Good Cause: Social media works for nonprofits
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun December 17, 2012 2:06PM
Angie Wood, the Executive Director of the Naperville Area Animal Humane Society with a friend. The organization is now using Pinterest, the web site filled with photos, to post photos of animals at the Humane Society. | Courtesy of Randy Schwartz
To follow them
To follow any of the organizations mentioned in the article, find links to social media on their websites:
Naperville Area Animal Human Society — www.napervilleareaanimalhumanesociety.org
Naperville CARES — www.napervillecares.com
Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry — www.loaves-fishes.org
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:12AM
Some people love social media. They post all day on Facebook and read Twitter feeds while waiting in line at the store. Other people refuse to engage in it, not believing it’s meaningful to their lives. But for nonprofit organizations wanting to spread their messages and fundraise, social media offers a unique place to increase their exposure.
For Angie Wood, the executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, she knows social media is more than showing the happy stories of adoption that people love.
The organization mostly uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate with adopters who continue to share their stories, but the nonprofit also has found several other uses for the applications as well.
Wood points out the creativity of her staff. While the organization is known for its sign on Diehl Road that identifies what current needs they have, the staff will do something like take a photo of the empty shelf where the cat litter was and post it on Facebook with a plea for more.
“People report back when they come in and say they saw it on Facebook or they post that they are going to Target now,” Wood said.
They also have a private group for people who foster animals to connect and have conversations.
Several local nonprofits mostly use Facebook and Twitter as well, but also said they have begun to use Pinterest, a photo-only website where people create “boards” of their favorite things.
“Of course animal humane is using it,” said Angela Bender, Naperville CARES marketing and communications associate, of Wood’s organization. “Who doesn’t like to see photos of animals?”
Naperville CARES, an organization devoted to helping people through financial crises, and Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry, are using the photo website to share information about groups that have worked with them and upcoming campaigns.
They also use YouTube, the video sharing site, to post links to videos about work they have done.
“It’s very helpful,” Bender said, “getting to more people about what we do.”
While Wood’s staff does most of the posting for the humane society, Bender said she usually has the tabs open to all the applications they use because their staff is small and she does most of the posting.
Loaves & Fishes community relations director Jody Bender said she was “dragged kicking and screaming into social media in 2010.”
“I had never done it, and I was petrified,” she said.
Almost three years later, she is glad they made the jump because it has become a huge part of their marketing.
She also sees how it’s a perfect way to engage people in conversation when people stop her and say they saw something about the organization.
Loaves & Fishes not only posts information about what they are doing but also about hunger trends and articles related to hunger.
“We share how we’re inspired,” she added.
It’s not just about the local community either, because all three organizations have followers outside Naperville in the region and even the country.
Jody Bender said they helped people in Hawaii start a food pantry there.
And the local nonprofits follow each other. “The organizations will retweet each other’s events and campaigns to support each other,” Bender said.
None of the women said they have found any negatives to spending time on social media. Jody Bender pointed out that they read each comment and haven’t seen anything negative posted.
Wood pointed out that, when people have posted they are having issues with their adopted animal, the organization quickly takes the conversation offline.
All three women agreed it’s important for the organization to have a purpose before they jump into social media.
“There is no down side as long as you are clear on the message you want out there,” Wood said.
“You definitely need to do it if there’s a purpose,” added Angela Bender, “not do it just to do it.”