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 

Digital leadership tips from Lightful

We asked the wonderful sponsors of the 2019 Social CEOs awards to share their wisdom on digital leadership. In our second post,Vinay Nair, CEO and Co-Founder of Lightful, answers our three burning questions.

What one thing do you think every charity leader should know about social media?

Get involved! Whether it’s on LinkedIn with interesting people you are meeting or profile-raising you can do for your charity, or on Twitter to engage on topics that matter to you (and your charity), you should try to get involved. There is a real need for leaders in our sector to amplify the good of what their charities are doing, and help these positive messages to reach more and more people. There are a lot of great people to learn from, tools to help, and colleagues who will love to show you around, so get involved and let the work teach you.

Social CEOs co-founders Matt and Zoe, with judge Sarah Hughes and overall winner Polly Neate
Social CEOs co-founders Matt and Zoe, with judge Sarah Hughes and overall winner Polly Neate

Please give us one insight, observation or thought you have about digital leadership 

I’d land on “experience” as the key word. Think about what experience you want to give to your stakeholders (beneficiaries, donors, staff, trustees, volunteers) when they engage with your charity. And then think through how digital could play a role to make these experiences wonderful and delightful. This can help to inform priorities, how you see digital cutting across the work that you do, and help you provide the leadership (the digital leadership) on how to make this happen.

What one prediction would you make about the future of the sector

People are craving authenticity and purpose and seeing who they can trust. I am an optimist and I believe in the sector; I believe we must (and will) step into this to help bridge these gaps, and tackle fundamental issues of poverty, inequality and environmental impact in an even more profound way than we have done to date. If we think back to the ‘experiences’ we want our stakeholders to have, digital can help create these more personalise relationships at scale. We can do it… I told you I’m an optimist!


Digital leadership tips from Trillium

We asked the wonderful sponsors of the 2019 Social CEOs awards to share their wisdom on digital leadership. In our first post, David Spector, Head of Strategy at Trillium, answers our three burning questions.

What one thing do you think every charity leader should know about social media?

Charity leaders need to know that on its own, social media is not a silver bullet for increased engagement, new supporter acquisition and existing supporter retention. As with any other channel, it relies on quality content that is appropriate to the use of the channels being exploited. It also depends on a good understanding of the audiences that use these channels and what their motivations are.

In many respects, social media is simply another channel of engagement. However, it is already the dominant channel for many charities and will only continue to grow in this vein for future generations.

Social media provides many opportunities for engaging storytelling, especially in visual form. However, these stories need to be curated and presented in the relevant formats that are optimised for whichever channel they are distributed. 

For example, what works well on Facebook will not necessarily work well on Instagram. Therefore, posting the same content on multiple channels is not an effective approach to success.

Charity leaders must be prepared to accept that effective use of social media has a cost and requires significant resource and a well-defined, insights-based strategy, including content, to get the best results. Long gone are the days where it was enough to simply have a presence on social media. 

Aika presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award
Trillium’s Head of Marketing Aika Peto presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award for Best Leader on Social Media

Social media users have become accustomed to well produced content by frequent publishers, which has become a baseline for continual engagement. Frequency and consistency are therefore of paramount importance.

Content requirements don’t just stop at social platforms. Where social media is used as a traffic driver to other channels, such as a charity’s website for example, the landing destination needs to continue the story, and not just be a generic landing page with little context to the content that encouraged the clickthrough. 

Meaningful and clear calls to action at the end of the user journey are also critical components, and this all needs to be measured to provide the necessary insights for ongoing refinement and continual improvement.

It is also worth considering engaging with influencers who have a connection to the cause of a charity. Their followers will have an affinity to such causes, especially if they were something that helped the influencer deal with a life-changing/saving situation, either related to themselves or their family or close friends. Support from such influencers in the world of social engagement is worth its weight in gold.

