Social Media in Nonprofit Program & Service Delivery


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These slides were originally created for a webinar with NTEN on October 26, 2010 - The webinar discussed opportunities for using social media to expand and open up programs in nonprofit organizations. Connect and continue the conversation at

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  • My name is Amy Sample Ward and I’m a blogger, trainer, and facilitator working with nonprofits, community groups, campaigns and individual changemakers to use technology effectively for social impact. I strongly believe that the most sustainable way to make lasting social change is to build strong communities; and much of my work is focused on using social media to do just that. I often take part in events like this to share and connect with organizations from around the world, but I also serve as the Community Development Manager for a program area at TechSoup Global called Community-Driven Innovation, where I manage, among other things, the strategy and community for

    Before we dive into the main presentation, I want to take a minute to be explicit that I do work for TechSoup Global, an organization that has many relationships and offers many nonprofit discounts, and I was invited to speak by the folks at NTEN who also have their own set of partners and sponsors. But, that said, I am tool agnostic and hope that for the next hour we can all remain open to the very different contexts everyone here works in whether it’s platforms to training to budget. Let’s have a tool-safe session 
  • This webinar is intended to share lots of examples and spark ideas – not necessarily focus on data or research. In that vein, I hope there is time at the end for questions and since we don’t have too many people on the call we can open up to discussion to hear about what you’re working on and how social media may be able to support your programs.
  • There are just a few things I want to define before we start the conversation. First of all: community. It’s a word I personally use A LOT. And know it comes up all the time, in many different ways, with social media. For the context of this talk, I’m using a pretty loose frame: community means the most related network to your work – for someone running a local fundraising campaign for a homeless shelter, community would mean the funders, volunteers, local government or community leaders, those being served and so on. It’s easy to say that the term applies to all those in the world doing the same thing, all those serving the homeless, all those that are homeless. And when talking about movement building, I completely agree. But for the sake of this talk, and looking at your own use of social media, we need to start closer to home.
  • The next big one to define is “social media.” This graphic is really a super small snapshot of the tools and applications considered social media. What I’m defining this as for our talk today, and the same one I use generally in my work, is anything that enables interaction online. Pretty vague, but important to note that it’s interaction and not just content.
  • Lastly, we need to define programs! This can be tricky to define too specifically as everyone on this webinar probably has a different definition but also a different application for the term in their organization. For sake of this conversation, let’s refer to programs as any support operations within your organization that require budgets, staffing, and/or other resources.
  • When we think about “social media” many people think about communications, or marketing – more and more people are also thinking of social media in fundraising. But the core element of social media is engagement. This is the key to bringing social media into all of your organization’s work including programs and services. Social media can be used for more than marketing and fundraising and understanding the engagement opportunities will allow you to make that transition.
  • The opportunities for organizations to integration social media into program work come in a few major areas, but are not limited to those on this list or that we talk about today. Really, the possibilities are extensive!
  • First up: volunteers! Some core questions to helping you identify opportunities for using social media with volunteers include: how do you engage with volunteers now – are you already talking to them online, where do they find you, where do they promote your work, what actions do your volunteers take and which platforms support those actions?
  • Recruiting volunteers or board members comes from asking, and from promoting the opportunity to get involved. You can promote opportunities all over, anywhere that you have a presence. This is an example of Greenpeace International’s facebook page – note that you land on the “take action” tab instead of the wall. You are immediately given ways to get involved, with an email sign up and then action links. It’s also a great example of recognizing that many people may find you, but be looking for something or someone else (another branch of your organization etc.), so here they have listed how to find other greenpeace offices in other countries and other languages.
  • Creating a space online for your volunteers to connect with each other and share knowledge can foster more community within the network, but also mean that you aren’t required for every question to be answered or to provide information about every aspect of the work. This is a screen shot of the Community Organizer’s Handbook – a public resource that was created and is maintained by the NetSquared Local organizers around the world. New organizers are directed to the handbook immediately for information and resources from other organizers and groups and everyone is encouraged to continue updating it with examples and best practices.
  • In conjunction with creating online learning spaces, using social media to foster relationships with volunteers also includes leadership development. Providing public recognition for volunteers going above and beyond is a simple way to highlight their work, provide positive reinforcement and a context-based reward (recognition within the same space or platform where the volunteer is contributing) and also supports those volunteers taking a leadership role based on their spotlight. One example where leadership development is core and done well is with the Nonprofit Commons – Nonprofits in Second Life. This project was founded and directed by my colleague Susan Tenby and this is a screen shot from the NPSL home page where we can see Jessica Dally is being recognized for her contributions and is now a TSG team member. Jessica started as a participant, then a volunteer organizer, and through leadership development in the space earned trust and respect and now even a job offer.
