Using Volunteers to Run Your Social Media Outreach

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Last week, Eye Byte Solutions presented at the annual conference for the Alliance of Nonprofit Management with a fun session called “Limes into Margaritas.” At the conference they looked at how nonprofits could take their design challenges (limes) and turn them into successful strategies (margaritas).

Their note on the particular challenges faced in social media struck me as particularly useful:

In my conversations with nonprofit professionals at the conference, I kept coming back to one particular challenge: How to better use volunteers to execute social media communications. I heard the same challenges again and again.

  • The volunteers don’t know our brand, so the voice is not aligned.
  • Posted photos aren’t in line with our legal requirements.
  • Posts reveal a lack of  understanding of our basic mission.

As an example, a social media volunteer working with a group that serves children might be unfamiliar with the specifics the group’s mission, which is supporting children involved in the legal system. The volunteer begins sharing posts about feeding children, helping with after school programs, etc. How can this be avoided? Here are some solutions we discussed in break times at the conference.

  • Develop a social media policy. In it, outline your mission again and again. How can it be reflected through photos? What kinds of stories are appropriate?
  • Define clearly any legal implications to watch out for. Do event photos need to be accompanied by signed waivers? Who can and can’t appear in photos? What language must be avoided?
  • Have the volunteer create a weekly batch of posts for approval. Combining them lightens the burden of approving every post.

In addition to their recommendations I would add:

  1. Don’t make this the introductory job for a volunteer. Use a seasoned volunteer or start an interested candidate with volunteer work where you can get to know them, their voice, and their commitment and give them a chance to learn about your organization first. 
  2. Partner your volunteer with a stakeholder such as a board member, client, or staff member on the outset who knows the voice of the organization and can help the volunteer develop messaging consistent with your mission.
  3. Get your volunteer out of the office and on the ground where possible. Not only will this make for more compelling tweets, it also allows your volunteer to better understand the work and impact of your organization.

You can check out all of the lessons learned on Eye Byte’s blog.

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