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Using Volunteers to help with Social Networking?

Photo by openDemocracy

The Idealware.org blog recently posed the question: Should a nonprofit organization task their Social Media responsibilities with a young volunteer or intern? It's something that I've wondered myself. Clearly, nonprofit staff members do not have the time to keep on top of all of the latest social media tools. And there are many people out there who "live on" Facebook and YouTube and Twitter who would be glad to help out your organization.

However, there are some obvious drawbacks to "outsourcing" these activities to an intern or volunteer. First, do they truly understand your mission and values? Will they communicate with your constituents and prospects in an appropriate manner? Secondly, the social media strategy of an organization should really be integrated with the overall marketing/outreach strategy of the organization. If traditional messaging and outreach are maintained by in-house staff, why not social media conversations, which are even more personal and direct? Finally, what happens when that volunteer or intern decides they no longer have the time to participate?

My take? Organizations should definitely leverage interested volunteers and interns to help them learn about social networking tools. Have them come in and train your staff on what tools are out there and how people use them. I believe volunteers could also help the staff get started: Set up a facebook page, create a YouTube channel, etc. But they must train a staff member to maintain their profile on these sites and join the conversation with their constituents. And obviously, the organization must first determine if/how social media is part of their overall marketing/outreach strategy.

If you DO decide to utilize an intern to help you with your Social Media efforts, the Nonprofit Communications Blog recently posted some tips for doing so effectively.

By the way, if you are interested in using volunteers more effectively in ANY capacity in your organization, Idealist.org has a page full of resources for Volunteer Management.

Have you had any luck utilizing volunteers or interns with social media or other technologies?