This is the first post in our series of “Aha Moments” which feature great ideas from nonprofits and small businesses. These ideas are truly inspiring for anyone who wants to do more to engage your audiences on and offline. These projects were not created by BC/DC Ideas, we want to share them because a good idea cannot go to waste! This all part of our passion in amplifying your genius.
The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (FBCENC) has a 30 year history of feeding North Carolina and is now launching a new way for individuals to volunteer. The Social Media Ambassadors program, which is kicking off at the Raleigh Twestival and Wilmington Twestival on March 24, allows social media savvy folks to leverage their talent of online influence for good.
Jen Newmeyer, Database, Direct Mail & Website Manager for the FBCENC, created the program to allow busy people be part of feeding our community. “I wanted to encourage people to volunteer for FBCENC on their own time without having to come down to the warehouse.”
The idea was hatched at a social media social last summer, why couldn’t people participate year-round in spreading the word about events?
Individuals can now sign-up via an online form, which captures vital information including mailing address, phone numbers and social media IDs including website, blog, Twitter handles, YouTube channel and Facebook profiles. Participants are then sent a welcome package through snail mail with information about the program and a few surprises.
Periodically throughout the year the Social Media Ambassadors will receive a personal email from Jen with detailed information about upcoming events to share via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or blogs. Jen plans on activating the Ambassadors five to six times a year focusing on two big events being the Kids Summer Stock which feeds kids during the non-school months and the fall food drive Heart of Carolina with ABC11.
“I want to keep the Ambassadors informed but I don’t ever want to make them feel guilty for not promoting an event,” Jen said.
Coming from a web design and development perspective, her number one goal is to promote events with this program. Sharing the issue of hunger and elevating the cause through constant communication from the Ambassadors is not a main goal.
Until the program gets bigger, Jen plans on writing personal emails to her Ambassadors. Eventually, she sees the potential for a e-newsletter, but not until the program gets more developed.
Jen plans on amplifying the Ambassadors’ posts by sharing them on the Food Bank’s social media channels. “We want our Ambassadors to benefit from their work as well.”
Jen has a simple brochure to promote the program and will be sending out periodic tweets and Facebook updates about the program.
The Ambassadors will receive an exclusive badge to add to their blog or website to promote their inclusion in the program.
Volunteer Management and Recognition
Jen will manage the relationships with the Ambassadors relieving the volunteer coordination team from managing one more group. “We are already booked out for months for larger volunteer groups. Our volunteer team is very busy.”
At the end of the year, Jen is considering a thank you event where the Social Media Ambassadors will be recognized and rewarded for their outreach. “I want them to feel special. As with all our volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Ambassador’s will also receive viability on the Food Bank’s SMA Partners Page with a logo and website links.
Many nonprofits are skittish about engaging volunteers to further an organization’s message due to the fear of a volunteer inadvertently damaging an organization’s brand. In most cases this fear is largely unfounded and Jen is taking calculated steps to head-off any problems.
While Jen doesn’t foresee any big problems with miss communication or the Ambassadors creating a media crisis, if it did happen the Food Bank would handle problems like any other media crisis. “We’d make one-on-one calls and get our public relations team involved.” Having the phone number of the Ambassadors is an important step in insuring success of a volunteer program like this.
The Food Bank doesn’t do a lot of social media tracking, mainly quantitative of watching follower total increases. Jen will be tracking the number of blog posts from Ambassadors, but she’s not stressing over it. “I figure we have more with them than we would without them, so I’m happy.”
This program is very much a pilot and Jen plans on implementing a mid-year survey to ask the Ambassadors what is working and what needs improvement in the program.
Using a New Medium to do Good
This is the most mature and thought out program I’ve seen for recruiting social media agents. Creating a concrete way for individuals to get involved in your brand is always a cost-efficient donor engagement tool. This group of Ambassadors will quickly become deeply engaged in the mission of the Food Bank and can then be leveraged to become invaluable advocates and reliable donors in the future. These gateway experiences are a great way to engage younger donors as well as busy business professionals.
“If this got big I’d make time for it. I really think this is an important media effort. Advertising is so outrageously expensive. We need to get the word out without spending lots of money.” Jen said. “Through this program we can do that.”