By Christa Carignan, Exponent Philanthropy
I was pondering data from The Foundation Center’s recent study of foundations using social media.
- 45% of foundations use social media, but just 34% of family and independent foundations do.
- 74% of foundations on social media say it is useful in furthering philanthropy.
- 41% of foundations manage their social media with communications staff.
For those who manage philanthropy from a small shop, you might ask, “Who has time for that?”
But consider how social media could support your philanthropy. Take Twitter, for example. It’s a great place to start. Sign up for a free account, “follow” several people or organizations of interest to you, and then simply listen. Get a feel for the 140-character medium and the lingo. See if you find valuable information—even inspiration!
You can use Twitter to:
1. Scan news related to the issues you’re passionate about. Do you support the arts in your community? Follow your local arts council, your local theaters, and so on. Sustainable agriculture? Follow local journalists or national policymaking organizations. Twitter is a useful tool for scanning the landscape, giving a good read on current issues, needs, and opportunities. It can help you scan quickly through a lot of information and jump to relevant news of interest.
2. Follow the organizations and causes you support. Many nonprofits use Twitter and other social media to engage people in their cause. Follow your grantees to hear about the work they’re doing, the events they’re hosting, and the ideas they’re championing. Get a feel for how they use the medium to communicate. Retweet their tweets to promote their work. Feel proud when you see a stream of tweets that advance the causes you support!
3. Find and learn from other philanthropists and thought leaders. Whereas Twitter cannot replace the value of in-person connections, it can help you identify new contacts virtually. Follow and engage with other foundations and philanthropists in your field of interest. Keep informed about events and resources from your regional association, philanthropy advisors, and, of course, Exponent Philanthropy @exponentphil.
Read about why Jay Ruderman of Ruderman Family Foundation tweets, and what he learned in his first 6 months on Twitter. Among his reflections: “The central reason why I tweet is because people connect to other people. Putting a face on our foundation’s activities helps create a more intimate conversation and can bring more people into the fold. People connect to my passion, my sense of urgency to create sustainable change and as President, I have a unique voice on the issue people want to hear.”
One word of caution: Time management is key. With a steady stream of intriguing messages, links, and videos, it is easy to lose track of time. Limit yourself to 20 minutes to read and post messages, twice a day. Set a timer if you need to. Remember: The idea is to help your work, not hinder it.
Christa Carignan is Exponent Philanthropy’s manager of online communications, overseeing our website content, e-newsletters, and social media presence. She worked previously as a writer and fundraiser for several organizations in the Washington, DC area, including National Council of La Raza, Cultural Tourism DC, and the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. She got our organization started on Twitter in 2011.