Social Media Metrics: Helping Nonprofits Support Their Cause

This week marks the end of the blogging project for my Social Media for PR class.  As I had mentioned, this project was the first time I had ever written a blog.  Over the course of the semester I have analyzed several local nonprofits and examined their social media techniques for getting noticed and engaging with stakeholders. Along with material covered in class, I have used experts from my personal learning network as references to help guide my analysis. What I learned over the past few months is that social media is a tool that empowers nonprofits and opens their doors to an audience that is both engaged and readily accessible.  Social media has changed the way nonprofits reach their audience and has become essential to fundraising and donations.

So what now?  What should nonprofits do once they have established their social networks?  It makes sense to engage with their audience.  When social networking is used as means to establish an online presence for an organization such as a nonprofit, it becomes a bit more complex than simple acts of tapping “like” a photos and a “retweet.” These networks are extremities of the physical organization and should represent the essence of what the organization stands for. Furthermore, how does an organization measure the outcome of their social media activity?

You often hear “content is king” and there is a major emphasis on the content that an organization posts to draw individuals to their cause.  While content is surely an important factor, Beth Kanter explains in her recent blog post How Do We Balance Measuring Outcomes with Measuring to Learn and Improve? that the best example of social media practice is when it is used for “engagement with a purpose.”  Social media metrics can be complicated but its important to measure your outcomes in comparison to the work put into social networking.  Kanter also addresses this in Social Media Is About Engagement with a Purpose and How to Measure it.  In order for social media practices to be effective, they should be aligned with the organization’s mission and an expressed goal. Social media metrics is about helping an organization excel towards their specific goals and support for causes.  Kanter posted a list of Key Performance Indicators from her book Measuring the Networked Nonprofit:  Using Data to Change the World, co authored by Katie Delahaye Paine, that I found most helpful.  According to Kanter and Paine, these are potential outcomes that a nonprofit might see from social media activity.

Since I started this blog, we have looked at tips for nonprofits, the power of visual storytelling, the tremendous success of crowdfunding seen here in Austin, thought leadership, and many other tactics.  Overall, the most important advice for nonprofits is aligning social media engagement with the organization’s goals and mission. Social media with a purpose! I hope this blog has helped put things in perspective.  Until next time…


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Cultivating Virtual Community Leadership: CASA of Travis County

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month so let’s take a look at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Travis County.  This organization provides a voice for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court, at school, and in the community. CASA’s mission is to provide trained volunteers to advocate on behalf of these children in efforts to find them a safe home and promising future.

The framework to achieve CASA’s mission is to educate and empower a diverse community of volunteers to ensure each child’s needs remain a priority. In situations where the parents or guardians responsible for protecting a child are not fulfilling this fundamental need, the state takes over that responsibility.  This is when a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what’s best for the child.  Today, CASA of Travis County is one of the top ten CASA programs in the nation, supporting more than 550 volunteers who advocate for at least 1,500 children a year.

Since I have been writing this blog and analyzing local nonprofits, CASA of Travis County has the most social networks of all the organizations I have covered.  Their online presence can be found here:

(CASA’s Facebook banner)

Debra Askanase, engagement strategist and Community Organizer 2.0 blogger, discussed Redefining Community Leadership for an Online World and explored the role community plays in the development of an organization.  Askanase explains that when an organization creates its social media networks, it opens up to an online audience and expands its community.  This transforms a traditional community leadership model to one that accommodates a social media savvy audience.  Askanase emphasizes that once an organization cultivates a virtual community, it is the organization’s responsibility to engage with these individuals as you would face-to-face.  She gives the example of a community of parents in a school. Just as you listen to their suggestions and thoughts, you need to do the same with any virtual community. CASA has a well-executed social media strategy that not only engages their stakeholders, but it has the capacity of building new relationships and enhancing old news. If the aim is to open up the virtual community to all types of users, this is a great organization to use as a model for diverse techniques.  Kudos to CASA of Travis County! Stay tuned…


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Using Technology for Social Change: Texas Civil Rights Project

What began as a program in Austin with only two unpaid staffers has turned into a force for change that houses five legal offices across Texas.  The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) has been a relentless advocate for racial, social, and economic equality through litigation, education, and social services for low/moderate-income persons that are the least able to defend themselves.  Full disclosure:  My husband serves on the Board of Councils for TCRP and has been co-counsel with TCRP for pro bono legal representation.

