How non-profits and brands partner for social capital

There is perhaps no group that stands to benefit more from the pervasiveness of social media than non-profits. This is because social media enables non-profits to distribute their message more easily and amplify awareness of the worthy causes they support.

It goes further than that. The social business marketplace is effectively forcing brands to engage with consumers on the basis of something that is meaningful to them. More often than not, this takes the form of some core value that finds expression in a non-profit cause. As such brands are demonstrating an increased commitment towards social responsibility which can often takes the form of a partnership with non-profits.

The onus then falls upon non-profits to be as savvy as their for profit partners by becoming more effective story tellers and community-builders using social media. For that to happen, non-profits must take several critical steps.

1.    Non-profits must become deeply engaged in the ways that their donor communities are using social technology. This obviously will involve Facebook and Twitter but also new photo sharing platforms such as Path or location based services like Foursquare, among others.

2.    Non-profits must reframe their roles as marketers rather than missionaries (to paraphrase the powerful message delivered by Melinda Gates at the 2010 TEDxChange). For this to happen, each non-profit must clearly define their own brand story within their cause category.

3.    Non-profits must be able to re-frame their positioning in terms of the needs of a potential brand partner. This means the non-profit must be able to clearly explain to the brand the benefits they will enjoy and community they will reach by partnering with the non-profit.

4.    Like for-profit marketers, non-profits must also become more singular and consistent in their messaging. In addition, to shore up donor confidence, they must engage social technology to provide transparency and accountability for how and where donor dollars are spent (charity: water is as a great example of this).

5.    Finally, non-profits must become more engaged and creative in the ways in which they message to their community. Ease of engagement does not absolve any entity, including non-profits, of the responsibility of keeping that audience connected and engaged. This means non-profits need to become more creative in how they capture people’s attention and raise critical fundraising dollars using social media.

One of the intentions behind writing We First was to offer non-profits insights into how to use social media to build their community, funds and positive impact. By aligning themselves with like-minded for-profits brands and becoming more effective marketers themselves, non-profits can scale their important positive impact they have on our world.