How to use social media to help community organizations

One of our primary goals as elected officials to to help grow the community.  That frequently includes helping local community organizations grow and succeed.  Social media would seem to be a perfect fit for helping local non-profits grow then.  After all, it’s a low cost but high impact way of helping these organizations succeed. Plus, helping these organizations will certainly be appreciated by the people who work and volunteer there, and that can only be a good thing, right?

Well…sort of.  Two things to be cautious about when it comes to using your social media resources in an effort to help local non-profits.

First, if you help some, others may ask you to do the same for them.  That may not necessarily be a problem, but if the requests keep coming in, it can start to get overwhelming. Additionally, you may run into a problem where a non-profit hold believes that are contrary to yours.  For example, if any group came to me and asked for my assistance but didn’t have a policy of LGBT non-discrimination, I would not want to help them.  This, of course, can create an ugly situation that can lead to bad feelings against you.

Second, you have to check the legal ramifications of any assistance you provide to non-profits.  As a result of numerous scandals that hit non-profit agencies and elected officials during the 2000s, our caucus adopted a policy in which we can only help a non-profit, using official resources (like our official FB or Twitter pages) if there is an official government connection, such as that agency receiving state funding.  As a result, we always need to be cautious when we use our officials resources to help a non-profit.  Now, there is nothing to stop us from using our personal FB or Twitter pages to promote an agency, but then you potentially run into the problems as noted above.

So, if you can get through these two items, here are a few ways that you can help a non-profit agency in your community:

1) Non-profit of the day: You can launch a Facebook or Twitter post that highlights a “non-profit of the day/week.”  Write a brief post about who they are, what they do, who they serve and include a link that has a call to action (like donations or volunteering).

2) “Bet” or contest:  This is one that I really like.  Create a bet with another colleague of yours – for example, see who can raise the most money for a non-profit.  The loser has to do something embarrassing – like sing at the local Farmer’s Market.  Of course, chronicle and promote the entire event on social media.

3) Highlight your visit: Use social media, and particularly pictures/video, to show off your visit to an agency.  Whenever I visit somewhere, we take pictures and video – this winds up on our social media and in our newsletter.  Of course, it also highlights the good work that a non-profit is doing.

4) Collections:  My office has a regular collections of hygiene products for homeless kids in the Allentown School District.  We also ran a “132 for the 132” promotion (I represent the 132nd District) where we collected 132 pieces of canned goods for Second Harvest.

5) Office volunteer effort: Last year, we had some “slower” periods over the summer.  To that end, my staff closed the office for a few hours to go down to Second Harvest of the Lehigh Valley and stuff backpacks of food.  We took pictures and put them on our social media and in our newsletter.

Do you have any other thoughts to add?  Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Email newsletter!

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