Conferences, Technical Tuesdays

#sm4events recap: Questions from the #AFPFC session

2016-03-20 11.13.06

Last week at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference in Boston, Mass., Josh Hirsch and I presented a session on social media strategies for special events. During that session, we used a tool Sli.Do, which allowed audience members to submit questions as well as vote on polls related to the presentation.

Below are questions submitted by attendees during the presentation. Happy reading (it’s a long one, so grab some coffee and a snack!), and let us know if these answers spur more questions … we are happy to help! If you are interested in bringing #sm4events to your local chapter, let us know!

Overall Strategies

  1. My org. has many departments and I run SM alone, what is an effective way to manage social media (Hootsuite etc.) and train other employees to provide content?
  • First and foremost, you want to develop a social media policy for your organization. This will serve as the framework for how your employees engage with your brand on social media and engage with your constituents/donors. Check out AFP’s Social Media Guidelines: Ethical, Safe and Effective Practical Standards.
  • PolicyTool for Social Media streamlines the process of developing a customized policy for your organization … learn about this and more in this presentation on social media policies.
  • Josh’s personal favorites (as touched on in the presentation) include using Hootsuite to “listen.” Set up various streams with targeted hashtags based upon what conversation topics are related to your organization and cause.
  • He also recommends using Buffer to schedule your content. It will determine optimal posting times based upon user engagement with content you are currently sharing.
  • Another idea is to develop a simple form that you distribute to other employees for them to complete on a weekly/multiple times a week. This form can include highlights of programs and activities in their departments and can provide potential content. You can do this on an intranet or create a shared Dropbox folder, if you don’t have a shared folder on your internal network, where they can save pictures to be used with their content.
  1. My Board members are old. I’ve tried explaining the importance of investing in social media by showing them statistics, etc. Any tips?
  • We actually were able to answer this question live, but to recap: often the “proof is in the pudding”…you’ll have to show your board members as you go the results you are achieving.
  • Another idea is to network with similar nonprofits in your area having success with social media, and have them share their results to share with your board.
  • Finally, a great resource for statistics and technology information is the Pew Research Center.
  1. How do you convert a social media “friend” into a donor?
  • Philanthropy is a personal choice, so there is no formula for how and when you can make this conversion happen. What motivates one donor is completely different from another. An educated donor will do their due diligence and research about a nonprofit before making a gift, or multiple gifts. As an organization, you need to make it your job to educate your potential donor as to the great work you do in the community and the impact of their gift(s). Social media allows you the ability to have constant communication with potential donors, and a creative outlet with which you can connect with potential donors. Utilize the fact that we are always connected because of social media to your advantage. Keep in mind; cultivation of any donor is not going to happen overnight.
  1. How can we research a potential hashtag?
  • Hashtagify, is a hashtag search/discovery engine. It’s free and gives you some basic analytics data too. It allows you to find which hashtags are the best ones for your goals by seeing which hashtags are related to your conversation interests and their strength of correlation.
  1. How do you effectively use social media, if your organization is limited because of the vulnerable population(s) they serve?
  • For this we reached out to AFPeep Dave Tinker, who works for ACHIEVA in Pittsburgh, Pa., an agency serving clients with disabilities and their families. Dave says, “We are able to maximize social media by sharing information and to advocate on behalf of the people we serve.  A recent example is where we asked our constituents to contact their legislators about a bill that impacts their ability to save money.”
  • Dave said when it comes to showing their clients in social media posts, they focus on the positive and what they can do, rather than their limitations.
  1. Any tips on social media ideas for peer-to-peer fundraising events? For event participants to use and promote their own fundraising pages.
  • Many of the online vendors, such as Blackbaud’s Kintera, have built-in social sharing tools available that allow individual participants to share their fundraising page easily to social networks or via email. These often include pre-written email/social media post copy the organization works with the vendor to upload. Some organizations run contests among participants to measure interaction of their social posts, and you may want to consider this to boost activity and engagement.
  1. My organization’s federation has 75+ offices globally, each with its own social media presence. Any advice for synthesizing message/brand?
  • Strategy #1 that we discussed in the presentation, developing a hashtag, would be critical for your organization. Making sure that hashtag is then disseminated and used by all offices on their social media accounts would allow you easy searching and reporting on the activities of the various offices.
  • As mentioned earlier, a social media policy will be critical as well, to make sure that all offices are using content correctly and in an appropriate manner. You want to be sure the staff in each of these offices is getting photo releases, for example, for anyone featured in visuals used.
  • Finally, make sure you have regular opportunities for the social media users in your organization to interact, both with you as the manager as well as with each other. Not only will this help you stay on message, but also it will allow for growth of your online presence as the various offices share what is working for them and what might need improvement.
  1. Isn’t the best social media platform based more on your organization’s audience/donors?
  • It sure is! That’s why in Strategy #2 we encourage you to survey your donors and volunteers to see which platforms they use. No need to join a platform if your audience isn’t using it.
  1. It seems social media is a moving target … That said, how do you determine when to shift emphasis between evolving and existing platforms?
  • This is where Strategy #4, analysis, is key. If you notice a decrease in engagement on one platform and an increase on another, this may be time to shift your strategy. It also might be a good time to survey your donors and volunteers again, whether formally or even in an informal focus group.
  1. Is it best to out source social media if you’re a one man show?

