Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Demonstrating Board Leadership with Facebook

I write and present about how small nonprofits should use social media.  It is a key tool in the building relationships toolbox today.  But I am usually writing about it from the standpoint of what a nonprofit should do.  This is about what Board Members should do.  I often am with an Executive Director and a Board where a Board member begins to grill the ED about their facebook page – is it up yet?  I haven’t seen it.  You really need to post more…yadayadayada.  The EDs are frequently defensive in response and mention how much time it takes and they are trying.  I’ve heard this conversation many times with small nonprofits.  Both sides are not happy with the status of the facebook page.  The Board Member wants more attention given to facebook.  The ED sees it as not worth the effort it takes.  The conversation always moves onto something more important and it is gone…and only maybe forgotten.

So what should Board Members be doing with their nonprofit and facebook anyway.  Here are the very basics.  It is for people who are already on facebook.  If you are not on facebook,  I am not suggesting you do this.  In fact, if you are not on facebook, you may not have any idea what I am talking about in this article.  If that’s the case, I apologize.  But if you are on facebook Mr. and Ms Board Member listen up….
Facebook is all about the conversation.  When you go on facebook for personal use, think about being at a cocktail party friend raiser for your nonprofit. It’s your job to make conversation.  Put that hat on and go to it.

It has always been a Board member’s responsibility to be an ambassador for the organization, introduce friends to the organization and invite friends to fundraising events. That hasn’t changed but the 21st century brings some new ways of doing those things.  Whether you are 21 or 71 (Let’s say that’s the age range of 99% of Board members) chances are  good – okay not 100% - that you are on facebook.  Facebook is a powerful tool for nonprofits today and many, even small nonprofits have a staff member or volunteer toiling away to keep a presence on facebook for their organization.  Their presence could be enhanced immeasurably by Board members taking very simple steps. In many cases a nonprofit’s online impact can multiply ten to twenty times or more than its current impact if board members took a few little steps.  Using facebook is one way a Board member can exercise its Board Leadership responsibility.
What Nonprofits are trying to do with Social Media
·       Engage existing supporters
·       Find potential new friends (donors, volunteers, etc)
·       Find volunteers
·       Find people who are interested in attending events
·       Identify potential Board Members
·       Build better relationships with all of the above people
·       Get donations
The last one – get donations - comes later.   First you have to do all the other things. Board members can help with some of or all of these goals by just incorporating their nonprofit into what they already do with facebook.  I am not talking about asking your friends to give money online.  If you feel comfortable doing that, by all means, go ahead. But that is not what I am suggesting here.  I am talking about how you can be an ambassador online just by tweaking – a very little bit – what you already do.  Let’s look at the possibilities.
Your nonprofit probably has a facebook page. But it may not have a lot of activity or people who see it.  The real value of having a facebook page for a nonprofit is to have it come up in people’s newsfeed. Very few people will go directly to the page.  Here are a few things you as a Board Member can do:

1.     Like the organization’s page
 An organization page is different than a friend’s page and getting  people to “like” the page takes some effort.  You can help.  Once 25 people “like” the page, the nonprofit can claim the name so that they can promote it.  The url will be  

If your nonprofit is new at facebook, make sure that you like them – so that they can as quickly as possible claim their facebook url.  If they are already established, you want to like them because then they will come up in your newsfeed and you’ll be able to do the next steps easily without having to think about going to their page.

2.     Like comments and comment on the page’s posts
The only way most people will see what is posted on the organization’s wall is if it comes up in their newsfeed.  Many people see “highlighted stories” first – rather than “most recent stories” - which filter out lots of recent stories. A post is much more likely to be in the highlighted posts feed if it has likes and comments.  If three board members just clicked the like button on a wall post, it will greatly enhance the likelihood of the post appearing in more people’s newsfeed.  Comments and likes also cause people to read the entry and join the conversation.  Engaging people in conversation is an important opportunity that facebook provides, but just like at a cocktail party it takes someone to start the conversation – you can be that person.  I routinely respond to nonprofit’s wall postings with clicking the like button or commenting on events I attended.  It takes seconds and can help their visibility in newsfeeds a great deal. It also can be a conversation starter.

3.      Initiate posts on the organization’s wall.
Facebook pages where only one person is posting are boring.  Different people posting will make it more  attractive.  So….. Initiate posts.  It is so simple.  Here are some examples:

“I am really looking forward to going to the ABC Nonprofit’s Fall Fundraiser.  They are honoring Joe Smith this year and he really deserves it.  Do you know Joe?  Would you like to sit at a table with me?  Let me know”

“Wow!  I had a great time at the Reading Festival for kids in Newark hosted by PCCI.  I am on the Board and I volunteered for the day.  The kids really enjoyed it and there were so many interactive things for them to do. It was all about literacy, the arts and having fun. I just love being part of this organization.”

4.     Initiate posts on your own wall.
You can take the same comments and post them on your own wall.  This may cause some people who see your posts in their newsfeed to check out the organization’s page and like the page.  It is my experience that when I post about nonprofits that I am involved with the posts get likes and comments.  This tells me that my friends like seeing these brief updates of what I am doing with nonprofits.

5.     Post pictures
Did you attend an event and take pictures?  Post them on facebook – on your wall and the organization’s wall.  Or tag them to your nonprofit.  Don’t forget to post a caption identifying the nonprofit.  People love to click on pictures on facebook.

These are all very simple ways that you, as a Board member can be an ambassador for your nonprofit.  If 10 people did one of these things once a week, a nonprofit’s facebook page could become a strong relationship building tool.  It would only take between one second and a few minutes a week to do it.
Another hidden value to Board Members engaging with an organization on facebook is the morale builder and encouragement it gives the page administrator and staff.  Often staff feels removed from the Board.  The reputation of the Board with the staff can take quite a leap if you are engaged on facebook. The page administrator will be energized to be more pro-active when they see that people are engaged on the page.  And engagement begets more engagement.  Before you know it a nonprofit’s facebook page is doing what it was supposed to do.

Many nonprofits, including a large number of small nonprofits, have a facebook page these days.  But they are underachieving the opportunity to build relationships with supporters. Board members have the ability to help catapult this friend raising tool to a much higher level. 

And this will be you if you do all these things:
I hope this article has given you something to think about.  These are all easy things to do but they can have a big impact if enough people take just a few steps.  And I promise it won’t seem like work at all, once you dive in, you’ll enjoy it.

You may be interested in the ompanion piece to this article I have posted at the Nonprofit Capacity Building blog at

Demonstrating Board Leadership with Social Media