  • The next set of opportunities focus on educational programs. The core questions to consider here are what are some of the most common questions you field either via email or even in person – put them online! People are asking because they can’t find the answer in the information you’re sharing. Is there other information that is lost or not even available online? Try using various tools to make that information more digestible and shareable.
  • There are many tools that provide you with ways to educate your community in real time, and long term - this webinar is a perfect example! We are all together now, but it will also be archived and shared, so others who couldn’t be here today can still get the information and even join in via comments on slideshare or the blog, etc. There are many ways you can use videos and webinars to support your educational programs including thing like “how tos” or other explanations and guides; understanding an issue, law, bill or other proposal via individuals’ own words or capturing a Q&A on video, the list goes on and on. This is a screen shot of where, like NTEN, there is a huge selection of informational webinars and links to all of the archives.
  • Forums and blogs are other great options for moving educational opportunities online. offers forums for free that you can embed into your website – no messy installation or heavy tech knowledge needed. This is a screen shot for the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre who runs a technology camp for girls and women each year that leverages the tools they are learning as part of the process! This is how it works: the girls are learning about blogs and many other social technologies, and each week there is a different topic with a corresponding “expert” or guest that posts on their blog about the topic. The girls then use the comments to have a discussion and then write their own blog posts on the same blog platform discussing what they have learned that week and what they think about the topic – again letting the guest for the week comment back on their blog posts. The learning and process is then captured and instantly archived, but the girls are also using the medium to learn in real time.
  • Live chats offer another unique way to use social media to expand your educational programs. The two examples here include: on the left, BlogTalkRadio where Social Actions team members could join community members and partners for conversations and then archive and share; on the right is a promotion for the #socentchat or social entreprenuers chat that takes place each month on twitter. The benefit with both of these kinds of live chats is that others who don’t already know about your work could come across the conversation and join in. Twitter chats, especially, though are difficult to archive compared to BlogTalkRadio, ustream, blogs or other media types that are archived in real time.
  • Just like using video to create a help or resource document, you can use slideshare or other online toolkit style tools to share resources with your staff, volunteers, and the general public. Using a tool like slideshare also lets you embed that content on your website or blog, or easily link to it from wherever you may promote it online. This is a screen shot of Democracy for America’s slideshare profile – you can see they have documents they are sharing publicly to help organizers and those participating in events and more.
  • The next section to consider is supporting your accessibility; questions to consider here ask which events, conversations or other engagements are closed or limited right now – and closed doesn’t mean it’s invite-only but that you have to come in person, you have to be a member, etc. And what content are you already archiving privately – are your annual board meeting or conference, do you capture video of presentations? Do you take photos at rallies or events? There’s probably content you have already that you can be opening up and engaging your community around in a long-term way.
  • We all know that video is a compelling media – how many of us have gotten sucked into youtube by watching a video and then clicking on the next one! But it can also create a way for more people to access your ideas and your conversations. This is a screen shot of the Rotary International youtube channel (check out youtube’s nonprofit program!). This video is asking, as you can see, “how can rotary attract new members?” Traditionally, this is probably a conversation that would take place offline, behind closed doors, in a meeting of directors or board members – but now they can open up to those that may be the potential new members and invite them in, and everyone in between.
  • Much like the example with slideshare before, here is a great example of sharing information online. This is a screen shot of Park City Education Foundation’s slideshare profile where they have posted all kinds of reports and data. Again, the benefit here is that not only is this information now posted on slideshare but it can be embedded on their website, linked to in emails (instead of massive attachments) and so on. It’s often difficult to find recent data from an organization, especially a school district or other education organization, where the website is probably last on the list of to do items – using slide share in this way is helping ensure that the parents, children and community can easily access information about their work.
  • Many organizations have programs or services that rely on reporting issues, tracking reports, and documenting efforts to improve a physical community or geography. Using social media tools, you can provide opportunities for the citizens in your community to actually help with the task of reporting and citing issues. This is a screen shot of FixMyStreet, a tool developed in the UK by mySociety, and SeeClickFix. A great example is the IdleFreePhilly campaign for clean air. The Clean Air Council saw the tool demoed at a NetSquared Local event in Philadelphia and got connected with the team – they were able to create the IdleFreePhilly platform using seeclickfix so citizens could easily report air quality and truck idling issues, contributing to and supporting their campaign.

