1. Social media is a massive opportunity. Use it to represent your charity well, reflect how important your work is, and improve transparency.
2. Share personal as well as professional updates. This will make your social media presence more human and approachable.
3. Tell your followers about what you’re working on. Your followers will value personal insights which show how you are making a difference.
4. Share expert information on your cause. This will position you and your charity as thought leaders and the ‘go to’ experts in your field.
5. Develop valuable relationships with decision makers on social media. Share useful information, have topical discussions and slowly build support for what your charity does.
6. It’s ok to have challenging conversations. If people disagree with you, as they might, be as nice and professional as you would be if it was a face to face discussion.
7. Share your fundraising journey. If you’re fundraising for your cause, share selfies, training stories and updates from the whole experience.
8. Encourage staff to use social media too. You can all be strong representatives of your cause and support each other as you do.
9. Use LinkedIn as a professional space. Get introduced to people who can help your charity and share professional content.
10. There are no rules on social media – only guidelines. Experiment and see what works for you.
In the UK alone LinkedIn is used by 364,000 policy makers, 406,000 journalists and 19,000 CSR Directors. Just think about that for a moment. With so many decision makers on this platform, is your charity reaching them?
LinkedIn is a competitive network to get noticed on but if you follow these tips consistently you should be remembered by all the right people.
LinkedIn might just be the nonprofit world’s best kept secret for reaching senior influencers in the worlds of business and government. However, these people often receive many connection requests. Even if they do accept you, you may have your work cut out staying top of mind in their network. After all, the average CEO has 930 connections on LinkedIn. Here are my tips to help develop these relationships.
• Know who you want to reach. What are your charity’s goals and how can connecting with influencers on LinkedIn support that? The more specific you are the more easily you will be able to search for these stakeholders on LinkedIn.
• Start with who you know. Use the add connections tool on LinkedIn to find out who you already know on there. Spend two minutes a day updating your network by connecting with people who you’ve worked with or had meetings with.
• Ask for introductions. If you can see that someone you really want to get to know is connected to someone in your network, ask for an introduction. Whenever people ask me to do this I’m happy to help.
• Remember that connecting is just the start. Post regular status updates and blogs. These should differ slightly from Twitter and Facebook; as LinkedIn is a professional network, you should use a more professional and formal tone of voice. However, don’t use LinkedIn to broadcast. Your aim should be to increase engagement and start conversations. So share something you’ve found useful (e.g. a great article or insight), news about what you’re working on, or ask a question that’ll get people talking.
As the figurehead of an organisation, the Chief Executive will always be there to be scrutinised whether it be from commentary in the newspaper, to the ‘ voice’ on social media.
Be it Richard Branson, who famously faux-passed in front of his six million followers with ‘Space is hard – but worth it’ on the day of the fatal Virgin Galactic crash last year, to Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary seemingly forgetting the true reach of Twitter by commenting ‘Nice pic. Phoarrrr!!’ when a female fan posted a photograph of her airplane journey on his Twitter feed.
The risks these tweets impose on the person, but more importantly, an organisation’s brand can be huge so it’s really key that the person behind the tweet is taking responsibility and is aware of the risks social media brings. So…
Have you had training?
Has your media training been extended to the digital world? Specific training and guidance on social media for every level, from board to operational staff and volunteers, helps different roles to understand the risks and manage them. Keep the guidance and training simple, easy to access and remember, and people are more likely to engage in it.
Are you in the know?
As Chief Executives, you should be kept abreast of any ‘breaking news’ or latest developments (both internally and externally) that may affect or be related to your charity. The processes around these latest developments should be enforced to determine whether it is appropriate that you engage in conversation on that particular news story, or whether it is more appropriate to refrain in case the subject could be seen as insensitive. As Chief Executives, your first thought should be to check in with these processes, and not act before that. This could be critical in avoiding a ‘Richard Branson’ moment.
Authenticity is key
Your own voice will be much more engaging for beneficiaries, giving your own personal thought and passion for the cause. By having your own account, this is your chance to create your own ‘human touch’, a chance for everyone to see that you care about the charity you lead. This is you taking control of your own message but it should be one taken with care. This should be different from the charity’s, where the posts, in many cases, are constructed by professionally trained individuals who will have a more ‘structured’ approach to what they are saying.
As a social CEO, you already have a personal and vested interest in social media, but it is always important to check back to make sure you have the basics right when using these channels in attracting new beneficiaries.
