It’s shiny! It’s new! It’s social media! Should your nonprofit pick it up?

by Carol Buckheit on March 7, 2012

In the past nine months, two new social media tools have splashed their way to the shores of the nonprofit world– Google Plus and Pinterest.  Is your nonprofit missing valuable opportunities for engaging new supporters if you haven’d yet embraced these tools? How should you decide whether to devote valuable staff time to establishing brand pages on these sites?

With great fanfare back in January, Google Plus announced hitting the 90 million user milestone, though some question just  how many of their “users” are truly active on the site.  It wasn’t until November that Google Plus allowed brands (like nonprofits and businesses) to claim a “brand page” to build relationships with supporters. Powered by the world’s foremost search engine and packed with juicy features like the ability to customize one’s message sharing into “circles,” many nonprofits jumped in.

The photo-centric site Pinterest has reached 10 million unique U.S. users faster than any independent website –ever. Marketed as a virtual pinboard, the site’s popularity is driven overwhelmingly by women aged 18-34.  Here are 10 nonprofits using Pinterest to market themselves beautifully.

Feeling the pressure yet? Feeling left out?


Instead, ask yourself:

  • Do we have the staff time to maintain a new social media tool?   (Figure 2 hours per week per social media tool to see significant results, as per Idealware’s research.)
  • Who is our target audience? Are they using that social media tool?
  • Has our staff received training in how to use the tools strategically?
  • Have we clearly defined the goals for using the tool?
  • Who will be the “point person” for posting content? How often should they post?
  • What is our game plan for handling negative comments?
  • What kind of content “works” for that tool? Pinterest, for example, is highly visual. If you do budget and policy work, it may not be the best choice for you. Alternatively, it may be a boon to museums or groups promoting the outdoors or animal-rights, for example, who can more readily curate visual content that is inspiring.
  • Have we established guidelines for what kinds of content to post?
  • How will we measure our results?
Along with 1,700 curious nonprofit marketeers, I participated in’s online discussion on “What Nonprofits Should Know About Pinterest.”  My take-home: Pinterest is so very new, nonprofits are still experimenting with it and determining their ROI (return on investment).  But, so far, some  folks are reporting that Pinterest is a significant driver of traffic to one’s website. And that’s a very good thing.


 Photo by Lucid Dreamer, Flikr–Creative Commons, 1/14/10, “1.53 Carat E SI1 Engagement Ring”, Attribution Share-Alike License

“Think!” photo by florriebessingbourn, 4/10/06, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.

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