    Read the full story:
  • Lastly, let’s talk about how social media can help you scale programs. A couple questions to consider here include where can social media support replication – if you are sending the same message to people across your network maybe you can have that message be public where they can find it themselves, or reporting and following up can be automated; and which hubs in the network can change to distribution points – do you already have a facebook group perhaps that could be used as a messaging or action center? Maybe you have groups elsewhere online or partners in the network that are already collaborating for similar goals or actions.
  • Scaling your work by sharing resources often leads organizations to think about intranets or other tools that exist “behind the firewall” but what if you did the sharing publicly? This is a screen shot of connectipedia, a tool developed with the foundations, nonprofits, government agencies and community groups in oregon and SW washington in mind, supported by the Meyer Memorial Trust. They had program officers retiring after decades in service and realized how much knowledge they were taking with them as they left the office, so they started investigating “knowledge management” tools and platforms. That is when they realized that a lot of the need and a lot of the knowledge wasn’t just within the foundation but was across the sector. So connectipedia is an answer to that: providing a space for anyone to share and access data, information, reports, and other resources (human or otherwise).
  • Creating toolkits for your community, whether they are volunteers, fundraisers, or even contributors you haven’t yet met or registered in your database, is an excellent way to make your work more efficient and let technology do the replication for you. This is a screen shot of the American Red Cross’s website where they have created a toolkit for local blood drive coordinators – as you can imagine, this is an event that happens MANY times a year and with loads of different volunteers. Creating a toolkit that is online and easy to use means Red Cross staff aren’t spending time coordinating the same information over and over again but can simply point people to the resources they need. Then, if questions arise, you know they already have access to general information and the assistance they need is more specific and probably requires staff support.
  • Distributing messages online is always a complicated equation trying to balance information with engagement, action with interaction, and authenticity with organizational branding. The team at always do a tremendous job striking that balance. This is a screen shot of an invitation that they posted on their website – they send a very similar message to the list of organizers who had signed up to lead local events for 10/10/10 – posting the message online, edited to be appropriately facing the world and not a specific organizer, they can now point people there from anywhere else (like twitter, facebook, etc) and can provide organizers around the world with a compelling message they can easily reuse for their own event recruitment and promotion. There is no better way to “control” your message or ensure that your community is spreading information about your organization that is true, than by providing them with the message and tools up front.
  • Now that you’ve run down lots of examples, let’s put them in the right context by looking at some best practices. Questions to consider include “how can social media support our work” – remember, this isn’t about creating a new work in order to use social media, but letting the technology support what you’re already doing. And, “which tools are already in use” – again, about leveraging and expanding, not trying to create new stuff.
  • The first best practice is to concentrate your efforts in the sweet spot. To do that, we use this nifty venn diagram. Here’s how you use it: first identify what your community wants to do, and remember that the community wants to do all kinds of things, and many of them have nothing to do with your mission or your services or your work – what it is coming together around, whether it’s an event, an action, or a movement. Next, identify what you want to do, what your organizational goals are; and again, there’s going to be aspects of your work that the community is really not that interested in. Those two “wants to do” areas will overlap and that gray area is the sweet spot. The key here is knowing it’s okay that the circles don’t entirely overlap! Maybe you provide services, and your community doesn’t want to be providing those services, but they are happy you are doing so. And maybe the community wants to endorse a specific candidate, and your organization doesn’t. But both the community and your organization want to see certain laws passed, things improved, programs created or groups supported. That’s the sweet spot where you can focus your energy.
  • Much of our work requires actions offline, but using social media tools to bridge actions, communities, and conversations on both sides of the computer screen can help you with scale and accessibility. Connect online and offline by integrating a live chat or streamed video from your event offline to the online community. Allow people to ask questions or share ideas virtually. Be willing to take the lead as the shepherd between offline and online, making connections in public (by posting on the same platforms as your members) so that others can follow.
  • Community Mapping.
    You can do this by yourself, but I recommend doing it as a team or even as an organization. You’d be surprised the kinds of conversation that emerge when you start talking about your community, especially as it is understood by various departments in your organization.
    Create a chart – either on a whiteboard, a flipchart, or even a document on your computer.
    The first column has all of your groups or segments of the community; next their goal – try to keep this as general as possible like the examples above. The third column is your goal for the interaction with that group, and again you want to keep it pretty high level. And lastly, this is the column for the tools where that segment wants to be interacting with you.
    Having this be an exercise for a team or staff meeting, or even retreat, really gets people talking and sharing experiences from different departments and can help the entire group feel better positioned to engage.
