Sam Davidson is the founder of Cool People Care, a media and merchandise company that connects individuals who want to save the world with opportunities to do that in their local communities. He currently spends most of his time speaking at nonprofit conferences and events around the US on topics of social media, community leadership, and social entrepreneurship. He is the author of three books: New Day Revolution, 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need, and Simplify Your Life. He lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter.
In many communities, charities are influential. In nearly every town, nonprofit organizations have boards comprised of some of the savviest business people and most well-connected individuals. Nonprofits help shape political agendas, fight for better educational systems, feed people, build houses, respond in emergencies, and make the world a better place. As such, those who run them can often be seen as experts, resources, and trusted authorities when it comes to a myriad of issues.
If nonprofit leadership can play such a pivotal role, why doesn’t this influence extend to the social media sphere?
We started CoolPeopleCare.org in 2006 as a resource to help nonprofit organizations expand their presence online in order to reach a younger, socially-minded audience. Remember – five years ago, Twitter didn’t exist, YouTube was brand new, and Facebook was only for a limited circle of college students and alumni. The only thing you could actually “check in” to was a hotel or a flight. Nonprofits were having trouble telling their story online in order to reach a new audience of donors, volunteers, and supporters.
In the last half-decade, a lot has changed. Except for the fact that nonprofit leaders using social media are hard to find. My friends, this should not be.
Smart nonprofits have a communications strategy in place that details who, how, and when to leverage social media. Most nonprofits at least have a Facebook page or maybe even a seldom-used, low-trafficked Twitter account. Certainly it’s a good idea for someone (using a marketing director, fundraiser, or intern) to send short messages on behalf of the organization letting people know about funding needs, volunteer opportunities, and event information.
But nonprofits should be doing much more. It’s time their leaders began to speak up.
People – loyal donors, regular patrons, concerned citizens – want to hear from nonprofit CEOs on certain issue. Whether it’s a hyper-local topic like re-gentrification or school curriculum or it’s something national in scope like the debt ceiling or disaster relief, nonprofit leaders are missing a chance to use their unique perspective on the front lines of change to attract attention to their cause and their organization.
People out there are curious about what those who work with the homeless population think about the new reforms being put forth by city council. Residents wonder what the leader of the after-school program has to say about improved reading grades. And people want to know why it’s so hard sometimes to bring about real change in our world today.
Let them stop wondering by having your CEO begin tweeting. Or having a Facebook page. Or blogging regularly. All of these free platforms provide a platform for the nonprofit sector – which employs 11% of the US workforce – a chance to have a say. Nonprofit leaders have a lot to do, certainly. But, their job might become easier when they begin attracting a brand new audience to support their work by standing up and reporting on what they see and what they know.