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News from the Community: ConnectVA Feedback on VCU Social Media Projects for Nonprofits

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Last week, ConnectVA had the honor of being a guest judge for the VCU Social Media Institute, which combines undergraduate and graduate students from Virginia Commonwealth University with college students from Iraq in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for a one-of-a-kind social media project.

Over a four-week period, the students develop and implement social media projects for nonprofit organizations in Richmond, Virginia.

We gave feedback on the first round of Social Media Strategy Presentations for the following local nonprofits:

RVA Music School and Outreach
Sabot at Stony Point
GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP)
Youth Life Foundation of Richmond
Dress for Success Central Virginia
Connor’s Heroes Foundation
Beds for Kids, Inc.
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Virginia Center for Health Innovation
College Behavioral and Emotional Health Initiative (COBE)
VCU College of Humanities and Sciences

We saw many great social media strategies in the works – great campaigns with smart hashtags, video projects, new media being incorporated and ways to help the nonprofits get organized when implementing!

(BONUS: we created this handy ConnectVA Guide to Social Media Best Practices 2015 for the students and YOU)

Here are some key takeaways, trends and recommendations we had for the presentations:

1. Get Organized!

No matter how large or small the organization – the biggest challenge for all of the organizations is dedicated staff time for an online presence and social media!  Many nonprofits are enlisting the help of volunteers, fellows, interns and splitting staff responsibilities in preparation for their strategy.  Here are some ways we suggested to get organized when planning your social media strategy:

  • Make decisions for tools, time and priorities based on your Nonprofit’s Social Media Audience
  • Many nonprofits said that they wanted to “engage the community” or wanted awareness through social media, when in-fact they wanted something more concrete, i.e. donations, volunteers or a direct advocacy action – have specific goals when crafting your plan, beyond Facebook “likes” or follows on twitter and create a Social Media ROI Spreadsheet to track and report success.
  • Create an Editorial Calendar for shared responsibility and planning purposes
  • Have a solid action plan and content strategy for your year plan or campaign
  • Create a budget based on your strategy

2. Prioritize Your Website

Make sure your online presence has a solid foundation, starting with your website.

  • The nonprofits were all in different stages in their life cycle; some were just starting out with their web presence – it’s important when planning to prioritize your website and its design first to enable trust in your supporters, funders and volunteers
  • Prioritize a responsively designed website – look at your site on different devices, what’s the experience like?
  • Make sure your donation process is as easy as possible; test it yourself as an outsider would – ON YOUR PHONE OR TABLET!

3. Blogging

  • Most of the nonprofits didn’t have a blog, but have wonderful stories, advice and information to share with the community; blogging is an easy way to:
    • get a refreshed message out
    • increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google prioritizes websites with new content
    • create content for your e-newsletter and social media posts

4. E-newsletter

  • Many of the nonprofits needed to reprioritize their e-newsletter in their social media campaigns, as studies show that more online donations are made from a click in an e-newsletter than any other source
  • Because your supporters are more likely to get your message through an e-newsletter, have strong calls to action – i.e. sign a petition or solicit volunteers (also, make sure to leverage the power of HandsOn Greater Richmond when looking for volunteers or board members)
  • Prioritize mobile-friendly e-newsletters; 66% of email is now read on mobile devices
  • Regularly remind your supporters that your nonprofit is doing good work and inspire them to get involved; Focus on 1-5 stories and keep text to a minimum

5. Images

  • Many of the nonprofits reported issues of low engagement on social media sites, particularly on Twitter, and many of them also didn’t use images
  • We suggested that they use compelling images more frequently with free tools like Canva and Picmonkey

Overall, the presentations were great and we are so excited to see these plans come to life!  We put together this Guide based on advice from Nonprofit Tech for Good on creating a solid Social Media Strategy, check it out: ConnectVA Guide to Social Media Best Practices 2015

We will be reporting next week on the students and the nonprofits who win the contest at VCU – so, stay tuned!

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