          What is your opinion on hiring a consultant to help with social media?

  • That depends on your organization’s budget and goals for social media. It’s generally best for the voice of your social accounts to be someone familiar with your organization, but some smaller shops can have results with a contract employee or vendor.
  1. In terms of app development, how would you suggest pitching it as a very large project to a team that doesn’t understand what marketing/ad/pr/comm is?
  • Identify other nonprofits that have embarked on developing app solutions for their event and were successful. Use the data and past experiences from them as a case study to justify to those on your team that don’t understand the benefits. Data doesn’t lie.
  1. Do social media influencers only work for events?
  • Social media influencers are not tied solely to events; they also act as an external source to promote your nonprofit organization’s activities, helping to increase your sphere of influence.
  1. Aren’t there legalities that prohibit encouragement to engage with specific posts?
  • The same rules apply online as offline in that a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the U.S. is in violation of the tax law if it participates in political campaigning, thereby jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. We are by no means legal experts, and it’s a fine line between advocacy and campaigning, so we encourage checking with an expert in your jurisdiction.
  • Just the same, you want to be sure not to violate any privacy laws related to your agency, such as HIPPA (healthcare), FERPA (students) or COPPA (children).
  1. Suggestions for tailoring app and social messaging for clients (healthcare) and donors so that it is separate but equal?
  • It comes down what is the call-to-action statement. You can have the same framework and same story you are trying to convey, but depending on the call-to-action the posts can be different. You may also consider utilizing either Facebook groups or LinkedIn message boards as a place for clients to interact more privately.
  1. Any tips for increasing engagement?
  • A great way to increase engagement is ask questions/opinions of your supporters. Open-ended questions are much better than a one-word answer. It allows you to have a conversation with your supporters.
  1. Can you show us a successful mental health NPO’s social media?
  • Check out the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada. The hospital is active on five social platforms and was fairly engaged in #BellLetsTalk, funded by Bell Canada to open up conversations on mental health across the nation.
  1. How easy is it to set up app? Site??
  • It’s easy to get started on any of the social media platforms we’ve talked about … it would take maybe 15 minutes to enter basic information about your organization and upload a few photos.
  • As for creating your own app, that is more complicated and depends if you are working with a vendor that has a ready service such as Double Dutch, which is what was used for the AFPFC app. If you’d like to know more about how AFP IHQ set up the app, contact PeepMaster extraordinnaire Nick Ricci.



  1. What age group would look at Pinterest content?
  1. Is Eventbrite better for a younger audience? What would be the ideal age range for using it?
  • We couldn’t find hard data on the ages of Eventbrite users, but this article from Forbes notes a high usage by music festivals, conventions (think ComicCon) and other such events with a high millennial attendance. They do reference a survey stating 78% of Millennials would rather spend on an experience, and with Millennials dominating most social platforms, it would be fair to think they would be heavier users of Eventbrite, too. 
  1. My agency has a concentration on seniors. After FB, what platform is (or do you see becoming) the next hot platform for the upcoming generation of seniors?
  • According to the Pew Research Center stats, Pinterest is next up. But it’s a big gap between the 48% of those 65+ online using Facebook to 16% using Pinterest. After that, LinkedIn has 12% of the online 65+ users, perhaps those who are still in the workplace.
  • Looking at the 50-64 demographic, after Facebook, 26% use LinkedIn and 24% Pinterest. Perhaps your agency might consider starting some discussion boards on LinkedIn, and generating content with visuals and links that are easily pinned?