Please give us one insight, observation or thought you have about digital leadership

Digital leadership is about people, not products. Transformation is cultural. It hinges on the ability to embrace, enthuse and manage change. Great digital leaders are great leaders. They demonstrate the qualities associated with any successful leadership, regardless of sector.

Attributes of great leadership include:

  • Vision
  • Direction
  • Focus
  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Courage 
  • Passion
  • Compassion

Great leaders take people on a journey with them. They recognise that each person is an individual with their own desires and motivations. They understand humans and the power of relationships. They listen and challenge, where appropriate, but not for the sake of their own ego.

Whilst subject matter expertise is indeed important, it should be in context of objectives and desires. It shouldn’t be specific to one product or approach, but instead the tasks that are trying to be accomplished and the people whose desire it is to accomplish them.

Consider any great leader in history, whether in politics, times of conflict, technology, sport or anything else. They all shared these attributes. Digital leaders should be no different.

What one prediction would you make about future of the sector?

Understanding what matters to people and the ability to target audiences appropriately, based on such knowledge, will differentiate the charities that are successful from those that continue to struggle in the future. Personalised content and campaigning will therefore be the main contributor to success in the future. 

The charity sector is in constant competition with other channels of disposable income spend. These appear in a variety of guises, be they holidays, subscription services e.g. for entertainment, gym, etc., to name but a few. In all cases, when there is money left to spend beyond the essentials of living, people tend to spend it on things that matter to them. 

Using data to provide such insight and focussing on contextually relevant user experiences, regardless of technology platforms or channels, will ensure that charities not only gain new supporters, but retain and encourage greater engagement from existing ones.

Kate Collins, in conversation, laughing

Q&A with Kate Collins – 2019’s Best Social CEO

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Kate’s time recently to chat about all things social, winning the coveted Best Social CEO trophy last year, and being your authentic self. Grab a cuppa and enjoy.

Congratulations on your Social CEOs victory last year! You looked delighted on the night. What did winning Best Social CEO mean to you?

Thank you! I was thrilled – and really surprised – which I think was indicated by my garbled speech where I just said how chuffed I was and how proud my mum would be (she was!).  Quite simply it hadn’t occurred to me that I would win, I’ve followed the awards since they started – and used ‘The List’ as my ‘people to follow and learn from who clearly get social’. Kate Collins smiling holding her award

So to not only make ‘The List’ but to win felt very leftfield, especially in my first year as a Chief Executive when I felt I was finding my feet Chief Exec-ing. To get such positive feedback in an unprompted way from people who’d found value in something I was doing instinctively – my tweets are very much me – was a lovely thing. 

I have to say though that I got total tweet-fear about my first tweet after winning…suddenly it felt like pressure…until I just got on with thanking people for their lovely nominations and messages of congrats!

Why do you think you were nominated?

Having read the write up it seemed to be that people liked how I was sharing my enthusiasm and passion for not only the work of Teenage Cancer Trust but for the sector more broadly, especially the children & young people’s cancer charity sector where historically things haven’t been as collaborative as they are now. 

My approach is that there should be no difference between the Twitter-me (which is the channel I use, I’m not yet an Insta-adopter and am not a lover of LinkedIn… yuck!) and the in-person-me.  I’m wholehearted & energetic, I like people, I’m proud of my team, Teenage Cancer Trust supporters amaze me, the young people we support need us to do so much more and my family rock my world (and don’t take me too seriously) and that’s the stuff that inspires me to say things – whether in 280 characters or in person – and that seemed to be what people mentioned in their nominations.

You are judging this year – what will you be looking for in the nominations to help you make your decisions?

Well I am glad I am not the only judge as I think it will be tough to decide this year – I see a lot of people using social in a really smart and engaging way now.

Kate Collins, in conversation, laughingPersonally a big stand out for me will be people who are using social as a listening tool. Tuning in to the views of others as well as championing their views/voice. There are some bold leaders out there, using social to speak truth to power as well as share positivity and I am looking forward to learning from the nominations – what a luxury to get to see them all!  