  • Link everywhere to everywhere else! Ignite connections by ensuring that any profile you have online, whether it’s facebook or twitter or flickr or anything else, all provides links to other profiles and your website; link to or promote ways to get involved, contribute or volunteer as well. You never know – someone may see a compelling video and think “huh, I wish I could volunteer for them but I don’t see their website and I don’t even know if they have opportunities for me…” Be sure they know the answer is yes!
  • Most photos used in this presentation were screen shots taken on or near October 25, 2010 – other photos were found on Flickr via creative commons license and credited here.
  • Anyone have questions? I’d love to un-mute the lines and hear how those on the call are already or are looking to use social media in programs!
  • Thanks so much for joining me! I really hope we can continue talking about this topic and I’m eager to hear more about your organization’s examples. You can connect with me any time on twitter, email or the web. Thanks again!
  • Social Media in Nonprofit Program & Service Delivery

    1. 1. Amy Sample Ward Using Social Media in Program Delivery Amy Sample Ward October 26, 2010
    2. 2. Welcome I’m Amy: a blogger, trainer, and facilitator focused on supporting organizations and local communities to use social media in strengthening networks and making lasting change. I’m also the Community Development Manager, CDI at TechSoup Global. | @amyrsward | Transparency: I might work for TechSoup Global and was asked to present by NTEN, but I am presenting from a tool agnostic position. Likewise, I invite everyone on this call to join me in recognizing that all organizations face a different set of needs around capacity, funding, and community that impact tool choices. Amy Sample Ward
    3. 3. Agenda • Definitions • Opportunities • Best Practice • Questions • Discussion Amy Sample Ward
    4. 4. Definitions: Community Amy Sample Ward
    5. 5. Definitions: Social Media Amy Sample Ward
    6. 6. Definitions: Programs Amy Sample Ward
    7. 7. Engagement Amy Sample Ward
    8. 8. Opportunities • Volunteers & board members • Education • Accessibility • Scale Amy Sample Ward
    9. 9. Volunteers • Recruitment • Knowledge Sharing • Leadership Questions to consider: How do you engage with volunteers now? Does your online community know how they can volunteer with you? Amy Sample Ward
    10. 10. Volunteer: Recruitment Amy Sample Ward
    11. 11. Volunteer: Knowledge Sharing Amy Sample Ward
    12. 12. Volunteer: Leadership Development Amy Sample Ward
    13. 13. Educational Programs • Webinars & Videos • Forums & Blogs • Live Chats • Slideshare & Toolkits Questions to consider: What common questions do you receive offline or on the phone? What information is often lost on your website due to length or topic? Amy Sample Ward
    14. 14. Education: Video & Webinar Amy Sample Ward
    15. 15. Education: Forums & Blogs Amy Sample Ward
    16. 16. Education: Live Chats Amy Sample Ward
    17. 17. Education: Slideshare & Toolkits Amy Sample Ward
    18. 18. Accessibility • Sharing videos, live streaming • Post minutes, notes, information • Public outreach, feedback Questions to consider: Which events, conversations, or other engagements are closed or limited? What content are you already archiving? Amy Sample Ward
    19. 19. Access: Video Amy Sample Ward
    20. 20. Access: Information Amy Sample Ward
    21. 21. Access: Feedback Amy Sample Ward
    22. 22. Scaling Programs • Open up resources • Create a toolkit • Distribute messages Questions to consider: Where can social media support replication? Which hubs in the network can change to distribution points? Amy Sample Ward
    23. 23. Scale: Share Resources Amy Sample Ward
    24. 24. Scale: Create Toolkits Amy Sample Ward
    25. 25. Scale: Distribute Messages Amy Sample Ward
    26. 26. Best Practice • Goals – sweet spot • Connect – offline • Strategy – sustained engagement Questions to consider: How can social media support our work? Which tools are already integrated in our work and integrated in our community? Amy Sample Ward
    27. 27. Goals Amy Sample Ward
    28. 28. Connect Amy Sample Ward
    29. 29. Strategy Amy Sample Ward
    30. 30. 1 Thing to do Today Amy Sample Ward
    31. 31. Photo Credits • Slide 4: • Slide 5: • Slide 6: • Slide 7: • Slide 8: • Slide 9: • Slide 31: • Slide 33: Amy Sample Ward
    32. 32. Questions & Discussion Amy Sample Ward
    33. 33. Thanks! I look forward to continuing the conversation with all of you: @amyrsward @netsquared Amy Sample Ward