Nonprofit organizations have been able to accomplish amazing things for the benefit of society, and this has happened for several reasons. It could mean being at the right place at the right time, but it is also about finding the right team and followers that believe in your cause as much as you do. The important thing when you are trying to make a difference, one problem at a time, is how to let your voice be heard by those willing to support you.
We interviewed trainer, blogger, author, LinkedIn influencer and speaker in the nonprofit sector Beth Kanter, who has used her networks and social media for supporting many charities and causes; something that has earned her high recognition and praise within the field.
Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on external donations and funding. Anyone can draw positive attention to a cause by simply making it more visible, but you also need to know how to spread it.
Ice Bucket Challenge, anyone?
You may have heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge from 2014, started by American nonprofit ALS Association. Thanks to the power of people uploading videos on social media, ALS was able to get $115 million towards helping the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Social media is a powerful tool for creating these networks and spreading information. In Kanter’s co-authored book, The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, Kanter illustrates this power for nonprofits advancing their cause.
The success of nonprofits depends on their people’s ability to raise awareness about the cause. As Kanter says, an organization’s best advocates are the leaders and employees, who are experts in the organizational culture. There is “tremendous potential in nonprofits leveraging their employees and leaders to use their personal brands for the cause”.
Implementing a nonprofit Employee Advocacy program
So heading now to the practical point of view, how do we actually implement an Employee Advocacy program? How do we leverage the staff or volunteers to become the voices of our organization and raise awareness properly?
Based on her experiences, Kanter identifies two types of Employee Advocacy programs for NGOs: formal and informal.
Many small organizations choose an informal approach
In most cases, small nonprofits face the challenge of a low budget or staff shortage when it comes to optimize communication strategies. Based on Beth’s experiences, “there are no better champions for the communication strategy of your organization than your own staff. She mentions an Employee Champion Program, which she has also implemented. This type of informal program could be summarized in the following steps:
- Train your staff on how to make the most out of their social media and provide support along the way
- Encourage them to become experts in your cause
- Monitor the overall progress on a daily basis and cheer them on properly so they stay motivated. Make them realize they are changing the world
Larger Organizations Often Opt for a More Formal Program
This means, based on Beth’s approach, the following:
- Identify clear goals linked to communications strategy
- Have a social media policy that outlines the rules and gives permission
- Assess employee interests and skills
- Recruit a group of champions to participate
- Train them
- Support them with collateral materials
- Let them roll with the campaign
- Reward and Recognize
Whether you are a small or big nonprofit, you can choose which program will suit you better. Keep in mind that now matter what you do, each one of your staff is there to make a positive impact on society and change the world. As Joseph B. Wirthlin has said:
“Great leaders communicate a vision that captures the imagination and fires the hearts and minds of those around them”.