Social media is by its very nature a personal business. You need to share your own thoughts, feelings and details about how you spend your spare time. But you’re the CEO, don’t you have to be careful with how much of that stuff you share with those who work for you?
Watercooler chat matters
Think of social media as an enormous watercooler, with millions gathered round it. We all indulge in that idle chit chat and gossip. Some of the most important morsels are discovered here, the scraps that help you get things done, even if they’re just ideas.
The difference with this watercooler though is that it has the most influential and most important stakeholders sharing their most intimate thoughts around it. If you don’t pay your dues by getting personal, who will share those mission-critical scraps with you?
Should I connect to my staff on social media?
Connect to your staff on social and one of two things happens:
• You share updates and snaps from your personal life – now your staff know about your personal life.
• They share updates and snaps from their personal life – now you know about your staff’s personal lives.
Either way, the dynamic between you changes, even if imperceptibly. So the culture at your organisation changes.
Now, this is only a problem if this doesn’t align with the organisational culture you want to build (assuming you have a clear idea about that). If you want a tight-knit vibe, connect away. If you want a more distant one, stay separate.
On Twitter, you can always follow and not always reply to their updates if you do read personal ones – depending what they’re like, your staff may feel snooped on if they know the boss reads everything they put out there.
How much should I share on social media?
Remember, you’re not an RSS feed. If you just churn out organisational news stories on social media, nobody will bother engaging with you.
If you are sharing news from your organisation, always add a feeling layer on top of the fact – are you delighted, excited, outraged? Tell us!
Finally, to whatever extent you feel comfortable, talk about your personal life and thoughts. The only rule you need to apply here is instinct – if something in you is stopping you pressing ‘tweet’ on an update, don’t do it.
Remember, being personal gives you personality. And it’s a rare leader who gets far without a fair dose of that.
Embracing the possibilities that digital offers means that charities face a huge change to their culture and way of doing things, as it both enables and requires collaboration, excellent internal communications and the ability to move quickly.
Encourage staff to be digital champions
If your charity wants to get the most out of digital you will need staff who can champion the organisation on social media. However, it’s very important that they have the support from senior management to do so. Organisations should be clear about their digital goals for the future and bear these in mind when bringing in new staff – recruit for the culture you want to have, not the one you have now.
Digital means that employees throughout the organisation can have just as much impact as the CEO on the public perception of your organisation and its work. This can be a great opportunity to give your brand a more convincing and human voice, as individual experiences from the front line tend to be very powerful but it requires an open hands-off approach and lots of trust.
A good example of an organisation involving their employees in their social media strategy is the afrikids blog, which was created as a way “to give everyone in their organisation a voice.”
Work with HR and senior management
After all, while individual social media accounts belong to individuals, not organisations, any remarks made about the brand could be in the public domain forever. Just adding an “all views my own” disclaimer to an online profile isn’t enough to stop a negative comment from an individual reflecting badly on the organisation as a whole.
HR and Senior Management need to work together with your staff to ensure that everyone has clear guidelines on how to talk about your charity, its mission and work, and crucially, what not to say. Then employees should be encouraged to make the brand their own and talk about their work in their own voice.
Empowerment is key
A good example of an organisation involving their employees in their social media strategy is the AfriKids blog, which was created as a way “to give everyone in their organisation a voice.” The blog is updated by different members of staff with a mix of human interest, opinion posts and plenty of images.
According to AfriKids’ founder Georgie Fienberg, “We use the blog’s content to drive new audiences to our website with a view to spreading the word and generating interest in what we do.” This ultimately leads to new partners and donors – the lifeblood of our organisation.
Helping your staff embrace social media themselves can ultimately lead to stronger communications and networks withyour supporters, but it’s vital that it’s managed carefully.
Most charities rely on donations and people who do amazing things for them by fundraising. With more and more cuts in funding, never has fundraising been so important.
What better way for a charity CEO to truly understand the fundraising experience than to fundraise themselves and to share their fundraising efforts on social media?
This sends a message to the CEO’s staff – I know fundraising is crucial for ensuring our charity is sustainable and I want to do my part.
It also sends a message to the charity’s supporters, who feel that the CEO is jus like them. It shows that he or she cares deeply about this cause and is willing to really get involved.
On JustGiving, we see many CEOs fundraising for their charities in a variety of ways. Some choose to fundraise through a challenge event, such as a cycle ride or marathon whilst others take on denial challenges or don a wig or fancy dress. It doesn’t matter if you can’t run 5k let alone a marathon – there are plenty of ways to fundraise creatively, as these CEOs demonstrate:
Through their personality and commitment, these CEOs are leading the way in combining social media and fundraising.