TCRP’s online presence can be found on:

TCRP has a very active social media presence, particularly through their Facebook and Twitter sites.  The organization strategically uses their activity on social media to be a “thought leader” through their network sites for social change.  TCRP accomplishes this by establishing an ideal balance between posts about the organization’s needs and posts about the individuals they are actually helping.  This makes their causes tangible for their audience through a collective effort on their part.  Fast Company articulates The Golden Rules of Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership by explaining why “thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire . . . it should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”  The article elaborates that thought leadership requires a consistent cumulative effort.  Here are a few examples of TCRP’s posts:

Last September, Beth Kanter posted a recap of Mashable’s Social Good Summit titled, [Reflection] Mashable #sgsGLOBAL: How Do We Get From Collective Conversation To Action To Impact? This event is designed for a younger, social media savvy audience. The speakers (including Kanter) and the agenda were focused on doing good in the world and implementing social change.  According to Kanter’s reflection of the event, because of the online connectedness of today’s young demographic, their opportunities to do good in the world our endless.

When nonprofits, such as TCRP, use social media effectively to sustain their mission and spread awareness, they are reaching an audience that is driven to support social change.  This encourages social media users to follow their passion and challenges them to start or enhance their opportunity to support initiatives such as protecting a individual’s civil rights.  TCRP’s social media not only keeps their audience informed of the challenges everyday people face, they also intrigue and inspire people to support their cause.  Congratulations to TCRP and all the individuals who work hard to protect the most vulnerable citizens and thanks for keeping us posted of the great endeavors.  Stay tuned . . .

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Managing Time for Social Media: Mobile Loaves & Fishes

This week, we are looking at a nonprofit that serves our homeless community, Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF). This organization is a faith-based social outreach ministry committed to providing sustainable solutions for the homeless. Their mission is to provide food and clothing with compassion and dignity to those in need. MLF has a total of 17,208 volunteers and has served 3,321,458 meals to date.

The framework for accomplishing these goals is through two core programs, MLF Trucks and Community First! (CF!).  MLF Trucks operates on a fleet of catering trucks that go out on the streets and provide food, basic clothing, and hygiene products to those living on the streets. While MLF was founded in Austin, MLF Trucks now also serves San Antonio, Rhode Island, New Bedford, and Minneapolis.  The operation in Austin has 11 catering trucks and is organized by 8 local churches.  CF! is an outreach program that confronts homeless and provides affordable housing with amenities to improve quality of life.

MLF’s social media presence can be found on:

Their social media presence is one thing that sets them apart.  Their involvement in a wide variety of social media networks allows people to engage with MLF on the most popular sites and gives people options to following them on their favorite network. Nonprofit Quarterly recently published a blog post discussing Social Movement Leaders’ Thoughts on Managing Time for Social Media.  This addresses the common struggle that nonprofits face with managing all of their social media efforts in a timely and efficient manner.  This blog post summarizes Harvard Business Review’s blog post How to Make Space for Social Media and Forbes’ The Social Media Secretes of Top Movement Leaders into three key points:

  1. Make social media routine.
  2. Evaluate your results.
  3. Build relationships.

MLF is a great example of an organization that fits their social media outreach into their routine and manages time for it.  Their posts are part of their online culture and keep their audience informed and motivated by highlighting efforts to serve the homeless community.  For example, their Facebook page regularly posts about the everyday challenges some people in the community face in simply fulfilling basic needs.  Here are a few examples:

MLF not only describes an individual’s journey for life improvement but also shares stories of others that try to impact the homeless community.  The group also shares links to articles that showcase their efforts.  Their activity on various social networks helps MLF build relationships for their various local affiliates and connects their stakeholders on a broader level.  Keep up the great up Mobile Loaves & Fishes!  Stayed Tuned…

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Driven by Results: I Live Here, I Give Here

This week, let’s take a look at a nonprofit that is all about connecting Austinites with causes they care most about – I Live Here, I Give Here.  This organization partners with local charities and nonprofits to make them more accessible to the Austin residents. This nonprofit was established in 2007 and since then it has been making a tremendous impact by raising awareness about the city’s need to equally match volunteerism and funding for nonprofits.  According to their website, Austin is ranked 48th out of the 50 largest cities in the nation in per capita charitable giving.  While people are passionate about volunteering, a severe shortage of funds for local nonprofits limits the community to its full potential. I Live Here, I Give Here’s mission is to widen the culture of philanthropy by inspiring people to invest more money in our community.  They have proudly partnered with several local charities and nonprofits and spotlight specific needs in Austin each month to let you know how you can help. Currently, I Live Here, I Give Here has six lucrative programs, one of which I discussed in last week’s post, A Crowdfunding Success Story: Amplify Austin.

