board support

Not too long ago I was scrolling through social media, and I saw a development director say in a post that she “expected” her nonprofit board to support and promote the organization through social media. She was disappointed that they weren’t meeting expectations.

My thought was––really?

What’s wrong with this picture?

How Can You Expect What Most Don’t Know?

In my view, it’s crazy to see a director of development complaining about her nonprofit board when they don’t see them supporting the organization on social media. People on the thread seemed to agree with me and pointed out in their comments that this should not be an “expectation” unless she has properly trained and educated the board.

My question for this director of development is simple.

What have you done to help educate and inform your board members about the value of social media, or even how it works for a brand?

The reality is that although many people use social media, they don’t know the ins and outs of it well enough to understand the impact for a nonprofit’s brand reach. Sure, individuals might know how to post, like and share, but they don’t understand the reasons why this type of activity on behalf of organizations is necessary.

Nonprofits Should Educate Board Members About the Facts

One of the most important reasons nonprofit board members should be involved in supporting an organization’s social media efforts is because it helps build brand awareness. It also helps drive donations when messaging, and audiences are appropriately targeted and coordinated. It aids organizations in helping spread the word. But, this has to be put into context for board members.

  • Organic reach, for example on Facebook, is increasingly rare; meaning, that posts that are not paid and sponsored will have a range of less than 1 percent of followers. So, by board members helping by liking, commenting and sharing nonprofit posts, they are mainly helping organizations push past that abysmal metric.
  • As a follow-up to the above point, it might be worth more for an organization to have a particular post viewed by 25,000 new people as opposed to receiving a donation for $10 or $25. By that, I mean that the 25,000 new views might bring a certain percentage of new supporters who will end up giving more than the donations of a few of the board members (assuming general gifts). 
  • According to NP Tech for Good, nonprofits should grow their Facebook and Twitter followers by 23 percent annually. Did you know that most people who like a nonprofit’s Facebook page, for example, will never return to it? It’s essential to keep building the follower base for those who may never once like a post or will simply disappear as a follower or supporter.
  • 84 percent of people on social media do in fact support their causes they care about on these types of networks, as highlighted by Classy. What this means to your board members is that the majority of social media users support causes they care about, and this should serve as a clear motivator for them.
  • 71 percent of all philanthropic giving come from individuals. So, it’s important to remind board members that although your organization may rely on institutional funders, the reality is that individual and major gifts are the source of most charitable donations. And, with the majority of people using social networks regularly, sharing of causes by board members is important.
  • An article by Georgetown University stated, “There are typically five ways in which a social-media supporter first becomes involved with supporting causes: donating money (40 percent), talking to others about the cause (40 percent), learning more about the cause and its impact (37 percent), donating clothing or other items (30 percent), and signing a petition (27 percent) (Ogilvy, 2011).” Those are great statistics to share with board members when helping them learn about social media.

Nonprofit board members do have a fiduciary and governance responsibility to support the charity where they serve. That’s a given. But, what can’t be expected is that directors of development or executive directors complain about their board members for not supporting them on social media.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I can bet most nonprofit board members don’t have a thorough understanding of how and why social media can benefit their nonprofit. They don’t understand their role in the broader efforts. And, they don’t know the difference they can make. Meaning, nonprofit staff have to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve provided their boards with all of the information they need to help inform and educate them about social media.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Be Bold, Dominate and Succeed in Marketing For Today’s Digital World On A Limited Budget” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.