Top tips for fundraising CEOs
1. Shout about your fundraising
Take your followers on a journey through your fundraising challenge by tweeting about why you’re taking on the challenge, how training is going, donation asks and what the money would mean for your charity. Get involved in relevant Twitter chats, such as #runchat.
2. Images matter
Don’t be afraid to take a selfie of your fundraising challenge, like Lorraine Clifton CEO of Clic Sargent did with her wig for #wigwednesday.
3. Your bio says a lot
Include your charity’s handle in your bio, a link to your charity’s website or your own fundraising page and a nice image (Mark Flannagan, CEO of Beating Bowel Cancer, is a good example of a great Twitter profile).
4. Get trained up
Still got questions? Ask your social media team – they are the experts.
There is no doubt that charities are under intense scrutiny from government and the media. We’ve seen a wave of negative stories recently, from CEOs’ pay to how charities fundraise and communicate.
The fact is that this level of attention from our stakeholders is not going away- in fact, it’s likely to increase. The growing level of interest in these stories shows that there is appetite amongst donors, the public, politicians and journalists to understand what charities do, how they invest donors’ funds and how they make a difference.
In these volatile times, charity leaders must focus on what they can control. Being visible and active on social media could pre-empt negative publicity, demonstrating that they and their organisations are open and engaged. So how can charity CEOs do this most effectively on social media?
Tell people about what you are doing
It may sound glaringly obvious but a quick win in showing how you make a difference as a leader is to explain what you are up to. Talk to people about who you’re meeting with, events you’re attending and what your staff are working on. If you run a national charity this is also a good way for regional staff to see what you’re doing each day.
Why wait for the annual report to share your charity’s impact? As the CEO, you can use social media to show how your team are making a difference there and then. It’s also a smart way to help colleagues feel great about their hard work.
Be prepared to have challenging conversations.
Inevitably, given the current climate for charities, people may use social media to ask difficult questions about your charity. Avoid being defensive. Transparency is about being open in your approach and sharing information generously. Overall, if you are seen to be willing to engage on social media and talk about your charity’s work then this will be very positive for its brand.
It takes courage for charity leaders to put themselves out there on social media, and to some it may even feel counter intuitive. But if we are to help the public understand what we do, how we offer value for money, and how our work changes thousands of lives for the better, then you may be holding the power to do that in the smartphone in your hand.
I was definitely not keen to start tweeting but agreed to do so after some arm twisting and it’s opened my eyes to the possibilities of social media. It has become a core tool I use to manage relationships with a range of different stakeholders as well as a fantastic source of information and contacts.
Define your audience
My top tip for managing stakeholders as a charity CEO is to define your audience. Realising that and finding the answer has made my experience of using Twitter much more rewarding. If you are clear who you want to talk to – it can evolve over time – it will help you decide what to tweet about. I decided that my primary audience was people directly affected by bowel cancer and charity supporters. My secondary audiences include people interested in bowel cancer or health policy and charity sector colleagues.
Adapt your style
The second thing I learnt was about adapting my style to fit my audience. Whilst some of my tweets are to inform people about what the charity does or thinks about a particular issue, I know that engaging in real conversation with patients and their families has been really important. In fact it’s enabled me to form strong long term relationships with a broad range of people. In turn that’s given me great insight into bowel cancer treatment and care and the impact the disease has on people’s lives.
“I feel i’ve gained a lot through using twitter but it’s also benefited the charity. We have developed great relationships with volunteers, fundraisers, and campaigners and found case studies..”
Blend the personal and professional
The third big piece of learning has been how to blend the professional and personal when communicating with stakeholders. As I have wanted to develop genuine interaction with people closely affected by bowel cancer it’s been important that there is a good dose of me in my Twitter feed. Whilst I purposefully don’t tweet that much about my home life, people respond positively when I occasionally do so. I believe that stakeholder communications on social media don’t always need to be very formal to be effective and many people have fed back to me that they like tweeting with a real person not just a logo or job title.
How it’s helped my charity
I feel I’ve gained a lot through using Twitter but it’s also benefited the charity. We have developed great relationships with volunteers, fundraisers, and campaigners and found case studies. It’s another channel to amplify our key messages. As a CEO, it can feel a bit scary to step into this world but it’s a very rewarding and valuable way to build a community for our cause.