I do suspect that some teams in bigger organisations get really organised now, trying to get their boss listed with lots of coordinated nominations so I won’t be looking for volume of nominations – for me it will be about content.  If one person has one nomination for doing something really engaging, really authentic and totally grounded in purpose and pushing boundaries then that is worth way more than a high volume of nominations where an organisation with the resources to have a comms team has got organised. 

Can you remember when and why you joined Twitter?

I can – and it was because I had to rather than because I was an early adopter!  The work of Teenage Cancer Trust – and more importantly the needs of young people with cancer – had been put into the national spotlight because of the phenomenal fundraising efforts of Stephen Sutton through his campaign ‘Stephen’s Story’ which inspired a huge wave of donations for our work back in 2014.  

Once the peak of Stephen’s Story had passed and we moved into sharing where the funds would help our work we became aware that there were some accounts on Twitter that seemed to be purporting to be me and were randomly sharing bits of erroneous information about cancer in young people and the charity.  Those accounts don’t exist now but they were the prompt for me to realise that you need to own your space, even if it doesn’t feel the most natural when you start. I simply decided I’d sign up and start to learn – and I haven’t looked back, it rapidly became a core element of how I lead and, most importantly, listen and learn.

What does being on social media add to your life – professionally and personally?

It does what it says on the tin – it’s a network.  It adds depth, connection and insight – and saves me time tussling with things when there will be generous, experienced people out there already sharing their knowledge and perspective but most importantly I try to use it to keep me connected to voices I don’t typically hear in other ways on a daily basis, whether that is our frontline teams in the NHS, young people, their parents or our supporters – the value is immense. 

On a personal note it never fails to top up my motivation and creativity when I see individuals and organisations doing such impactful work and sharing it every day… I do also love a dog video so those make me chuckle too!

Do you ever take a digital detox? (I have tried but usually fail miserably!)

I think the key is balance – Twitter can feel like you ‘have’ to be on it all the time but I tweet when the rhythm of my day gives me the space to do it.  I do check it at weekends and in the evenings because those are times when some of the people I need to connect with and listen to are likely to be active but it’s also important to remember that people really won’t notice if you take a break for a bit!  I always delete Twitter from my personal phone when I go on holiday with my family but that’s as far as I’ve got with switching off or detoxing….

Who are your must-follow accounts on Twitter?

There’s too many to pick just one – especially as it depends what it is you need to use Twitter to tune in to and listen to. Kate with Matt, Zoe and Simon BlakeI’d say start with the Top 25/Top 30 lists from previous Social CEO Awards and follow those – as well as the winners in all the categories – they are all doing things in the way that works for them. 

The approaches differ across people’s personalities and areas of work so some will resonate with you and some won’t – that’s fine.  Listen and tune in – retweet things you like or that have made you think (ideally say why!) and just get going… you’ll find your voice and how it works for you the more you do.

What would your advice be to any charity leader considering making the leap onto social media for the first time?

If someone told you there was a place you could go – for free – where you could become better connected to the voices you need to hear in real-time as well as able to learn from and deepen your network AND be a brilliant advocate for the work of your organisation then I bet you’d go there… that’s what social media can do so my advice would be just join in, listen, find your voice and crack on!

Nominations for the 2019 awards are open until midnight on 27th September so get nominating your social and digital superstars now!

Fairy cakes with Social CEOs toppers

More than social, more than CEOs… (part 2)

In part 1 of this blog post we told you about how we expanded the social categories to be much broader than just CEOs. 

On top of this we recognised the correlation between social and digital leadership – whilst they are emphatically not the same thing, there is a positive relationship between the two – and we also knew that improving the digital landscape within the charity sector would be fundamental to the continued success of organisations operating in the space. So in 2017 we began adding digital categories to the roster of awards too.

Read on to see what was so great about last year’s digital winners – and tell us about your 2019 nominees!

