media, Uncategorized on September 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm


I have recently become the first ever Director of Social Media and Marketing at a very well respected Non-Profit Organization in our region – which is an exciting new opportunity for me that taps into decades of experience. But how different is the world of NPO’s versus the corporate and education environments? Quick answer – Very; long answer – it’s exactly the same only really different.

As a higher education professional with an interest in technology I was one of few social networking “experts” among my peers. Since 2004, I have presented dozens of workshops and keynotes on Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 and social media in general mostly to educators, education administrators, coaches, and students. As an officer of an NPO, I soon began consulting with many agencies in our city, region and state.

This new Social Media position combines my experiences with nonprofits, my many years of marketing and promoting events and services within higher education, and my knowledge and experiences with social media. In many ways this position is perfect for me. My first task, even before starting the job officially, was to plan my first 5 steps in achieving the marketing goals of the nonprofit. I pulled out my Social Media Marketing Plan and was tempted to jump right in with stage one – Awareness. But upon further reflection, I decided in order to succeed I needed to remember that although the work would be familiar, the rules of working within an NPO would be very different. I also needed to know a lot more about the culture of this particular NPO.

So before jumping in the social media pool feet first, I needed a reality check. One of the most important differences with NPO’s is the organizational structure. Who has the authority? What’s the responsibility of the Board? What’s the responsibility of the executive director? What is the actual chain of command? This is important because as a marketing professional you must build Awareness first and then Educate next – but in this case the Board (not you) is the authority on WHAT you are going to promote. This chain of command giving the Board supreme control over the purpose, scope, and mission of the NPO are dictated for the most part by the IRS who grants their tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Another important responsibility of the Board is the hiring and oversight of the Executive Director. That being said, the Board should NOT get involved in the hiring and supervision of the rest of the staff and the day to day execution of the NPO’s services, programs and general operation.  The rest of the staff reports to and is the responsibility of the Executive Director. As the Social Media specialist it is critical to your success to know how you fit in and accept the role of the Board and the Executive Director.

This structure may sound very restrictive but in practice it is quite dynamic. The structure of the Board is such that you will see great passion and commitment in the long term success of the NPO. The Board and the executive director typically communicate regularly and establish an ambitious vision – which always includes marketing and outreach. The great news is if they have the insight to create YOUR position focusing on social media, you can be certain that they will support you and your ideas. They realize that the ways NPO’s have been using to communicate need to evolve with technology. Soon you will be breaking new ground for your NPO using social media to build Awareness about your agency, to Educate your community on the program and services and eventually to Engage your community until individuals become compelled to take Action by volunteering and giving of their time, treasure and talent.

Now take the plunge.


Read other PC Pop blog posts about Social Media & Marketing:


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