Social media has become an accepted way to recognize donors. While some of your contributors may prefer to remain anonymous (be sure to ask), others enjoy being thanked publicly on social media. Smart nonprofit organizations should review their donor lists, ask if their sponsors would like to be recognized on social media, and develop consistent plans to recognize them online. Social media has become an integral component of nonprofit stewardship.
Dictionary.com notes stewardship is, “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.” If you are the steward of the donor relationships for the nonprofit you represent, your job is of paramount importance. While donor “kudos” should not overshadow your nonprofit’s social media postings about mission, activities, success stories and the like, they should definitely be part of your communication mix. The courtesy of a social mention can go a long way toward recognizing donors and ensuring they come back to support your nonprofit again in the future.
I have noticed some social savvy companies are starting to request a certain number of “tweets,” “retweets” and other kinds of platform posts as part of their grant contracts. While I have only seen a few companies do this, I suspect the trend will continue as companies clamor for the attention of nonprofit audiences. And while nonprofits sometimes balk, I have found the task is far from odious. But it does require thoughtful planning, calendaring and ongoing curation. And for those grant follow-up reports, be sure to capture your social mentions and include those for even greater impact.
If you have any doubts companies are eager to link arms with nonprofit and social good causes, you might enjoy reading the Public Relations Journal (Vol. 8, 2014), “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Nonprofit Sector.”
“Companies and organizations have utilized a variety of controlled and uncontrolled media to disseminate information about corporate social responsibility efforts, including media outlets, news releases, social media, annual reports, blogs, collateral material, email, company intranet, podcasts, trade shows, sustainability reports, employee newsletters, and websites (Coombs & Holladay, 2012). Research has supported the argument that there is a correlation between communication about corporate social responsibility initiatives and stakeholders’ perceptions of a company, suggesting that effective communication can enhance consumer perceptions (Hong & Rim, 2010), company reputation (Kim & Lee, 2011), and lead to a higher level of purchase intention (Lee & Shin, 2010), among other benefits.”
Nicole Fallon wrote for Business News Daily, “What is Corporate Social Responsibility?” (December, 2014). This quote indicates how important corporate support for nonprofit causes is to acquiring talented employees:
“The next generation of employees is seeking out employers that are focused on the triple bottom line: people, planet and revenue,” Cooney told Business News Daily. “Coming out of the recession, corporate revenue has been getting stronger. Companies are encouraged to put that increased profit into programs that give back.”
Nonprofits should be alert to these considerations and think smarter about their growing importance to the business world. There are many creative and genuinely helpful partnerships yet to be formed! When you prepare your grant proposal, for instance, outline the ways in which your organization could recognize your future partnership(s) through social media.
Not knowing entirely what the prospective donor prefers, you might also indicate a willingness to work with company executives to develop a tasteful social media recognition plan. And keep in mind, profits from companies are often funneled to private grantmaking foundations. Hence, recognizing companies on social media makes sense for many reasons. The same stewardship principles hold true for partner nonprofits and government agencies you will want to thank and cultivate.
I share below a few Twitter conversations from @CAROLYNAPPLETON with partners of all types. These come from my professional profile and hence are focused on my work as a nonprofit fundraiser and communicator. I have also tackled the social media profiles of nonprofit organizations. Donor and partner stewardship is always is a key focus, thoughtfully blended with postings containing other organizational information.
For my colleagues who still believe social media is a waste of time, I share another story about how important being actively engaged online can help you with research and attracting new prospects.
I participated in a sustainability Twitter “chat” featuring representatives of a leading American corporation. The online discussion focused on the company’s sustainability efforts, a topic about which I am passionate. The chat included mention of the need for more STEM-savvy employees, and discussed corporate efforts to support K-12 science, technology, engineering and math education to help young people develop 21st century workplace skills.
Having raised funding for several nonprofit environmental education efforts over the years, I shared a “tweet” about a particularly innovative STEM nonprofit I thought the company might like to meet. And, I was able to make an introduction online! I admit, I decided to go prospect “fishing” during the Twitter chat, and the company was nice enough to respond positively.
Twitter and other social media platforms are also marvelous research tools. Watching and reading social media postings of prospective and current supporters is not a waste of time. In fact, be vigilant! Do not be afraid to jump into an online conversation and share information about how your nonprofit might be a good partner. Support them during tough times. Learn how they might be changing their funding interests. Attend events they are hosting, and share information they post on your own feed. In this way you will become more knowledgeable, and your relationships will deepen.
Social media stewardship is good for business, and it is good for your nonprofit organization. For additional advice, you might also enjoy reading Elizabeth Chung for Classy, “3 Social Media Strategies to Improve Donor Stewardship” (ca. 2015).
This was originally written in 2015 as a post, and I made it into a primary article in 2018.