Nonprofit Executives and Twitter

Nonprofit Executives and Twitter

Nonprofit organizations of all sizes work tirelessly to build their audience and communicate more effectively. Some charities have been successful with executive staff that have a public presence on Twitter, while other organizations have struggled in building an audience. There are a few factors to take into consideration if an executive at your charity is considering doing this.

There are many different ways to utilize Twitter to promote your organization and brand. We’ve stated in this space that Twitter – like all forms of social media – is most effective when used as an engagement and communication tool, compared to just a broadcasting mechanism.

To better understand the difference we’ve highlighted the Twitter feeds from two executives from a large organization, the American Cancer Society. With CEO John Seffrin, (@AmerCancerCEO) tweets are focused on organizational news and often highlight other internal Twitter accounts. It is focused on broadcasting updates. Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley (@OtisBrawley) tweets regularly with similar organizational updates but he also replies to people, shares his own personal views on current events, and links to articles that interest him.

These different communication styles are widely used but have different goals. One style is being used to disseminate updates, the other is being used to engage and interact with an audience.

If your goal is highlight updates and news items, then you can use Twitter to broadcast those to an audience. The ability to build an audience will often be limited; Twitter users like to interact and communicate with the people that they follow.

If your goal is to build an engaged audience, then it’s important that you consider some important questions. Is the executive at your nonprofit able to commit time to communicating in this space? Is he or she willing to be the public face of the organization? Is he or she comfortable with writing people back without input from other staff? If your executive takes a lot of time to craft any communication and prefers to have multiple people review it, Twitter might not be the right fit for them. Volunteers, journalists, and strangers are going to send public or direct messages to your executive and they need to be comfortable in handling these.

Twitter is another tool in your organization’s proverbial toolbox.  It’s important to utilize this tool, but only in an effective manner. An engaged and interactive executive helps to elevate your organization and brand.

If you’re looking for examples of nonprofit executives that have a strong Twitter presence, we suggest you follow these folks:

  • Bill Shore – Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Share Our Strength  – @billshore
  • Kate Barr – Executive Director of Nonprofits Assistance Fund – @KateSBarr
  • Robert Egger – Founder of DC Central Kitchen and CForward a 510c4. Currently starting L.A. Kitchen – @robertegger
  • Cecile Richards – President of Planned Parenthood – @CecileRichards
  • Jim Canales – President and CEO, The James Irvine Foundation – @jcanales
  • Terry Ryall – CEO of vInspired in the United Kingdom – @Terry_Ryall
  • Stephen Browning – President & CEO, Pet Partners -‏ @BrowningStephen
  • Michael Chae – Executive Director of Bay Area chapter of American Diabetes Association – @mchae

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