Last week I was in Chicago to facilitate a session about leadership and social media as part of Knight Digital Media Center’s Digital Strategy for Community Foundations and Nonprofits. Participants were a mix of CEOs and senior staff. At the end of the month, I’ll be facilitating a workshop at the 92nd Street Y in NYC call “Social Media Mindsets and Toolsets for Nonprofit,” an interactive workshop is for executive directors and organizational leaders that work for nonprofits and want to learn tips and techniques for scaling social in their organizations. The workshop is co-presented by Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.
The themes we will cover are:
- Why 1 Tweet by Nonprofit CEO is Worth More Than 1,000 Staff: Benefits, Challenges, Solutions
- How can nonprofit leaders help their organizations embrace experimental innovation methods and mindsets as part of implementing their integrated social media strategy? We can learn from leading entrepreneurs
- The best social tools and techniques that leaders themselves and their organization can use to get results
The first reaction I typically hear from nonprofit leaders when it comes to social media is “When am I going to find the time?” I immediately think about Dali’s famous painting “The Persistence of Memory,” where time is the theme, from the melting watches to the decay implied by the ants. In earlier post where I profile Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU-NJ and how he uses social media and mobile tools for leadership of his organization, several nonprofit leaders offered their views and tips. This is a summary:
Make the Time, But Get Started With Small Steps
The best way to get started is to make the commitment to make the time – like anything new whether it be a new exercise regiment or a diet and especially for learning a new tool, habit, or skill. Pick something small and an easy win and repeat for 3 weeks. Maybe you want to get started with Twitter – start by summarizing an article you have read and want to share. Don’t say you have notimetotweet.
Model the Model
This isn’t about becoming a billboard or spokesperson for the organization on social media channels, it is about modeling that using social is an accepted way of working. You need to go beyond saying that you think building professional and organizational networks are a good idea for your organization to doing the practice.
Understand the Benefits
There are many benefits both to your organization and professionally. While it may initially take some time to learn and acquire the habit, there are ways social media usage can make our time investment both more efficient and more fruitful. Says Jim Canales, CEO of the Irvine Foundation, “In my experience, I have found that by engaging on twitter, I have actually saved time. In the past, I made an effort to visit various blogs, websites, and other online information sources to stay apprised of my field (both philanthropy and the areas where the Irvine Foundation works). I have found that by following the right feeds, both institutional and individual, I get that same information more easily and, frankly, I am exposed to far more that I would never have found on my own. To be sure, it’s an investment of time, but I actually think it’s a more efficient use.”
Always Be Learning
Don’t let the discomfort of the learning curve for new technology tools get in the way of adopting social media or mobile tools as a personal and organizational leadership tool for your organization. While learning any new skill or tool will feel daunting when you start, if you can get started with small steps and practice it daily for a short amount of time, you’ll be comfortable in a matter of weeks. Too often we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone, but if we don’t challenge our assumptions and embrace the discomfort, we can’t learn new skills or tools. We are living in a complicated world, and learning how to live in a constant state of learning is part of it.
Check in with Your Peers
Do a little research and see if your peer executive directors are using social media or mobile as a leadership tool. Ask them what the challenges were to adoption and now that they’ve had have some time to make it a habit, whether or not there were any benefits and more importantly what their social media routine is. Sharon Sobol Jordan, the president and executive director of the Centers for Families and Children, says “I was hesitant at first but I am amazed at how it has helped me process and crystallize ideas, as well as challenged me to stay current and engaged in the ongoing public conversation that surrounds our work.” (Check Farra’s awesome list of Nonprofit CEOs who Tweet, my list of Foundation CEOs who Tweet, or this list of Art Museum Directors Who Tweet.)
Lean on Your Staff
No doubt your marketing or communications department can quickly find or create cheat sheets and tips that will shorten the learning curve. Maybe all you need is a 20 minute “Tweetorial,” (here’s an example I put together to train nonprofit CEOs to get on Twitter at leadership retreat recently) If you are a self-directed learner or your staff needs some resources, send them to my curated pinboard of social media tips and tutorials for nonprofit leaders.
Connect Your Online Social Activity To Your Work
Think about what you are already doing as part of your job and how social might improve it or make it efficient. For Udi Ofer, Executive Director of ACLU, he was already answering questions about the issues his organization was working on -why not do it on Twitter? For Lance Linares, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz, having time to write regular short leadership pieces for the organization was important. For Max Gardner, CEO of the United Way of Orange County, it was having presence on the organization’s Twitter account when out and about at community events.
Use “Fill In” Time
Says Udi Ofer, “I probably spend about a half-hour a day on Twitter, but most of that time is spent in 3-5 minute segments, many of them during moments when I would not be able to place a phone call or even write a long email. As for when I do this, most of the half-hour is taken up by “fill-in” time, which I would describe as gaps in my day that couldn’t be filled in by a phone call or a meeting. Examples include when I read the papers, on the train on the way to work or back home, waiting for a meeting, on line while buying lunch, etc. The ease of Twitter on a mobile phone allows me to use time that in many ways is added time, and that in the past would just include checking email, if even that.”
If you are a nonprofit CEO, how did you get comfortable with incorporating social media into your personal and organizational leadership tool kit? What support and encouragement did your staff provide? If you want to take a deeper dive on this issue and learn about new tools and tips, I’ll be facilitating a workshop at the 92nd Street Y in NYC on April 29th called “Social Media Mindsets and Toolsets for Nonprofit,” an interactive workshop is for executive directors and organizational leaders that work for nonprofits. The workshop is co-presented by Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. This will be a great opportunity to take a deep dive about these issues.