I Live Here, I Give Here’s online presence can be found on:

My interest to analyze I Live Here, I Give Here arose from their ability to foster a relationship with Central Texans.  More specifically, I was extremely impressed by the way they motivated the community to raise over 2 million dollars in 24 hours of online giving with their program Amplify Austin. This campaign was driven by the efforts of social media not only by this organization but also by the other participating nonprofits involved in the program.  Bundle Post founder and CEO, Michael M. Caruso, recently articulated that Social Media is Not About Engagement, but it is instead a means to achieve results and accomplish goals.  His blog post explains that engagement involves activity, which prompts a response from your audience and builds online presence. Yet, regardless of the type of organization, your involvement in social media should be driven by a specific reason – a return of investment.  The gain should be comparable to the “time, money and resources that you are spending” in the social media sphere.  Caruso sets forth a challenge for organizations to “spend less time on the methods of social media and focus more on achieving real revenue and results.” This is great advice for any organization that invests in social media.

This challenge is at the core of I Live Here, I Give Here’s mission to motivate Central Texas to invest more money in the community. Participants in Amplify Austin certainly received a tremendous return for efforts during this campaign. The success of this program is a testament to the challenges the organization sets forth by achieving “real revenue and results.”  Keep up the great work I Live Here, I Give Here!  Stay tuned…

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A Crowdfunding Success Story: Amplify Austin

This week, I want to do something a little different. Instead on focusing on a specific nonprofit, I want to talk about an event that took over Austin this past week: Amplify Austin.  This was a campaign organized by I Live Here, I Give Here, a local nonprofit which partners local charities and nonprofits so they are more accessible to Austin’s residents.  There were over 300 participating nonprofits that designated an epic day of online philanthropy with the goal of raising $1 million in 24 hours.

This trending technique in the nonprofit world of fundraising is called crowdfunding.  In Crowdfunding 101, Nonprofit Quarterly explains this buzzword as an operational goal of building a base of small donors in efforts to raise a large amount of money.

Beth Kanter (an expert in the nonprofit sector and also a speaker at SXSW Interactive) shared PhilanthroTech: How Nonprofits Are Using Crowdfunding, a guest post by David Neff.  Neff, an Austinite and author of The Future of Nonprofits, was on the planning committee for Amplify Austin. Neff explains that crowdfunding is on the mind of every executive director and at the forefront of nonprofit fundraising projects.  Neff notes that crowdfunding generally is not a new concept.  However, “giving days” is a newfound approach to crowdfunding. Neff anticipates this strategy to be the buzz of nonprofits for 2013.  Razzo, a crowdfunding platform and the industry’s leader in giving days, describes this new tactic as flash funding, or online fundraising competitions that unite hundreds of nonprofits over a short period of time.  Giving days involve 24 hour online fundraising that brings communities together for local causes.

This was tested right here in Austin March 4-5 and was a tremendous successful.  Over the past few months while I have been analyzing local nonprofits for this blog, it has been fascinating to see how these organizations engaged their audience through social media and ultimately united the community in a way that has never been seen before. Austin’s nonprofits not only used social media to get the word out but to tell their story and explain why Central Texans should participate in this day of online giving. Nonprofits used techniques such as visual storytelling and incorporated hashtag #AmplifyAustin throughout their campaign efforts. Well, Central Texans did just that and more than doubled Amplify Austin’s goal. The community came together online and raised $2,802,029!  Congratulations to everyone that organized this event and to the nonprofits that participated.


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Supporting Local Food with Social Media

Let’s take a look at HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Campaign, specifically at their project in Austin, the HOPE Farmers Market.  The HOPE campaign is an eco-conscious non-profit that helps artists and musicians support education projects around the world.  The goal of their project is to motivate a community and develop local awareness regarding global issues.  Here in Austin, the HOPE Campaign has cultivated a strong presence with their HOPE Farmers Market project.  The purpose of the HOPE Farmers Market is to unite the community to support a local food system, to increase access to healthy food, and celebrate the local culture in East Austin.  The market features farmers, food artisans, and artists from Central Texas.  Here is where you can find the HOPE Farmers Market and links to their social media sites:

My interest to analyze the HOPE Farmers Market is based on the fact that it is the longest running Sunday farmers market in Austin. From my perspective, their social media efforts play a key factor in sustaining their success.  In Aligning Social Media with Organizational Goals, blogger Rosita Cortez writes that having a social media “presence” is of no value unless your online activity is in sync with the organization’s goal and mission.  Reputation management and social media are major factors to an organization’s overall presence.  It is important for nonprofits to establish merit within their social media activity and translate messaging to their audience. Cortez outlines three tactics to successfully align the organization’s social media activity with organizational objectives:  1) monitor, respond and engage in conversations happening around your nonprofit; 2) proactively identify advocates and build relationships with key influencers; and 3) create and share valuable content to position your organization as trust-worthy leader.