In the digital awards we’d love to have nominations from charity leaders who are blazing a trail in an any area of digital. For example: they could have led a digital transformation project, or helped their organisation increase its digital fundraising, or been a trustee who helped champion digital, getting the rest of their board and the charity to use it more effectively. They’ll have had a clear vision for how their charity could progress in digital and led the way to make it happen. We would be interested to hear about any stats and examples which illustrate this. If possible, we would also be interested to hear where charities may have followed best practice (e.g. frameworks, guidelines, or other resources) although this is not essential. Ideally nominees in the digital categories will have good social media presences as well, but it’s not required as with the social media categories.

Best Digital Trustee

Helen Stokes-Lampard

“Helen is an enthusiastic supporter of new ideas, innovation, new learning and discovery of new ways to do things better to improve our services for our membership and the profession in general. She is the leading figure and at the forefront of the College’s digital transformation programme, playing a central role in helping the College use technology to its full potential for the benefit of our membership and the profession worldwide.”

Nominate a digital trustee today

Best Digital Leader

Julie Dodd

“thenewreality.info [the study that she wrote in 2015] was groundbreaking and still stands as a reference point when trying to explain the difference between digital transformation as core to service delivery and digital as just a channel or set of tools.”

Nominate a digital leader 

Best Digital Champion

Liz Green

“Great at bringing together a range of partners on projects, always being enthusiastic, finding examples of best practice from across Scotland and showcasing them and keen to use new types of technology in her own work. She’s also been working with other colleagues on improving staff knowledge on a range of digital tools like Basecamp and on cyber security internally. [She] is an advocate for STEM in Scotland, as well as being involved in the 5Rights programme in Scotland. She sits on a range of groups to help progress digital in youth work.“

In the ‘best digital champion’ category, we are looking for people in any role who not only champion digital within their organisation but across the broader sector too. Nominate a digital champion 

Best Digital CEO

This category was not awarded in 2018 – but check out our 2017 Winner Steve Ford’s twitter account. We want to hear about CEOs who are really driving the digital agenda within their organisation – championing change, and encouraging an environment of digital growth and development. Nominate a Digital CEO for this year’s awards.

Social CEOs badges in a white bowl

More than social, more than CEOs… (part 1)

When the Social CEO Awards were started, way back in 2013, we wanted to recognise the strengths that having a social CEO brought to a charity – and celebrate those who were doing it well. But over the years the awards have evolved. We recognised that influence can come from everywhere, and good practice radiates in all direction. Social media has made the world more open, and everyone more connected, and so in 2015 we broadened the categories to recognise how valuable a strong social presence can be at any level. We now have 4 categories of social awards.

We kept the name “Social CEOs”, because “Social CEOs (and other people)” didn’t have the same ring to it.

So while we might be best known for the initial award that gave us our moniker, the other categories are equally as important to us – and we can only award if you bring brilliant people to our attention.

Not sure what sort of thing might qualify someone for a category? No problem: read on for snippets of the winning 2018 social nominations and check out the winners’ accounts for inspiration! And look out for our upcoming part 2 where we’ll tell you all about the digital categories.

For the social media awards we’re looking for people who have a great social media presence. They use social platforms to drive change; to move the conversation on; to amplify the voice of their cause.

Best Trustee on Social Media

Helen Stokes-Lampard

“Helen’s online presence across all social media channels continues to grow in size and scope which makes her one of the notable social influencers in health care. She continues to establish thought leadership through generating debates and discussions, sharing ideas, experiences, expertise and a lot more on health care and policies through the RCGP’s twitter and her weekly online blog which goes out to over 52,000 GP members.”

Nominate someone for best trustee on social media.

Best Rising Star on Social Media

Nikki Bell

“Her social media approach has changed how we approach digital community fundraising at the BHF and she’s progressed rapidly within the sector by using social media as a strong relationship building tool, connecting and engaging with supporters, BHF staff and sector colleagues.”

