Building a Best Practice for Foundations Assessing Social Media

I’ve spent the past few days at the annual conference of the Grants Managers Network (GMN) and will publish two other posts about the conference. 

My first post though focuses on the grantmaking organizations and social media. Much as been written about foundations that use social media to communicate and outreach. But, very little has been written about how grantmaking organizations apply due diligence to social media use by their grant seekers and grant recipients. Due diligence in philanthropy reflects the funder’s efforts assess an organizations fiscal position, organizational effectiveness, leadership, and capacity to implement a specific grant. So, let’s build the best practice approach to this subject.

In building this best practice, funders can research both an organization’s footprint and behavior within social media platforms, and assess its strategies and capacity through its internal documents.  To keep this simple I have listed twenty key questions a funder should be asking when examining social media activities of an organization its researching. I’ll break these questions into external (i.e., things we can answer by simply researching online) and internal questions (i.e., things that we can only answer by getting information directly from the organization being researched).

 

External Questions
  1. How does the organization engage in social media? Does it publish a blog, post on Facebook, lead discussions on LinkedIn, tweet on Twitter, participate in geolocation services like Foursquare, or post videos on YoutTube?
  2. Has it attempted to engage in social media and failed?
  3. Is it an active listener? Does it engage in online conversations? Does it encourage discussion or possibly stifle it?
  4. What is the frequency of the content posted by the organization? Ideally, posts on Facebook should happen 5-10 times a week, while more tweets should appear on Twitter. New YouTube content should appear about once a month and blog posts should appear with regularity (anywhere from daily to once every week).
  5. How does the organization link across its social media platforms including its website? For example, does it link content from a blog post to Twitter and Facebook?
  6. Does the organization use social media to support its advocacy, policy, fundraising, or outreach activities? If so, how does it do so?
  7. How does the organization handle criticism within social media platforms?
  8. Does the organization easily identify how to find its social media content (e.g., does it have an RSS feed or widgets on its website)? 

 

Internal Questions
  1. How will the organization provide content to its fans and followers and subscribers?
  2. Does the organization have a social media plan? If so, what are the main elements of the plan and the organization’s strategy?
  3. Is the social media plan realistic (for example, expecting a CEO to blog and tweet regularly is most likely not appropriate)?
  4. Does it have a more extensive communication plan? If so, how does the social media plan fit into the larger communication plan?
  5. What specific goals does the organization have aligned with its social media platforms? What specific metrics does the organization use or plan to use to measure its progress towards achieving those goals? How does it use the metric data to make improvements in implementing its social media plan?
  6. Does the organization have a social media policy in place? Does it put unreasonable limitations and barriers to social media activities by staff?
  7. Does the organization identify the employees who ‘own’ the social media tasks within the organization? Is that organization plan realistic (e.g., does it depend on core staff or possibly interns)
  8. How does the social media plan support its advocacy, policy, fundraising, or outreach activities?
  9. Does the organization understand the legal implications and pitfalls of using social media (e.g., “liking” a political candidate during a political campaign might run afoul of a funder’s lobbying restrictions)?
  10. If the organization does use social media for advocacy or lobbying purposes, does it segregate funds to cover those activities?
  11. How does the nonprofit intend to control its social media presence? Will it restrict usage by staff or possibly require extensive approvals before social media posts can be published?
  12. What is the social media structure and how does it compare with its organizational culture? 

 

What other questions would you add?

 

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