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.