As a guide, we generally expect nominees to be around manager level. Nominate your rising star.

Best Leader on Social Media

Caroline Price

“Engaging with followers she harnesses social media audience to co-create and develop our services and training incorporating their views and ideas. Caroline has introduced social media for the services team at Beat as a way of beneficiaries engaging with the services team directly and seeking support through a direct messaging on Twitter & Instagram. This innovation has lead to more young people (under 25’s) accessing our services.”

For the “leader” categories nominees should be around Director / Head Of level. Nominate for this category.

Part 2 – which looks at the digital categories – is coming soon!

Shining a light on trolling

While Social CEOs was created to celebrate what’s great about social media, we are also only too aware that it has its dark sides too. Trolling – “the act of leaving an insulting message on the internet in order to annoy someone” – is rife. Social media offers direct channels to contact people in a way that simply wasn’t possible just a few years ago, and as Twitter in particular becomes more polarised, the problem of trolling continues to grow.

We are working with ACEVO this year to do some research into this. Initially we are focussing on female charity CEOs’ experiences – not because it doesn’t happen to others too, but because our initial research suggested that this group has experienced particularly distressing trolling.

Already we have heard troubling stories – like the charity chief whose charity was on the receiving end of a vicious bout of trolling, and became suicidal.

This is a serious issue and can do so much harm. By seeking the experiences of female leaders, we will be able to shine a light on these experiences, understand how participants would like things to change – and, ultimately, start looking at what could be done in the sector to support people who are experiencing these problems.

We think this is really important research – and the more people who contribute, the better equipped we will be to take this forward into something meaningful. So if you are a charity CEO who identifies as female and has any experience of this – please do fill out the survey. And if not, then please share with your networks so we can reach the broadest group possible.

The survey will be open until midnight on Tuesday 17th September.

Why I Love Social Media – Brita Schmidt – Women For Women

I love social media. It has given me many connections, both personally and professionally. I have used Facebook for a long time to stay in touch with friends and family, but I only started using Instagram and Twitter 3 years ago.

My team at Women for Women International showed me research (including one of the Social CEOs reports!) proving that people are more likely to trust an organisation if they follow its CEO. To begin with, this was my incentive. I looked at how other CEOs used Twitter and Instagram to understand what I wanted my presence to be.

From the beginning, I decided that I was going to show all sides of myself. I wanted my social media to be as real as possible because, after all, I am looking for the same in the accounts I follow. When someone talks about their daily routine or shares a video of their family, I feel a deeper understanding of them, as well as a closer connection. That is why my focus for social media became to provide day-to-day, real-life inspiration. This also made sense for me, because the work I do with women in countries affected by conflict is deeply inspiring, and I see it as my role to share this inspiration – and to share the incredible stories of the women who I meet.

I make a conscious effort to share my feelings, open myself as much as I can, and make myself vulnerable on what can feel like a very removed social platform. It is my purpose to do what I can to inspire others to overcome fear, so that they can fulfill their potential. Social media is an amazing tool for achieving this. I know that by sharing inspiration, we are led to be bold and to create change in our lives. I have seen how posts have inspired people to start caring for more than their own lives. Social media makes our world bigger and more connected.

The power of connection with people across the world through social media continues to surprise me. I have received such wonderful, motivating feedback and comments from strangers, often on the other side of the world. Even just a little heart on my Instagram story spurs me on. It has made me realise that if your purpose is clear, the right people will find you. I have several strong Women for Women International supporters, project collaborators and close friends who all got to know me via social media.

Every so often, I get sidetracked and start to worry about my number of followers, because that is how the world is rolling, isn’t it? Your worth is determined by how many followers you have. It is hard not to buy into this. I am currently writing a book, and a few of the top publishers I have approached liked the content of the book but mentioned that I don’t have enough followers. Wow.

