Bringing Social Inside: Social Media Staffing, Culture and Policies

Last week, I presented on the topic of “Bringing Social Inside” through Nonprofit Webinars. I developed the presentation because I believe that successful social media strategy and implementation must also have certain supportive foundations inside the organization. The core components are staffing, budget, a supportive culture, and some basic social media policies. Most organizations I’ve worked with have at least one of these four components, and very few have all four.


Staffing and budget go hand-in-hand because we all know that staff isn’t free (even volunteer staff!) I relied heavily on the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, sponsored by NTEN, CommonKnowledge, and Blackbaud, for information about current and projected social media budget and staffing within nonprofit organizations. This report includes data and responses from over 3,400 nonprofit professionals working across the field. I also pulled data from the Social Media Marketing Report compiled by Social Media Examiner, which offers counterbalance with similar data from small-to-medium-sized businesses. A few interesting points:

  • When asked to list success factors in social media, the third-most popular reason given by nonprofit professionals was “dedicated social media staff.” Conversely, 52% of organizations not using social media cite lack of staff and budget as the reason.
  • When a nonprofit organization dedicates staff to social media, 56% allocate time for a 1/4-time staff person This percentage continues to grow year over year. 42% plan to allocate more staff time to social media in the coming year.
  • Most businesses dedicate one to ten hours/week for social media marketing. The channels that they participate in are dictated by the amount of time/week available.


Social media is certainly not free, over and above staff time. Any organization I’ve worked with always ends up spending at least $1,000 a year on social media, from the $5 Facebook promoted post, to $5/month for Askimet blocking spam on a blog, to paying for a pro version of free software. Surprisingly, 46% of nonprofit organizations do not budget for social media. 28% allocate between $1 and $10,000 a year to social media.

In addition, many organizations choose to outsource services related to social media. In the coming year, I’m predicting more and more outsourcing of design (particularly graphic design), as graphics continue to become more important to social media storytelling. According to the Social Media Examiner report, businesses outsource a wide range of social media tasks currently, and foremost is design.

I created a broad brush estimate of several levels of commitment to social media, based on budget. This is based exclusively on my own experience working with organizations, and knowing how helpful it is to have *some* budget allocated for social media. While this is by no means a comprehensive list or a based on hard costs, it should offer a sense of the kind of budget an organization will want to consider, and the range of options. Keep in mind that the “success strategy” costs start at this point. For example, it is easy to spend over $1,500/month on a social media monitoring system, and many systems cost just that.

Social Media Policy

A good in-house social media policy offers a guide to interaction and communication online. Some policies are very simple, such as a broadsheet guide, while others are multi-page documents or a set of documents. The American Red Cross has a set of  publicly viewable social media policy documents that include guides for volunteers, staff, and a FAQ about the organization, while the EDF has one set of guidelines for employees. I am currently compiling social media policies within the Pinterest board Social Media Policies. If you know of social media policy examples you’d like to add, I’d be happy to add them, or add you as a contributor to the Pinterest board.

The best resources I’ve found are Idealware’s Social Media Policy Template workbook and Darim Online’s collaboration with Idealware for the Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations. I wrote a review of Idealware’s wonderful workbook earlier this year.

This section of the presentation also shows examples of organizations that had to deal with bad press or a social media backlash online, and what they did. One of the first social media response strategies was developed by the US Air Force, and it remains still a wonderful blog response template.

Social Media Culture

I’ve written before about the importance of social media culture, especially the importance of knowledge-sharing and more recently, the collaborative workplace. The factor that organizations cannot buy with consulting dollars or software is a social culture. The elements include a collaborative culture, shared work, trust, buy-in from the top, and willingness to experiment (and possibly fail). This is the grease, so to speak, that makes all the social elements work so effectively.

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at and regularly provides advice and commentary to our eJewish Philanthropy community.