Getting started with social media

This week I have been mostly preparing for my Google+ webinar ‘Why Use Social Media’ (watch it on YouTube) which is part of the Grow Your Charity Online programme. It is aimed at small charities who are unsure whether social media is worth the time and effort or those who just don’t know where to start.

I have been particularly inspired by the four organisations who replied to my tweet sharing details of how social media has made a big difference to them. My huge thanks go to Make Lunch, Manchester Mind, Orphans in Need and Age UK Solihull.

There are so many resources and events out there to help charities get better at social media but not that many to help if you are just at the start of the journey. The how-to guides on KnowHow Nonprofit are excellent but the volume is quite daunting. To help, I made a new one which brings them all together: How to get started with social media.

The CharityComms guide to social media for charities is a slideshare presentation by Matt Collins and Vicky Browning. It is packed with useful advice to help you decide which channels (if any) are right for you.

Sometimes reading guides isn’t enough. It is useful to talk to someone who can help analyse which channels are right for you, help you think about how to use them and get you started. Please get in touch if you’d like me to help you.

The social media divide

This week it’s all about social media. It’s social media week – wickid! There are lots of events and hashtags to learn from. I’ve been reading Visceral Business’ Social Charity Index of the top 100 social charities where they ask whether we have reached a tipping point where social is the new normal. And today, Zoe Amar launched her top charity social CEOs competition citing research which said that “eight out of 10 people are more likely to trust and buy from an organisation whose CEO and leadership team use social media.”

But there are still many organisations who are very far behind. The digital divide is wide. Many are not on Twitter / Facebook / YouTube etc let alone Vine, Storify or Pinterest. Some struggle to have an online presence. Some don’t even have email (one example I heard recently was of an organisation run by women who had to ask supporters to email their husbands’ work accounts).  So the barriers of kit, skills, confidence, time are still very real.

Yet the benefits are big. We all know that the opportunities for sharing what we do, connecting with others and learning through social media are great. Visceral Business’ Anne McCrossan wrote very clearly about the benefits for small charities.

So, what can we do? As digital natives we can share what we have learnt to help others join the party. Can you add anything to KnowHow’s social media how-to guides? They are wiki’s so we should all keep them up-to-date and start guides on new topics. Do you support organisations new to social media with a welcome or #ff / #ct? Could you mentor someone via CharityComms who is just getting started?

Next week I am running a FREE google+ hangout via Media Trust’s Grow Your Charity Online site. The webinar session is called Why Use Social Media. Please join me or help spread the word using the #gyco hashtag.

Let’s share the love.

Other reading

Charging for content?

I recently did a proposal for a charity (here after known as MyCharity) who amongst other things were interested in exploring how they could generate funds from their content. Is it possible? Let’s look at the challenge…

Costly information sites

Charity websites generally have one big section which contains lots of useful information about their cause (such as information about living with XX condition / legal rights about XX / how to look after donkeys etc). They work hard to make the information clear, up-to-date and easy to find. It is worth doing this because they want the information to help people. Also they want to be high up in the search results to raise profile and to build relationships with new supporters.

However, it takes a lot of time and money to maintain so much information. When I was at KnowHow NonProfit we had lots of discussions about how to reduce the cost of maintaining information which lead us to experiment with wiki-fying sections of content. Hooray – the sector would maintain it’s own information! Not so fast…. It worked to some extent but took just as much time to nurture relationships with potential wiki editors.

A wiki is just not going to work for authoritative medical, legal or care-based information. So are there ways charities could generate funds from content to cover costs?

How to make content pay

1) Ask for donations

MyCharity was interested in how they could monetise their information guides as these were read by thousands of people each month (on and offline). There are lots of examples of information leaflets with a donation ask at the end such as this one from Epilepsy Society.

Information leaflet with membership / donation ask at the back

Online it is a different story. Lots of sites have a donate button at the top of the page but don’t specifically ask for a donation related to the transaction which has just taken place (ie the user reading, downloading or sharing the content).

This example from Blue Cross is the only one I found of a charity clearly and calmly asking for a donation at the end of an information page. The button at the end of the content says ‘How much was this information worth? Click here to donate’. They don’t give a suggested donation and the link goes to the general donation page.

Blue Cross - what is this content worth box
I imagine that someone reading this would be inspired only to give a small amount. Many online donation forms have a minimum amount, usually £5. So what happens if someone feel inspired to give a donation of £1 or £3? If this type of ask is only likely to generate small donation, an SMS donation option (eg JustTEXTgiving) may be more appropriate. Doing it this way is quicker, has fewer stages and doesn’t obviously lead to the donor being added to a database and sent further requests for money (often off-putting for small amount donors). Of course it means that the charity gets this type of donation without the personal details but that’s the trade off.

A suggested figure may also help here (as with online donation forms – see previous blog post). For example, a sentence in the style of a church sign ‘it costs £X to heat this church everyday, please consider making a donation’ or a museum ‘thanks for visiting today, please consider making a donation of £X’. This is stronger, more persuasive and gives the user a clearer idea of what is appropriate.

Church fundraising sign

2) Ask for contact details

It may be more valuable to capture data than small donations. MyCharity was keen understand and communicate with their readership as well as ask them for money. With thousands accessing their content guides each month, they felt like they were missing an opportunity to connect with these people more deeply. So it may have been appropriate for them to ask people to register for more detailed content to start that process.

There are lots of non-charity examples of this such as this report download from nfpSynergy ‘to download this report for free add your name and email address’.

NFP Synergy - add your contact details

And organisations giving premium content to members (whether membership is free or not) such as this exclusive fundraising video from KnowHow NonProfit.

KnowHow membership content

Charities often have additional, special content produced for members, such as a magazine which can be accessed online.

I haven’t managed to find any examples of charities asking people to register for premium content or information guides. Would this work?

3) Asking for payment

Are there any examples of non-profits asking for payment before access is given aka The Times paywall?

The Times paywall


Generating funds to pay for expensive and complicated websites is a big issue for charities. However, it doesn’t feel like many are testing out ideas or that anyone has cracked this yet. Publishing detailed information guides online is the standard and we all want people to read them. But many may fear that applying the three methods above could mean a loss in traffic or trust. But in these tough times, can we really continue putting so many resources into something which people use for free?

If you have examples or experience to share, please do add a comment we can all learn from.