This post is part the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on “Social Media for Social Good,” in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how people are using social media to raise money, awareness, communicate with volunteers and otherwise further their cause and grow their organization.

People who know me know I love social media. As a connector, the allure of being able to interact with unlimited numbers of people is irresistible.  Twitter used to be my “drug” of choice. However, since the creation of groups on Facebook, I find myself almost ignoring Twitter. Facebook groups are where I spend the vast majority of my time on social media. Last spring, I created a group for nonprofit professionals in Chicago. I have been networking  and working with that crowd for years and was frustrated that there was no one place where I could share information and connect people who would benefit from knowing each other. I started the group with 40 Facebook friends who were nonprofit professionals in Chicago. It quickly grew and we are now approaching 200 members.

In this group, people post requests for help, nonprofit job openings, articles they’ve read, great tools they have discovered, and upcoming events in Chicago. Group members have met and connected with others who they very likely never would have encountered, and have had great things happen because of those connections.

Obviously, not every tool is a good fit for every organization. But I do believe, based on my personal experiences in the group I created, that there can be some real benefit for nonprofits that utilize Facebook groups. For those who decide to create a group, there are a few tips and some explanations that will help:

1. When you create a group, you decide whether to make the group open, closed, or secret. Here’s what each of those terms mean:

  • Open: Everyone can see the group, who is in the group, and the conversations that take place.
  • Closed: Everyone can see the group and who is in the group, but only members can view the conversations in the group.
  • Secret: The group, its members, and conversations can only be seen by those in the group.

2. At the top of the group you are able to add a photo of your choosing. The default setting displays photos of group members who most recently participated in group conversations.

Photos are of recent participants.

This is the top of a Facebook group.

3. Groups search can be utilized to find conversations by members or topics that have been discussed. Search is the magnifying glass on the far right.

These are where you access the tools in Facebook groups, right under the group photo.

These are where you access the tools in Facebook groups, right under the group photo.

4. Files can be created in the group. These files can keep the group conversation clean and even eliminate self-promotional posts by members. They are created by clicking on the word “Files” as shown in the photo above. Once you click it, the screen below will appear.

This is what happens when you click "Files" in a Facebook group

Adding Files In Facebook Groups

In our group, as soon as someone is added, I create a welcome post. In that post, I refer them to a file on group rules and regulations and request that they add their contact information to our members contact information file.

5. Events for group members can be created via the tab near the Files tab in the group. The event is displayed the same as other Facebook events, but everyone in the group is automatically included and event updates show up in the group conversation.

6. Important posts in the group can be pinned to the top so that, regardless of other conversations, those posts remain the top item visible to members when they enter the group. Hovering over the right corner of a post and then clicking the arrow reveals the option to pin that post.

7. Although the location may vary in each group, the words, “Seen by,” followed by a number, indicates how many have seen the post. By hovering over those words, the names of the individuals who have seen the post appear.

"Seen by," in the lower right corner, reveals how many people have seen a post.

“Seen by,” in the lower right corner, reveals how many people have seen a post.

For me, this is one of my favorite features of groups. Even if a post has not received any comments at all, I am still able to see that people have read it. Group members don’t always have time to share and respond or may feel as though they don’t have anything of value to add to the conversation. But as long as folks continue to check in to what is being discussed in the group, participating when they have time, the group has value.

Have you participated in groups on Facebook? What kind of value have those groups added for you? Could you envision a group assisting your nonprofit in its work? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

This post is part of the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on social media for social good. Check out other views about what’s working and not working to make change by checking out posts below from community managers, board members, connectors and leaders in the social good community. To continue the conversation please join us in a Twitter Chat with the hashtag #Marketinghop on Tuesday, March 19 at 1 pm CST.

Christa Beall Diefenbach (@axelsoncenter):  3 Essential Steps to Social Fundraising Sucess

Alexandra Bezdikian (@alebez):  How nonprofits are using Vine to tell their stories

Sophia Madana (@smadana): To Be Seen and Heard: Cultivating a Social Education

And on the Lightspan Digital blog: Raising Funds and Building Community With Social Media, with these 2 posts: Michelle Laing (@M_Laing): Raising Funds Through Twitter Targeting and Myles Dannhausen (@mylespulse): Bringing a Community Together

 

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My mom

My mother, Grace Ketroser

This post is dedicated to my mother, Grace Ketroser, who died in October, 1985, from lung cancer, and who understood the value of community better than anyone I know. Between extensive volunteering and inviting every person in Minneapolis over for a home cooked meal, she was an advocate for being an active and giving member of the community. I still miss her every day.

