Educating Non-Profits in Use of Social Media


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Social media is a powerful tool for all businesses today. Large, medium and small corporations benefit from using it and non-profit businesses benefit as well. Remarkably, there are still many non-profit organizations that don’t fully understand how to leverage social media to its fullest potential.

If an organization can empower its constituents, it will have a powerful army at its disposal. There’s no reason why these ideas can’t be applied to businesses as well – it’s just that the thinking here was inspired by the work I’ve been doing with non-profits.

Social networks contain the potential for enormous virality and growth. There is the phenomenon of six-degrees, fueled by the law of exponential growth.

The old story of the rice and chessboard illustrates the notion well. There are several versions of the story, but the fundamental gist is that someone asks a king for a very simple reward: that the king place a grain of rice on the first square of a chess board, then double it with each following square. By square 21, the amount is over a million. By square 64 – well, you won’t get that far, as there simply isn’t enough rice in the world.

We also know that the average person has a couple of hundred friends on Facebook. It’s one thing for anyone to ask something of those 200 friends, another to ask them to carry the message further. That is where the magic happens. Of course, there will be fall-off, as some people fail to continue – and that’s OK, we only need enough.

Are the volunteers already using social media?

The first thing to evaluate is how the potential members of the social media army are already using social media. If necessary, you could have some mini-workshops to get them going. If they are new to the media, let them go back home and play in the space for a while before pulling them in to socially evangelize on behalf of the organization.

To what extent are the potential volunteers already using social? It’s necessary to evaluate this if you’re going to go into the workshop with a good understanding of what’s going on. If possible, have the volunteers connect with you on the various social platforms. Provide them with your social contacts – and invite them to connect with you. In this way, you can quickly assess their level of use.

Discuss the big desired outcomes of the organization. The communication of an organization’s purpose and the vision of its leaders can never be repeated enough! When you run your workshop, have a stakeholder or organization leader present. Then, talk about the desired outcomes that could be anticipated from the group’s participation in the organization’s social media.


If the organization has not created a brand voice document, do this before bringing in the social army. There is a whole chapter on brand voice in my book Social Marketology. Also, Marty Weintraub and Lauren Litwinka’s book The Complete Social Media Community Manager’s Guide has some excellent information.


Your volunteers can be effective in two roles:

  1. As individuals re-sharing your content with their networks, inviting people to your events, or inviting people to engage with the organization’s person on social media.
  2. As community managers – that is, where they have admin rights to the account and can post on behalf of the organization.

You might have some volunteers focused on the former, and others on the latter. If so, this is pretty much going to dictate how you provide training.

How posting content is great – but endeavor to to ASK others to reshare content. Get others involved. Ask others to “like,” “follow,” “circle,” or otherwise connect with the organization’s social media profiles.


If your volunteers are going to actually play a role in the posting of content, you’ll need to develop some real ideas about what content is appropriate or not. Luckily, when we started this process, we clarified the organization’s desired outcomes – thus when you’re thinking about content, you can consider what is going to help you achieve your outcomes.

Your volunteers could accept responsibility for certain times of the day, particular days of the week, or cycle through week-long stints. In any event, you could work with them as a group to develop a content calendar that lays out various ideas. For instance, we could seek out an inspiration video to share on day one, while on day to we could post photos from our latest party.

Smart Phones

Most people have smart phones now. Be sure to instruct your team on the use of smart phone apps to post content.

GREAT BIG CAVEAT: encourage if not require your team to use different apps for the organization’s social media than their own. The use of apps for both has been the cause of some of the biggest social media gaffes we know.

Just a Beginning

This workshop would only be the beginning. There is so much more to do if you’re going to create an Arab Spring effect for your own non-profit. As I provide more training sessions, I’ll share my ideas and findings. And if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

This post first appeared at – and is reposted here courtesy of the author.

For additional, valuable information see the articles, Successful Ways for Non-profits to Leverage Social Media and Using Social Media for Raising Funds.

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Ric Dragon is the author of Social Marketology and the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual, both published by Mc-Graw Hill. He is the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, with more than 20 years of experience in graphic design, information architecture, web development and digital marketing.  As an artist, Ric has been shown in countless group and solo shows.  He is a regular guest columnist for Marketing Land, and Social Media Monthly, and a speaker at many marketing and business conferences.

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