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Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media: Part I (of II)

Getting your board on board with social media is a challenge many nonprofits face as social media becomes a more important part of everyday nonprofit life.  Rather than fight social media, embrace it! Social media is here to stay, and can become your nonprofit’s best friend, if you let it.  For advice on how to get your board excited about social media, we turned to one of the top nonprofit social media pros out there:  Socialbrite partner Caroline Avakian.  We hope you find Caroline’s guest post on social media as useful as we did.  

Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media: Part I

You get it, your team gets it, but how do you make sure all the directors on your board understand the value that social media can bring to your organization? Some board members may know it’s an activity your nonprofit should be engaging in but still feel it’s something that can be relegated to an intern instead of making a real resource investment in social media. Sound familiar?

Explain the role of social media

If you’re having a debate over whether to spend time on social media, you’re having a discussion that was valid five years ago, but society has moved past that. The era of one-way communication is over. The conversation today should be about your organization’s expressed programmatic goals – with social media being the means, not the end.

Make it about what your key stakeholders (CEO/Board) already want

Don’t position your ideas as a social media initiative. Frame it as your initiative to support your organization’s programmatic goals.

Make it about the community

A good way to depersonalize the debate over social media is to make it about your community’s preferences rather than a philosophical tug of war between you and others who may be a bit apprehensive about the role of social media within your organization.

Sign up to listen

Set up Google Alerts and TweetBeep (email alerts for Twitter mentions) for your CEO so she can see that there are already many discussions happening on social about your nonprofit. Once this is apparent, two things are likely to happen. First, it will become clear that your organization no longer controls your message and what people are saying about you online. Second, once engagement is revealed to key stakeholders, it will be apparent how valuable it is to join those conversations online – which is what social engagement is all about. Often resistance or apprehension comes from not actually experiencing the conversations and engagement in real time.

Start small

If you want to grow your nonprofit’s use of social media, start small. Pinpoint where your supporters are and branch out from there. You don’t have to be an overnight social media expert – you just need to be a part of the conversations about your cause and grow your program through listening, learning, and engaging.

Set a clear goal and measure and report successes

At board meetings and other staff or 1:1 meetings, be sure to tie your successes and results back to your social media efforts where possible with careful tracking. For example, if you see an uptick in website hits to a particular web page, and you’ve noted that 50 percent of that increase in traffic is coming from Facebook, it’s good to report it in that way. So instead of just sharing that there’s been an increase in traffic to a promoted project page or blog post, say that we’ve seen an uptick in traffic that is directly coming from Facebook. Share every little bit of progress and relate it to social media whenever possible.

Remember: This isn’t a crusade for your communications team alone, it’s a learning experience for everyone. If there is a project that didn’t do as well with social media supporting it, share and learn from what came up short. Go back and analyze and then evolve your social media plan with those learnings in mind. There is no shame in gaining knowledge from mistakes. Every success builds on past failures.

Engaging the board in your communications and social media initiatives

It’s important that board members embrace their roles as ambassadors of your organization’s message. In essence your board members are your greatest messengers, often the most connected to other potential influencers and donors and well positioned to grow your network of influence.

When engaging your board in your social media and communications plan, it’s important to start small (as to not overwhelm) and guide them carefully, giving them enough room to feel comfortable to tailor the messages to their networks.

Below are some steps and tips to guiding your board to greater communications and social media engagement:

As a first step, we suggest surveying your board to find out five things:

• What social media outlets are they already engaging with?

• What new ones are they open to engaging with?

• What has been their experience with social media in general? Are they comfortable using social media?

• Are they open to helping communicate important messages to their networks in support of your nonprofit’s mission and programmatic goals?

• Would they like a social media mini-training incorporated as part of the next board meeting?

Once you have this information, you’ll be better equipped to determine how your board can help support your social media initiatives.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our “Getting your board on board with social media” primer (which you will find here on the BoardAssist blog later this week)!


Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s managing partner, is a nonprofit social media strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, social PR, blogging and training. Caroline has worked with both international and US-based organizations, helping them lead the conversation on the issues that drive their cause.   This post originally ran earlier this year on and is reprinted with SocialBrite’s permission here.