HOPE Farmers Market is an excellent example a nonprofit that fulfills these criteria.  They have a very active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and are always sharing valuable information with their fan-base on a daily basis.  Whether it is talking about neighborhood events or their featured vendors, HOPE Farmers Markets makes it their mission to keep their friends and followers looking forward to Sundays.  Supporting the local community, farmers and artisans are always at the forefront of every post and tweet.  Today (Sunday, March 3rd) was a big day for HOPE as the market moved to a new location at the Plaza Saltillo.  They’ve used social media to engage their audience in conversations building up to the event and special happenings in anticipation of celebrating the move.  Below are a few examples.

Kudos to the HOPE Farmers Market social media team for always educating Austin about healthy eating and buying local, and congratulations on the new location!  Stay tuned.



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Social Media Storytelling + the Donate Button

Let’s talk about Con Mi MADRE.  Full discloser:  I am an active member of the Junior League of Austin and I have been serving Con Mi MADRE as a volunteer through our community project partnerships since September 2012.

Con Mi MADRE’s mission is to increase the representation of Hispanic women in post-secondary education. Con Mi MADRE has designed their program for girls and their mothers to work together and stay on track to graduate from high school and then help them plan and apply to two or four year universities. Con Mi MADRE’s online presence can be found on:

Social Media 4 Nonprofits’ founder and blogger, Rosita Cortez, recently discussed the importance of Visual Storytelling for Nonprofits.  Her blog post describes how nonprofits can use visuals to connect with their audience and ultimately advance their mission.  Cortez explains that studies of the top 10 brands on Facebook have shown that users “like” photos twice as often as text updates, and users share videos 12 times more than photo and text posts combine. This information is useful for nonprofits so that they can tailor their marketing and development messages on social media to tell the organization’s mission in a way that people find compelling, concise and original. By using photos and videos, social media users can quickly assess whether a cause or organization is worth supporting.

Con Mi MADRE has found a unique way of telling their story through social media with The Power of 20 Giving Campaign, which began February 11th and ends March 2nd.  The purpose of this campaign is to inspire their audience with 20 success stories from the past 20 years in hope of continued success in the future.  These stories are posted on Facebook and Twitter and include photos and videos that bring their people life and build that important emotional connection.  Here is an example of one of the Power of 20 stories:

Shortly after posting a success story, Con Mi MADRE follows up with link to make a donation to their cause.  Take a look:

A donation button can also be on the home page of their website.  Nonprofit Tech 2.0: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits, created by Heather Mansfield, recently posted Fundraising Best Practices: Sharing the Results of Donating Online to 31 Nonprofits.  Mansfield discusses how important it is for nonprofits to successfully integrate social media and mobile communications into their “Donate Now” process.  She points out that effective integration can be determined by featuring the “Donate Now” button on the nonprofit’s home page requiring only 2-3 seconds to locate.  Not only does Con Mi MADRE feature their donate button on their home page, a direct link to donate has been included alongside their postings for The Power of 20 Giving Campaign.

Overall, Con Mi MADRE uses social media to effectively engage their audience and provide ease for their friends and followers to make a donation. Kudos to the staff that make Con Mi MADRE a true success story!  Stay tuned.

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A Rally for Texas Public Education: Through the Social Media Lens

This week, let’s look at Save Texas Schools, one of many programs organized by Austin Voices for Education and Youth (AVEY). Full disclosure:  my husband serves as a board member for this nonprofit.  AVEY’s initiatives focus on public schools and expanding opportunities for Austin’s youth by improving campuses, engaging youth, and influencing district-wide change. One of their biggest projects is the Save Texas Schools coalition. This coming Saturday, February 23rd is the Save Texas Schools Rally and March at our State Capital, which provides a good opportunity to examine the organization’s social media strategy to engage its stakeholders for the big event.

