PR 2.0 for Non-Profits

I met Lee Miller, an expert on influencing, social networking on Facebook.  Lee teaches Influencing and Negotiating at Columbia University and Seton Hall Business School.  He is also the author of UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective – The Art of Getting What You Want featured on Fox and Friends and the co-author of A Woman’s Guide To Successful Negotiating (McGraw Hill) selected by Atlanta Woman magazine as one of the fifty best books for professional women and a featured book on The Early Show and Good Morning America. As a principal in, Lee advises, trains and coaches in the area of influencing and has developed critically acclaimed training programs on influencing for leaders, and virtual influencing and multi-cultural influencing.

The last time I visited with Lee, he showed me a demo of a platform, 3 Step Networks, which he developed with Barbara Jackson, a pioneer in distance learning and social media. This application is a unique tool that provides organizations with an inexpensive, easy to use a custom professional/social network. The breakthrough application offers Not-for-Profits the ability to extend their organizational brand and leverage their organizational influence for the purposes of building a true online community around the organization’s mission.

I thought it would be interesting to hear Lee’s perspective on Social Media and the non-profit organization:


Do you think that non-profits are up to speed on social media communications and community building online?

Most not-for-profits have come to realize that they need a social/ professional network of their own but they don’t exactly understand why? Organizations that don’t understand how that network can be used strategically to not only bring in new members but also retain existing members and raise funds frequently make the wrong decisions when they decide to set up a network. The goal for an organization should be to create a network that enhances its professional image, connects and engages its members, continuously gets the organization’s message out to its members and builds a community focused exclusively around supporting the organization’s mission. If you make the wrong choice initially (as many not-for-profits are doing because they don’t really understand the advantages and disadvantages of the available options) and set up a network using a platform that doesn’t really enhance the organization’s professional image nor build a vibrant online community that exclusively focuses the user’s attention on the organization and its mission, it is difficult to garner interest and momentum later on when you decide to do it the right way.

What options does an organization have when it decides to set up a network for its members?


1)It can create a group on a mass platform, advertising supported platform such as Facebook, Linkedin or Ning which host a multitude of group networks on the same site as well as offering users many other features and activities that have nothing to do with your organization; 2) It can have a web designer build a network on the organizations website from scratch; or 3) it can opt for a customizable private, branded network exclusive to the organization,  where the organization can choose the features it wants, have continuous interaction with its members and can grow the network as the organization grows.

Why do you think it’s important for a non-profit to build community on its website and how does this help with fundraising efforts?

An online community is no substitute for what the organization does now to involve its members. It is a tool that lets you connect your members to the organization and to each other in between those other activities. It keeps your members constantly connected to the organization. It allows members who are busy to stay involved on their own timetable. Younger members often prefer to communicate with each other online and if you don’t have your own network an organization risks being viewed as irrelevant and out of touch. As everyone involved with not-for-profits knows the more involved you get a member the easier it is to get them to donate their time and their money.

Organizations that don’t develop their own social/professional network or don’t do it well are very much like the business people who when cell phones first became popular said why do I need to always be available to my customers and staff, they can call me when I’m in the office? The ones that are still in business all have cell phones now.

How does the 3StepNetwork platform help not-for-profits? What are a few attractive features and benefits?

The 3StepNetwork platform was designed specifically for not-for-profits recognizing that they have limited staff and limited technology resources. It’s most important feature is that it belongs to the organization to use as it sees fit. The platform is easy to set up and use. It can be up and running in a matter of weeks. Because it is exclusive to the organization it provides added legitimacy and status for the organization.

Ease of use is the key. It requires no technological expertise, computer programming or html knowledge. Information can be input on to the site, daily if the organization wants, using Microsoft Word, It is relatively inexpensive and can be expanded as the organization’s needs grow. Members can create their profiles in a matter of minutes or can cut and paste them from a Word document. Members can be found by name, organization, self-identified groups or by full text search. Committees or groups can be set up to work on issues together, create and share documents and hold meetings online. Although there are revenue opportunities available if the organization chooses to use them, there are no 3rd party ads that detract from the professional image of the organization. If the organization does want to allow sponsors controlled access to their members, they control the way that access is provided and get to keep the revenue generated  Most importantly, when members go to the network they stay focused on your message and are not distracted by other activities nor are they lured away to join other causes.

Can you name some organizations that are making good use of private branded social media?

Branded social media properly employed not only enhances the organizations brand giving it far more status and legitimacy than having a group on a mass platform social network, it confers that legitimacy on its members. That in turn drives new member to join and encourages retention of existing members.  One type of organization that has successfully employed a branded network is the Chambers of Commerce.  For example, The North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce in Rhode Island is an organization whose members are primarily small and mid-sized businesses.  Since replacing their member directory with a completely open branded social network, members have seen a substantial increase in the number of inquiries from potential customers who found them through the Chamber’s website. Because it is an open network, when someone uses a search engine to find a business located in a certain part of the state it takes them to a member’s webpage within the Chamber’s network. This not only increases business for the member it creates added awareness of, and enhanced legitimacy, for the Chamber. .

Professional organizations and not-for-profits, like the National Affinity Leadership Conference (‘NALC”) and the National Association of Female Executives have enhanced their status and created brand awareness by creating branded closed private networks (open only to members). This has facilitated their building a true online community where members connect to each other around the purpose of the organization and has enhanced the image of the organization and status of their members.

How do social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, help a non-profit to create awareness and to help with fundraising initiatives?

Facebook and Twitter are excellent tools to get out an organizations message and attract new members. They are tools that every not-for-profit should use. Once you attract people’s attention using these online tools, however, the organization needs to use other online tools to convert them to active and engaged members. Every organization should have a page on Facebook and it should link it to their website and their own private network. Similarly Twitter should be used to announce events, share information and drive potential members to your own website and private network.

(End Interview)

If you are a not-for-profit and have some great tips on your social networking activities, please share them.  Thanks!