Strong and engaged communities are hallmarks of successful nonprofit organizations. Whether it is fundraising, promoting events, or recruiting volunteers, a vibrant community makes everything about a nonprofit more effective. But the techniques for building these strong communities eludes many organizations. What do those successful organizations know that could be shared so that more nonprofits could benefit?

Sock Monkey

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer

My friend Jennifer Stauss Windrum just finished a wildly successful campaign for SMAC! (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) on the crowd funding platform, Start Some Good.   The entire back story of how this project came to be (here, here, and here)  is pretty heartwarming. The way that Jennifer went about creating and building this community was truly masterful. And although SMAC! and WTF (Where’s the Funding) Lung Cancer, the parent initiative that spawned the SMAC! campaign, are social good ventures, not nonprofits, the same principles apply.

I met Jennifer through a Facebook group called Punk Views on Social Media (PVSM.)  Jennifer first decided to create SMAC! in the spring/summer of 2011. Her crowd funding campaign was not until November of 2012, but she began planning more than a year in advance. Community building takes time. Jennifer enlisted support by asking questions and soliciting help in the very early stages. She created a private Facebook group, and utilized the collective intellect of the members of that group as well as that of PVSM. Jennifer really listened to what we had to say, incorporating much of our input into the choices she made. By crowd sourcing the development of SMAC!, Jennifer was able to build, in her own words, a “group of ambassadors on Facebook.” Jennifer said, “As a one-man band…I couldn’t possibly tackle all that I wanted to. I needed to build an army.” Jennifer had created a comprehensive PR/Marketing/Social Media strategy. This army helped her implement that strategy beyond what would be possible for just one person. Our involvement in the early stages of development created an emotional investment. We were enthusiastic about helping to bring SMAC! monkeys to life. When Jennifer was ready to consider funding sources for SMAC!, she decided to rely on this community she had created by embarking on a crowd funding campaign.

One of the key components of the SMAC! campaign’s success was Jennifer’s extraordinary ability to tell her mother’s story, particularly through video and blog posts. She openly shared the raw emotion of what it was like for her mother to be fighting lung cancer. We fell in love with her mother’s spirit and courage and felt as though we were building a living legacy to this woman who was losing her battle with lung cancer. This authenticity and transparency was a part of everything Jennifer did. She built our trust because she was very clear on the motivation for this campaign, and on what would happen once the money was raised. This inspired us to become (and remain) involved in the community.

Jennifer also realized that she needed to provide multiple strategies for engagement so that everyone could find a way to help promote the message.  She provided a clear plan with steps we could take to support SMAC! This meant that not all of her efforts were on just one platform or even online. She utilized Twitter and Facebook to reach people. But she also sent out email campaigns, text messages, and did extensive blogger and media outreach. For those not online, she created SMAC-downs, events to promote the cause, and provided instructions to people across the country about how to host their own SMAC-downs. And she live-streamed happenings as well. Her outreach was incredibly comprehensive.

This campaign was not easy for Jennifer. There was a fair amount of stress built into the process already. She was creating something that was, in many ways, completely foreign to her.  Just before the campaign was set to launch, her mother decided to discontinue all but palliative care. No one was sure how long she might have. But with aggressive stage IV lung cancer, her time was certainly limited. There were so many other hurdles and difficult situations along the way. But what impressed so many of us, was Jennifer’s tenacity, even in the face of extraordinary adversity. Regardless of what else was going on, she just kept going.

The most extraordinary part of what made the SMAC! campaign successful was Jennifer’s ability to show gratitude to everyone involved in the process. She thanked people online with Facebook posts and with video. She thanked people personally via email and Facebook messages. She continuously told us that it was our hard work that led to the success of the campaign and never seemed to take credit for her hard work. That great humility made Jennifer irresistible. We couldn’t wait to help her every step of the way because we had fallen in love with her.

I am so grateful to be a part of this truly awesome SMAC! community. Jennifer created an environment in which her journey became our journey and her victory became our victory. And we all felt as though we had been a part of something magical. Imagine if more of our nonprofit organizations became skilled at building communities the way Jennifer built this one. I can only imagine what might be possible if more of those organizations created some of that magic for their communities as well.

(Special thanks to the gang in PVSM, who helped me come up with the content of this post.)

I learned, as I was writing this blog post, that Jennifer’s mother, Leslie Lehrman, had lost her battle with lung cancer. May Jennifer find peace and comfort in the living legacy that has been created in this extraordinary woman’s memory.

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