That was hard to swallow. It took me a few months to sort this out in my head and remind myself of my purpose. I don’t want to be defined by the number of followers I have. That is easier said than done, though. Like many, I regularly get messages from people saying that they can help me grow my following, but I am not interested. I love the fact that my followers have grown organically. They found me, and follow me because they are really interested in what I share. I am more interested in the quality, rather than the quantity, of my followers.

I love social media and sharing experiences on it, but for me, social media is a means, not an end, and in my value system, I don’t measure people’s worth by the number of followers they have.

5 Key Ways Social Media Can Help You Lead Better – Sophie Livingstone – Trustees Unlimited

Social media is a way of sharing and telling stories. As the leader of a charity, I believe that it’s one of the most powerful tools you have to connect with a range of people, and to give yourself the energy you need to be and do your best. Here are five key ways I think social media can help you lead better:

Showcasing what you do

Part of your job as a not for profit leader is visibility – people want to understand what you’re up to, what you care about and your approach.  

This can range from sharing pictures of a Ministerial visit to posting about your agenda for the day, what you’re looking forward to most, or even frustrations about train travel.

The audience is both internal and external – funders, prospective funders, policy makers, sector colleagues, trustees – virtually the whole community of stakeholders you aim to reach in real life can be found and connected with online.

As well as the day to day of your role, social media can help with showing leadership in other ways.  For example, my husband, who just happens to be the deputy CEO of Plan International UK, blogged and tweeted about taking Shared Parental Leave. There was a positive response (not just from me!)  from people internally and externally to a senior sector leader taking Parental Leave.

Staying connected within your own organisation

As City Year UK grew from London to the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, I found it invaluable to connect with staff and volunteers via social media.  

We encouraged our volunteers to use social media to help raise the profile of their work, and I found it really useful to know what they were up to, so that I could share it online and in conversation, and to congratulate and encourage them.

As a trustee, when you’re sometimes even more removed, it’s even more useful to read about the latest events and successes, such as Little Village highlighting coverage on Channel 4 News.

Connecting with other leaders

Being a charity CEO can be pretty lonely. It can be hard to find time to get together with other leaders regularly, so I really like tracking my peers on social media.

I can see how they’re going about tackling issues, debate things, and champion their successes, such as Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Awards (and fellow Generation Change trustee) on television during the recent Royal Wedding with two young Diana Award winners.

Quick, up-to-date access to policy news, research and intel

From congratulating Danny Kruger on his appointment as new DCMS special adviser on civil society, to finding out what NCVO thinks should be in the Government’s civil society strategy, Twitteris an easy way of connecting sector leaders with developments.   

At City Year, we also encouraged our volunteers to share their stories about the benefits of full time social action for them, and the impact that they were having on children’s progress in school, which was useful to raise awareness with decision makers.

I get most of my policy news and information from Twitter these days, and it has made me more informed in half the time.

Personal news and connections with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries

The most powerful for me is the personal., such as two alumna from City Year in the West Midlands, Amna Akhtar and Kiran Kaur, who have created their own programme, Girl Dreamer. Seeing that they were presenting at the Women for Women She Inspires Me event made me incredibly proud.  

I recently reconnected on LinkedIn with a young man I’d worked with on an advocacy campaign about benefits at the Foyer Federation about ten years ago. He’s made such a success of his life, and it was wonderful to hear how well he’s doing – I’m not sure I’d have found out any other way.

Social media might be newfangled technology, but at its best we use it to do what we humans are wired for – making personal connections and telling stories. We should be claiming that space for the good our organisations do, and by shining a light on that work, helping to build back public trust in our collective impact.   

Sophie Livingstone was CEO of City Year UK from November 2009 – December 2017 and featured on the Social CEOs list in 2016 and 2017.   She is the Chair of trustees at Little Village, is a trustee and co-founder of Generation Change and a trustee of the Royal Voluntary Service. Sophie Livingstone is Managing Director of Trustees Unlimited.