I am so pleased that AK invited Ashley Rudolph to join us for our 99th episode to speak on social media strategies for non-profits. Many of us have family members and very dear friends who have suffered with diseases like leukemia and lymphoma. The Gift of Life and similar organizations guide patients, friends and family through the medical journey and raise funds to support them. It was great to learn from Ashley how the various organizations use social media as part of their awareness and marketing campaign.

Ashley Rudolph Bio

Ashley is a native New Yorker, and a lover of fashion and making a difference. She has a background in Market Research, a Master’s in Global Entrepreneurship. She studied business strategy in France, China, and the US! She is currently a fashion blogger, Chief of Business Development for NYC financial literacy non-profit, and Social Media and Marketing Coordinator of Gift of Life.


The show is embedded above to listen to at your leisure. I have the questions and answers posted below and links to all the wonderful sites Ashley shared with us!

What are the benefits of a non-profit being active on social media? 

Engaging with your community online is crucial! The more channels you use to communicate with your current (and potential) supporters, the greater your chances of converting them into donors, volunteers, and advocates. Being online makes your brand more easily accessible, gives you the opportunity to create meaningful conversation, can be a useful education tool, and can ultimately serve as a powerful fundraising tool.

Where do I start?

First make sure you have a good understanding of your brand and its unique voice, then create a basic social media strategy that outlines your social media goals. Learn the lingo and start reading general social media blogs and those catered to non-profits.

What are your favorite non-profit social media blogs?

I’ve learned a great deal from the following blogs:

Beth Kanter: great social media tips from Beth, an expert in non-profits and tech. She has some great how-to posts and longer, more insightful posts that spur healthy debate.

Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog: I read Katya’s blog for her expertise in integrating viable fundraising strategies into non=profit social media activities. She also featured Gift of Life for our work on Pinterest recently.

Heidi Cohen: Heidi provides information on everything you ever wanted to know about content marketing, which is essential to creating and growing a dynamic online presence!

Social Triggers: Derek provides insight on why people respond to “triggers” online and how you can best use these psychological triggers to create an AWESOME blog. I suggest reading it in its entirety!

How do I determine the right content for my audience on Facebook? On Twitter? Can I make it fun and interesting?

Finding the right content for your audience is really based on trial and error. For me, pictures yield a higher response rate than any other type of post on Facebook. I’ve found success in focusing on creating a true visual experience for my audiences. I always say, the more visually appealing the better!

After I find the right visual, I aim to create a story that captures the community. There’s a huge difference between an update that simply says “Casey needs a bone marrow transplant” versus one that says “Casey is a loving mother and wife. She needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. Here’s how you can help.”

On Twitter, keep it simple. You have 140 characters to make an impact on someone and get them to read your update instead of passively scrolling past it. People are inclined to share information that they find intriguing and/or that they think will benefit someone else. Do you have an arsenal of interesting statistics and/or quotes? Use them on Twitter! Those are invaluable.

What social media networks should a non-profit be active on?

There’s no cut and dry answer for this since different networks will yield different results for everyone. I’d recommend starting off with Facebook and Twitter and really focus on building your brand presence there before you overwhelm yourself by trying to “do too much” social. After you feel comfortable with those, evaluate which of the host of other niche social networks may or may not work best for your organization. A few of my personal favorites are:

Instagram: a photo app that allows you to take great looking photos on the go and share them with the community

Pinterest: an online pinboard. Makes it easy to share the things you love.

JSpace: Jewish online community, think of it as a niche Facebook.

Treatment Diaries: a social network that allows people dealing with similar dieases to connect with each other. Health based orgs can also join the network and serve as resources on the site.

How do I tastefully ask my social media community for donations?

Concentrate on creating compelling content on all networks first. Take the time to forge meaningful connections with your audience and they will be more inclined to support your organization (whether it e through monetary contributions, volunteering, “slactivism”, or hosting special events/fundraisers in your organization’s honor).

Example: A student from St. Bonaventure did a search for “bone marrow” on Twitter, she found the organization I work for, started following us on Twitter, fell in love with our posts, and took the initiative to organize bone marrow drives and a fundraising event for us!

What are some tangible examples of non-profits who are doing great things with social media?

Some of my favorite charities on social media are:

charity: water – On Facebook, they do a good job at sharing compelling visuals, especially of the people who benefit from their work. Supporters can donate their birthdays to the cause and change the cover on their timelines to a charity: water branded cover photo.

Livestrong – their usage of the timeline to really tell the Livestrong story and highlight the progression of the brand is GREAT!

FEED Projects – FEED does an amazing job at using visuals to convey (and/or reiterate) how many meals they’re providing for children around the world suffering from hunger with the sale of each bag in their collection.

Is there a way to measure how effective my social media efforts are?

Absolutely! I’m a huge fan of analytics. It’s extremely important to me to know how well my efforts on social media are working. I use Google Analytics religiously to monitor where our traffic comes from, what pages are most popular on our website, and what “landing pages” are performing well. If you’re not currently using it, Google Analytics is free and you can set it up on any website. I highly recommend using it!

My other favorite social media analytics/management tools are:

Commun.it: It allows me to see who our most engaged followers are, it makes suggestions on who to unfollow based on how much you’ve interacted with them, and discover leads by tracking who’s tweeting about our site.

Buffer: I can pre-set which times I’d like all my tweets to go out, drop my content into a queue for publishing, and track how many clicks, RTs, and favorites a tweet received! It’s an easy way to learn if your content is compelling and if it’s not, try another strategy!

Can I integrate my social media efforts into my offline events?

Yes! I’m a big fan of live tweeting at events, posting pictures to Facebook and Twitter during events and even live streaming (try UStream) when appropriate. Ask your audience questions during the event, post thought provoking quotes from speakers, and post meaningful (not mundane) updates.

Focus on re-creating the experience online for people at home. Also, encourage your attendees to engage by having them post to your Facebook page or participate in the conversation on Twitter by using a designated hashtag.

 Do you have any tips for partnering with a brand for a social media promotion?

Most people recommend running promotions to extend your reach and “reward” your community for supporting your brand. I agree with both, but only when done right. Always aim to partner with brands that truly fit your brand image for giveaways and special promotions, so you and the brand BOTH benefit. If you’re an environmental non-profit, think about partnering with an eco-friendly brand for a giveaway.

When you reach out to these brands, try to find a contact person in Marketing or PR. Send them an email explaining what your organization does, what you have in mind for the promotion, why you think their brand is a perfect fit, and some key statistics about your social media community.

Please tell us which websites/social sites you’d like for people follow.

Twitter: @WhatAshleyWears

Blog: www.whatwouldashleywear.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/whatwouldashleywear

Non-profit account: @GiftofLife

Facebook: www.facebook.com/giftoflife

Blog: www.giftoflife.org/blog

There is a Cause for Everyone

Personally, after listening meeting Ashley I plan to can increase my activity to create an awareness and raise funds  through the use of social media.

There are SO many organizations and causes to consider. Visit the links that Ashley provided or  “Find a Cause” http://www.causes.com/discover where you can browse by category or action.