The goal of this program is to raise awareness among our state officials and build public support to fund Texas public education. Like many nonprofits, it is important to keep in mind that the coalition’s social media is managed and organized by volunteers.  Here are their social media sites:

Beth Kanter, an expert in the field of social media for nonprofits, discussed the difficulty of linking an organization’s success to their social media efforts in her blog post, Can You Measure Love?. Kanter outlines a few key points to quantify a meaningful way for nonprofits to measure progress.  The one that stood out the most is to establish a detailed “chain of events” through the organization’s social media usage.  In doing so, Kanter explains how the outline strategically creates a pathway to the organization’s overall mission and definition of success.

The Save Texas Schools’ Facebook page and Twitter page do a very nice job of establishing the framework for their mission and building up the excitement for the upcoming march and rally. They keep their social media conversations current and ongoing by posting articles and videos from reputable experts discussing topics that are directly related to their cause.  They also created an event page on Facebook for the Save Texas Schools Rally & March 2013, which is open to the public.  Here are a few examples of how they’ve executed a strategic chain of events:

Lately, Save Texas Schools has been keeping the rally and march at the forefront of their postings.  This builds excitement for the event and keeps a consistent message of fighting for great public schools for all Texas children.  Last week, Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Austin’s City Council declared February 23rd (the date of the rally & march) as “Save Texas Schools Day” for the organization’s success with advocacy on the issue.

I would measure the organization’s social media tactics as successful.  Their campaign has definitely helped them build a presence here in Austin and statewide, which may not have been possible without social media. Kudos to Austin Voices for Education and Youth and their commitment to Save Texas Schools!


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Using Social Media to Save Austin’s Pet Community

As an animal lover, this week’s post is dedicated to two of my favorite local nonprofits – Austin Pets Alive and Austin Humane Society.  Both organizations aim to make Austin a no-kill city and over the past few years have made their efforts known to the community through social media.

In fact, according to the Austin Pets Alive website, Austin is the largest no-kill city in the nation for the past two years.  Their mission is to help healthy pets that are at risk of being euthanized in a shelter, rescue pets, and help owners that are in situations where they have to surrender their pet(s) to a shelter.  Austin Pets Alive’s social media presence can be found on the following sites:

The Austin Humane Society is the city’s largest and longest standing no-kill nonprofit animal shelter.  They were established in 1952 and have since then been devoted to eliminating unnecessary euthanasia of dogs and cats.  Their social media presence can be found on the following sites:

Looking back at last week’s post, Scratching the Surface: Understanding Social Media for Nonprofits, these two organizations are exemplars as thought leaders in the social media world.  Being a “content curator” was one of the Three Simple but Powerful Social Media for Nonprofits Tips.  Both Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society place a strong emphasis on the animals they serve through their social media sites. This is what people care most about – the impact felt by the community and individuals (or animals in this case) that benefit from the organization’s relentless endeavors.  What these organizations do is tell stories to their audience through their posts, tweets and videos.  Stories about how these cats and dogs got to where they are, how they like to spend their day, and the types of owners they are hoping to find. What I like most is that these posts are personal and are usually constructed as if that particular cat or dog is speaking directly you. Here are a couple of examples of their latest Facebook posts:


Both of these nonprofits have established a great balance between posting the organizations’ fundraising needs and the stories and bios of their animals in need of homes and loving owners.  For example, the Austin Humane Society has been tweeting about Amplify Austin, an upcoming community-wide day of online philanthropy with the goal of raising $1 million in 24 hours.  Using hashtag #AmplifyATX, the Austin Humane Society is getting the word about the event while keeping their purpose on the minds of their followers.  Take a look:

Social endorsement is a major contributing factor to an organization’s social media campaign.  This is when someone shares or retweets an organization’s post.  I have a friend on Facebook who is also an animal lover and often shares links to Austin Pets Alive’s posts. I unfortunately don’t have the bandwidth to adopt another pet right now (I can still remember the moment when I picked up our Bengal-mix cat, Chloe, as a tiny kitten that could fit in my palm almost 9 years ago!), it definitely reminds me of the needs of our pet community. Actually, this is what got me to follow the organization’s social media sites in the first place. Here are some stats from the MDG Advertising infographic I mentioned last week regarding social endorsement:


So even if you can’t adopt or donate, it doesn’t hurt to share the organization’s stories with your social media community.  Overall, Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society are two exemplar non-profits that have developed well-executed techniques to build strong and credible social media presences.  If you have a soft spot for animals, I suggest following these organizations to learn more about what you can do help. As always, thanks for reading! Stay tuned…


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