In the bit of spare time I have at BrandGlue, I like to work with nonprofits. Having lived overseas for a year in Zambia doing HIV/AIDS prevention work, I have a passion to keep investing in organizations that are making an impact, such as the International Justice Mission .
The first question I always get asked is, "So, is social media worth it?" Nonprofits, especially smaller ones, are often strapped for manpower and resources (so let's get out and volunteer !).
I'm not gonna lie. I've bluntly told a few nonprofits that they shouldn't invest in social media. They didn't have the manpower to keep up a consistent presence and the return they'd get wasn't worth it. The thing is, if you're going to do social media, you need to do it well. There is no point in creating a Facebook fan page that you never update or a Twitter account that has less than ten tweets (unless you just want to have place holders). Bottom line: it looks bad.
So, in response to their initial question, I ask about the following things:
I'm really not, at that point, focusing on the how-to of social media. I'm focusing on the "is it worth it". 10 times out of 10, this relates to donations and fundraising in some shape or form.
You don't have to be a top revenue-producing nonprofit to do social media well.
Social media is about awareness and engagement, not money.
For some nonprofits, having a fan page and Twitter account wouldn't take too much time. Post an update a day and respond to folks. If you're focused and don't start looking at your friend's recent wedding pictures, you can accomplish this in an hour. No joke.
Some nonprofits will need to have a sole person or a team dedicated to these channels. Smaller nonprofits tend to throw the social media role to an intern, or tack it onto their (one) front desk person's job description. While this isn't always a bad thing, often those people move on quickly from a nonprofit, sending the organization back to square one and scrambling to find a replacement. I'd much rather the dedicated social media person be a long-term employee's job. Things change so fast in this realm that you can't afford to re-train folks every six months. That initial person will be adding to their training in six months anyway, due to the changes that are always coming down the pike, but at least they will have the background and knowledge already established.
Once it's been established that 1) social media will add value and 2) the nonprofit can do it well, then, and only then, do I move forward into training.