Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Using Social Media to Dispel the Overhead Myth

Social media offers an effective method of dispelling the Overhead Myth and building donor trust. Get employees involved to maximize efforts.  

Many organizations are still trying to figure out where they stand on social media use by employees. Should you create a social media policy to govern how employees use social media during the workday? Yes. Should you ban social networks from the office entirely? Not so fast…

Whether the organization is nonprofit or for-profit, allowing employees some use of social networks during work hours can be beneficial to the bottom line, especially when employees are encouraged to post positive insights into the organization and industry. This is especially true for nonprofits seeking to engage supporters, and especially important in dispelling the Overhead Myth.

By now, you've probably heard about the Overhead Myth and Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, wherein he makes a most compelling argument for allowing nonprofits to use funds for marketing to gain more support, and to use funds to maintain a highly-capable workforce. Pallotta’s talk caused a stir among nonprofit organizations and supporters alike. GuideStar, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator teamed up for a campaign to dispel the Overhead Myth and provide more stability for nonprofits in the global marketplace. Social media is central to the campaign. So much so that the alliance created a social media toolkit to help nonprofits spread the word faster.

While the organization’s executives and social media managers are busy posting about the great work the organization does, and sharing posts from the Overhead Myth toolkit, encouraging employees to help spread the word can make a big difference. Of course, you’ll want your existing supporters to retweet and share posts, but employees have a definite stake in spreading the word as well. Moreover, employee posts can offer insight into just what overhead spending really accomplishes.

The key here is in how the posts are written. It doesn't help for employees to post things like “Gee, I love spending 20 mins around the water cooler #holler!” However, if those 20 minutes were spent brainstorming innovative ways to use a new fundraising platform, a post by an employee can illuminate what it takes to get a fundraiser off the ground. That post would read something more like “Great #idea session on launching our upcoming @HuTerra fundraiser to raise $ to vaccinate more children in Uganda $1=1 vac”.  As a supporter, this post tells me how an employee spent part of the day, alerts me to an upcoming fundraiser, and tells me how my donation translates to real-world impact.

The employee can post to her own social network account, and the organization can share the post, perhaps with a reply like “@Kathy always has great ideas that really work out!” Now Kathy’s post has reached her own connections and the organization’s followers, all while educating supporters and potential supporters about the way stuff gets done in the organization. Overhead doesn't seem like a bad thing when I understand that Kathy deserves to get paid for her work because she brings value to the organization’s efforts to save children in emerging countries.

Call employees together and ask them if they are willing to help the organization thrive by sharing a few tweets and status updates. Some may not, and that should be respected. Many decide to create professional accounts where they only share professional insights, and keep their personal accounts private. That option allows them to separate work and home, and still helps the organization. If done well, it can help the individual to establish more authority in his or her field of expertise. Getting employees trained and onboard with using social media to help the organization helps employees’ bottom line as well. After all, doing away with the Overhead Myth will allow nonprofits more freedom to keep the best talent engaged with better compensation packages, and to improve sustainability. Social media is a great way to work together to better the organization and employees. At the end of the day, it’s the people you help that will get the most benefit when the organization is stronger and more sustainable.


Note: If your organization is new to social media, check out TechRepublic’s Social Media in the Enterprise blog for tips on creating a social media strategy and managing social media content.