Dave Kerpen

  Dave Kerpen


We all saw it: it started with a video of a friend dumping a bucket of ice water over his or her head. Then it was two videos. Then it was five. Suddenly, celebrities, politicians, and thought leaders were participating in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Several weeks into this viral campaign, the ALS Association raised a stunning $114 million in donations.

When I was studying at Boston University to become a teacher, I believed that education was the great equalizer: anyone in the world with access to education could succeed. While education is still a great tool for leveling the playing field on this planet, social media has emerged as the new equalizer. Anyone with access to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn can use social media to spread ideas, raise money, and even start or join a revolution.

Nonprofits have a unique opportunity to use social media to grow and scale their causes and donations online. Here are seven reasons social media is perfect for nonprofits to accomplish their objectives.

1. Get the word out cheaper and faster. The days of costly direct mail campaigns and galas are over as social media and online marketing allow nonprofits to better target their audience, avoid waste, and communicate faster and farther than ever before. A growing number of people would rather click on a Twitter link to CrowdRise and send $100 through PayPal to a cause of choice than attend a rubber chicken dinner.

2. Use social context to drive friends of friends to participate. 92% of people trust their friends’ recommendations, while less than 40% of people trust ads. Free PSAs from your local radio station or newspaper are not nearly as powerful as getting your supporters to spread the word to their friends via social networks.

3. Build a community of supporters. Nonprofits have traditionally worked very hard at building community through events and get-togethers. But now you can build a 24-7 community using your favorite social network. Instead of just talking to your supporters, you can cultivate true peer-to-peer communication and listen to what your supporters have to say.

4. More easily reach the people you serve. It’s one thing to reach your supporters, but it’s another thing to reach the people you’re serving in the community. My favorite national nonprofit, Donors Choose, uses social media to better connect with the teachers their organization serves. My favorite local nonprofit, the Port Washington Education Foundation [editor’s note: rebranded in 2015 as The Ed. Foundation], uses social media to listen to the community’s needs, and better find and solicit grant applicants from our town.

5. Find and engage influencers to help spread the word. Smart nonprofits have always tried to tap into local influencers, e.g., the president of the PTA, the captain of the football team, and the president of the chamber of commerce. Now they can use social media to find and engage with influencers not only in their town, but around the globe, who may be passionate about their cause and also have a large following. A retweet to 50,000 people might be more helpful than a $50 donation.

6. Become a thought leader in the space you serve. Social media and blogging allow you to showcase your understanding of and expertise in your nonprofit’s particular area of interest more easily than ever before. Galas years ago showed beautiful, highly produced videos and had speeches from experts to make the crowd feel warm and fuzzy about the cause they were supporting. Now you can reach more people than ever with blog posts, iPhone videos, LinkedIn messages, and tweets.

7. Better tell your story. In order to tell your nonprofit’s story effectively in the past, you needed 30-second TV or radio spots, glossy brochures, and big, expensive galas. Now you can tell your story with every Facebook post, LinkedIn article, and tweet, and through blogs, videos, and infographics.

Because of social media, it’s the best time in history to be involved with a nonprofit. How will you connect?

Dave Kerpen is the founder and chairman of Likeable Local. He is also the co-founder and chairman of Likeable Media, and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media, Likeable Business, Likeable Leadership, and The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want. @davekerpen https://davekerpen.com/

This article is reprinted from Issue #11 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

Join Hugh Ballou, possibly Russell Dennis, and their guests on our weekly Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange at 2 pm Eastern time.
If you already have a nonprofit or are thinking of starting one, this will be very helpful. Put it on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!
The Nonprofit Exchange on Tuesdays at 2 pm ET has been quite beneficial for many participants and we have enjoyed sharing thoughts and tips for moving past the stuck places we all find in leading an organization to achieving its mission.
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As the famous British Composer and Conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams once said, “Music does not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” If you replace the word “Music” with the word “Leadership” or “Team” or “Strategy” etc., then we all give and receive value from others. That’s the spirit of the Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange encounters, sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’sCommunity for Community Builders.”

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