Kate with Matt, Zoe and Simon Blake

Statement on the future of Social CEOs

What we’ve decided

After 8 years of amazing support from the charity sector, we’ve decided to stop running the Social CEOs awards in their traditional form. 

Why we’ve made this decision

When we began the awards in 2013, too few charity leaders had their own social media presence. We knew from the leaders who did that it was a valuable way for them to champion their causes, to be transparent about what they were doing and why, to build relationships with policy makers and funders and above all to learn from each other. 

During the time we have run the awards, we have seen charity and other social sector leaders embrace a personal social media presence, run with it and make it their own. It’s now much more of an expectation for leaders to do it, and to do it well. 

Much of this is due to the standards that have been set by the charity leaders who pioneered use of social media. As this has grown further we feel that the awards have achieved what they set out to do. 

We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us

We’re hugely grateful to everyone who has contributed to the awards over the years. So many people have given their time to them, whether that was by supporting the awards on social media or by helping us make the awards happen. All of them helped make the awards what they became. 

We will always be proud of all the amazing winners, from Dr Wanda Wyporksa to Polly Neate and Matthew Hodson and many more, who taught everyone, including us, so much about how to have a bold, brave and authentic voice on social media. 

We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to nominate all the nominees. We’d like to thank all the organisations who sponsored our awards, including JustGiving, Lightful, Trillium, and TPP Recruitment. 

We also very much appreciate the support from our judging panels over the years. In particular, huge thanks go to Simon Blake, who has been our chair of judges since 2013. Simon has done so much to champion the awards, continually challenge us to make them better and to inspire us with his own social media presence. The awards would not have succeeded without him. 

What happens next?

As part of the awards, we’ve always highlighted digital trends across the sector, and there are three things we’d encourage social sector organisations to think about now. 

1. Play a role in larger campaigns

The last couple of years have seen much needed campaigns which began on social media, from #CharitySoWhite to #ShowTheSalary and #NotJustNCVO. These campaigns are coming from the grassroots, pushing for vital changes that will help the sector reach the next stage of its evolution.  

The question now for leaders is how they support these conversations, and what role they want to play in them. 

2. Campaign for safer social media

We also recognise that whilst the charity community on social media is a warm, welcoming and supportive one, the overall environment on these platforms is not always safe. We hope that charities will continue to lobby for the changes the social media companies need to make via initiatives such as the Charities Against Hate campaign, who are doing important work to address this. 

3. Supporting other digital awards

We’ve seen some great digital adoption and innovation across the sector during the pandemic. One of the signs that this has become embedded is when digital  is recognised and adopted more broadly by other awards across the sector. We are happy to talk to any award organisers who would like to do this. 

We will always be ready and willing to champion social sector leaders who are fighting the good fight for their causes on social media. To that end we will be recording a special episode of the Starts At The Top podcast in November to discuss the latest trends and highlight leaders who are examples of good practice. 

We will also be reviewing all of the content we have produced since the awards began and looking at how we can open this up to everyone across the sector, so that these skills continue to grow. 

It’s been an absolute privilege to work on the awards and we will always be proud to have created them. 

Thank you again for being part of Social CEOs. 

Zoe Amar and Matt Collins

Kate with Matt, Zoe and Simon Blake
Long time chair of judges and Social CEOs champion Simon Blake, Former overall winner Kate Collins, with Social CEOs founders, Zoe Amar and Matt Collins
Fairy cakes with Social CEOs toppers

We’re looking for an intern

The Social CEOs awards recognise the leaders who are pioneering use of digital and social media in the charity sector. Previous winners include the CEOs of NSPCC, Barnardo’s and Shelter and the awards reached 3 million+ on Twitter in 2019. 

We have much to learn about attracting and recognising more leaders who are people of colour and committed to making the awards more diverse. It’s really important to us that this is represented on the Social CEOs team . We particularly encourage applications from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, as these groups are underrepresented throughout the charity sector.

Responsibilities include:

  • Writing promotional content for our social media channels 
  • Writing engaging blog posts, original and interview content
  • Reporting attendee numbers for our virtual awards event
  • Circulating nominations to judges 
  • Attending virtual judging ceremony and making an accurate list of the winners
  • Gathering information on winners’ social presences
  • Ordering event materials like winners trophies 
  • Arranging and editing acceptance videos by winners
  • Liaising with key stakeholders on the wider project

What we’re looking for 

We are looking for an intern who’s confident and creative with digital marketing and has some experience of writing content and measuring analytics. This is a fast paced project so you need to be organised, efficient, calm under pressure and good with people. 

You will work closely with us (Zoe and Matt, the awards’ founders) on the content for the awards and awards organisation. 

This internship will help you acquire charity digital marketing skills, get experience of working on a charity digital campaign and help you get to know leaders in the sector. 



  • A passion for charities and digital marketing
  • Strong desire to learn 
  • High levels of motivation and comfortable with remote working 
  • Good understanding of social media and digital marketing
  • Experience of writing and managing social media content

You do not need a degree to apply for this role. 


You’ll get plenty of guidance and support from Zoe and Matt, who will also be able to offer advice on how you can build your career in charity digital. 


This is around 7 days’ work across Sept-November 2020. Most work can be done flexibly around your other commitments but you must be available for the awards (which take place online on 12 November 3-5pm) and for the press launch the day after. 

Internship fee

This internship pays the London Living Wage, so the fee for the work is £602. You will be working remotely though and do not need to be based in London. 

How to apply

We are looking to recruit ASAP and will be interviewing on a rolling basis. Please send your CV to zoe@zoeamar.com 

Ten top tips for social CEOs

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.

How to use LinkedIn to reach decision makers

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.





Managing risks on social media

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 – time to get personal

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.


How CEOs can use social media for culture change

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.

How CEOs can fundraise on social media

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:

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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.

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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.


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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.

Should CEOs be more transparent on social media?

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.

Share achievements

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.

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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.


How I manage stakeholders on social media

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.