Application Specific Inquiries

  1. What are some strategies to gain Twitter followers that are local and relevant instead of random accounts who just want followers?
  • We touched on this some in the presentation, but think about building a team of ambassadors for your organization. One of the best practices we cited is the Houston Marathon. Each year, race organizers run a contest to select 10 ambassadors for the season. For the 9 months leading up to the race, these ambassadors are asked to create their own running-related content via their blog, as well as share and interact with the Marathon’s content and other running-friendly content. Through working with these 10 social media users, the race is reaching out to their networks and gaining more directed and engaged followers than just following random accounts … all for the price of free race entries and some running gear.
  • Another strategy is to run a search on hashtags related to your organization as well as your city/region. Seek out active users, follow them and message them to start a conversation.
  1. Would love to hear about Snapchat too.
  • We asked fellow AFPeep Heather Corey for tips as she presented on Snapchat in the Peeps Nest at conference. She says,” Snapchat is not for the faint of heart in social media for nonprofits. It’s an endeavor that will take a lot of time, energy, and effort, and you must have a large social media following (in the age demographic range) but can be REALLY fun!
  • Want to learn more? Heather’s presentation is online!
  1. Example of Facebook strategy (goal)
  • As noted in this article: 4 Easy Steps to Implement a Facebook Marketing Strategy, your Facebook marketing strategy shouldn’t live in a vacuum—it needs to be integrated with your overall marketing plan. Before you start marketing on Facebook, you should have these things in place:
    1. A good website,
    2. A clear business model and plan,
    3. An email marketing delivery service, and
    4. An optimized Facebook Page.
  • Then you can determine your strategy and goal. This goes back to what we said in the session about it lining up with your communications and development plans. Do those plans include certain metrics that your Facebook strategy can help achieve?
  1. I thought Twitter was slowing down rather than gaining?
  1. What are best practices on paid/promoted Instagram posts?
  • Check out this Ready Pulse article on 5 Best Practices for Effective Instagram Ads. The highlights:
    1. Drive engagment with video content,
    2. Use hashtags to keep the conversation going,
    3. Use authentic social influencers to tell your story,
    4. Optimize your posting schedule to maximize opportunities to buy, and
    5. Use ads to share exclusive content and discounts to increase engagement.
  1. What is the advantage to using Eventbrite vs. your own website?
  • Part of that depends on if your event is free or ticketed. The events we talked about in the presentation as a successful case study were free events, and the organizer cited Eventbrite’s online registration capabilities as a benefit. This online list was then easily translated into nametags, check in lists and then exported for database import and cleanup (mainly updating email addresses that were incorrect or the school did not have on file). For more on how Eventbrite works, visit their site.
  1. What should you do if your Facebook followers request to friend you instead of like the page?
  • This is something that should be addressed by your organization’s social media policy. Are your staff members allowed to connect with donors and volunteers personally? If not, you have an easy response.
  1. How many people should have access to a Twitter account for a NP?
  • This also is something that should be addressed in your organization’s social media policy. At the University of Houston College of Technology, it was our policy to have three staff connected to all our social media accounts for the college: our communications director, our information technology director, and myself (Lisa) as the head of advancement. That way, if someone was out sick or left the organization, the account was still accessible. For department accounts in the college, we asked to be added to these too in addition to the department user, so that was four staff. It’s ultimately your choice, but we recommend no less than two users in case of emergency, resignation or dismissal.
  1. Which is better to use Eventbrite v Blackbaud’s event page?
  • This is user preference for what you hope to gain from using either system. The case study cited in the presentation made a move from Blackbaud to Eventbrite due to the easy interaction with social media and several other features perceived to have more value to her. We would encourage exploring and testing both to find which works best for your organization.
  1. Why not G+ in the list of social media platforms in this session? Is G+ done?
  1. Am I the only one who doesn’t know where to go on the web for tweets?
  • Check out or download the application for your smart phone or tablet!
  1. For Twitter you made reference to a shortened URL, can you explain further??
  • There are several ways to shorten a URL so that you can save Twitter characters. When using a service such as Hootsuite, there is a tool in the composition window that allows the user to paste a link to be shortened and inserted in the tweet.
  • Another is to use a site such as, where you can create an account to shorten links, and then track the performance of said links. Yay analysis!
  1. What is the difference between YouTube and Periscope?
  • You Tube accounts are previously recorded videos, while Periscope is live streaming video. The app does have the capability for you to save a broadcast at the end, and reshare the content on other social platforms.
  1. Why Eventbrite opposed to using the tools through PayPal?
  1. What is blue check mark?
  1. How large of a photo can you put up on Twitter when posting?
  1. What software do you use to edit your videos?
  • Josh prefers Final Cut Pro because of the advanced features it offers. Apple’s iMovie is also a very capable program of editing videos. (Yes, we are admitted Apple geeks!)
  1. Logistic question, for your video, did you have media releases for every person that waved?
  • Yes, all the students in the video have media releases; completing them is part of their annual school enrollment packet. We got permission separately for photo and video, as well as internal and external communications.


A Closing Thought (congrats if you made it this far!)

The management of SM is so daunting!

  • Don’t let it overwhelm you! Develop a strategy, and take it one step at a time. Better to be really good at one platform then add others than to do three poorly. An inactive or “dead” account is most frustrating to users.

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