Recently the National Center for Family Philanthropy hosted “Telling Your Story to Maximize Community Impact,” a webinar focused on social media tools foundations can use to lift up grantees, deepen community connections and advocate for causes.
Social Media May Deepen, Won’t Replace, Relationships
Family foundations have traditionally been slow to take advantage of social media, but recently that has been changing. Foundation staff now have a better understanding of the transformative power of social media and of its effectiveness in reaching current and potential grantees, other stakeholders and the public at large.
Communicating via social media is not going to replace personal relationships and connections built over time, but it offers additional ways to broaden and deepen relationships.
Panelists included Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation; Jay Ruderman, president of Ruderman Family Foundation; Lora Smith, communications officer for Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation; and Vince Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders.
Here are some recommendations from panel members about how to make meaningful connections via Twitter, currently the leading social media tool used by foundations to connect with stakeholders:
- Follow those who are relevant to a particular focus area and those who you would like to follow you
- Engage in conversations, stay active and monitor Twitter regularly
- Link to content and research — your own and content from others that is of interest
- Broaden your audience by starting, engaging in and continuing conversations you might not have otherwise
- Advocate: Use Twitter to push an agenda and increase exposure
- Grow the conversation: Twitter is most effective if your initial tweet is carried into other networks with a response. (Consider using less than 140 characters in an original tweet, so replies can include that and the response. Just seeing responses isn’t as effective.)
At The McKnight Foundation (an MCF member), adoption and evolution of social media use has been a deliberate process. McKnight is currently active on Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo, and it launched a blog in June 2013.
Engaging, Rather Than Surprising, Board Members
Wolford has involved the family board at every turn, and she stresses the importance of engaging them in the process rather than surprising them with it. McKnight started on this path due to its belief in the importance of transparency and its conviction that the community, grantees and other stakeholders deserve to know what McKnight is doing and the impact of its work.
McKnight has leveraged social media tools to increase impact in its focus areas. McKnight’s goal is less about promoting McKnight and more about sharing ideas and learnings as it does the work. Staff who use social media (especially the blog) understand that the platforms present an opportunity to bring the voice of the staff to the forefront to share knowledge and perspectives. It has been an evolution not a revolution.
At McKnight there’s a spirit of learning and experimentation accompanied by a rigorous tracking of the effectiveness of its social media communications. McKnight is constantly experimenting to see what works and is always asking, “What’s the audience? What are the goals of the communication? What’s the best tool to achieve the objectives?”
Those are questions we should all continue to ask ourselves as social media tools evolve and can be used to broaden our relationships.
- Megan Sullivan, MCF operations and publications coordinator