You may want to look before you leap…

Nonprofits are flocking to social media, and many are using the tools creatively and well. Social media for nonprofits makes sense. After all, you want to talk to people about your cause, and your organization’s needs and people are using social media to have those very conversations.

In 2012, the pressure to get involved in social media and online marketing is intense, especially as nonprofits are feeling the effects of a tight economy and decreasing funding sources. While many organizations have learned to negotiate the world of social media effectively, more are struggling with small staffs, smaller budgets and lack of experience in using social networking and social media to help meet organizational goals.

According to the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report, 98 percent of respondents are using Facebook, and 72 percent are using Twitter, 44 percent are using Linkedin, and 23 percent are using Google+. The Sage Nonprofits Insights study found that 63 percent of respondents were using YouTube, but only 31 percent have a profile in popular blog tools or maintain a blog. Use of social media by nonprofits is going mainstream.

So, when considering social media for your nonprofit: should you jump in headfirst? If you haven’t jumped in already, here are six important questions to answer before you do. And, if you are already using social media to communicate on your nonprofit’s behalf, make sure you can respond to these questions too.

The Five W’s and the H

We’re all taught the Who, What, Where, Why, When and How’s of story telling. And the five W’s and the H provide you with a really valuable framework for any planning purposes. Success in using social media for organizational purposes relies heavily on strategy, focus and efficient use of available resources. Answering the five W’s and the H for your organization will help you move ahead strategically with the right focus and the best use of your available resources.

So take a minute and answer. Here you go:


  • Who does your organization support?
  • Who are you trying to talk to?
  • Who are they talking to?
  • Who do they know?
  • Who, within your organization, will support your social media initiative?
  • Who will resist?
  • Who will be responsible for creating and updating the accounts?
  • Who will be responsible for creating the content you share and who will be responsible for monitoring?
  • Who is empowered to make decisions on your organization’s behalf?


  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What are the goals and objectives?
  • What is the strategy?
  • What are your resources?
  • What stories can you tell about your organization and your cause?
  • What will success look like?
  • What about your organization is important to your stakeholders?
  • What constitutes a social media crisis?
  • What are your employees and volunteers authorized to do?
  • What is considered inappropriate?


  • Where do you start?
  • Where can you find your stakeholders?
  • Where can you find your volunteers and prospective employees?
  • Where will you find new funding sources?
  • Where do the members of the media hang out online?


  • Why is using social media the right way to communicate with this audience?
  • Why will they notice your efforts?
  • Why will they support your organization?
  • Why will they talk about you?
  • Why will they take action on your behalf?
  • Why don’t you have a social media policy in place?


  • When will you get started?
  • When will you provide training for your employees and volunteers?
  • When will you develop a social media policy?
  • When will you monitor your social media activities?
  • When will you measure the results?
  • When will you expand your efforts to new platforms and try using new tools?
  • When will you add dedicated staff for this function?


  • How will your social media efforts integrate with your overall marketing?
  • How will you staff your social media initiatives?
  • How will you generate the content that you will need to share?
  • How will you monitor your social media efforts?
  • How will you measure your results?
  • How will you promote your social media programs?
  • How will you know you have been successful?
  • How will you handle a social media crisis?

Taking the time and effort to answer these questions thoughtfully, and others that will arise specific to your organization will strengthen your social media programs and the likelihood of success. Social media tools offer exciting and powerful channels for communicating with your stakeholders, but they are not without risk, are not free to use, and they can be time-consuming. In an economy where you need to justify all expenditures, moving forward with social media strategically and in concert with your marketing and organizational goals, is only practical.

Social media really is changing the world, and in profound ways, but whether and how you participate has to start with a clear theory of change, a sharp understanding of who you need to engage and communicate with, and an organization with a strong enough “social culture” to actually make social networking work.  The Nimble Nonprofit

Does the prospect of moving forward with social media scare you silly? We can help. Call us at 419.740.1262 or shoot us an email at [email protected].

Allen Mireles is president of Allen Mireles Marketing,  an integrated marketing and social media consultancy in Toledo, Ohio. You can find Allen on Google+ and Twitter.