Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 easy things I'd like to see foundation leaders doing on social media

The Foundation Center has issued a report about foundation leaders' use of social media (in PDF form), based on responses from 73 membesr of its Grantmaker Leadership Panel.  The results? While social media use "is catching on in the foundation world...it is far from being part of the regular routine of most chief executives," said Lawrence McGill, the Center's vice president for research. Overall, foundation leaders say that they use old-school online tools like e-newsletters and Listservs more than social media. 

It's that "regular routine" reference that caught my eye. I'm a former foundation executive myself, so I understand the routine.  But one of the not-so-secrets of social media is the ease with which you can make it part of your routine--if that weren't possible, no one would be using it.  If foundation leaders tried even these 3 simple ways to participate in social media, we'd be the richer for it (knowledge-wise, if not grant-wise):
  1. Share what they're reading.  There's inherent appeal in learning what's on the reading stack of those whose job it is to look ahead, anticipate trends and find effective tools to meet charitable needs.  Plenty of tools make it simple to share what you're reading -- from Facebook "like" buttons and bookmarking sites like Delicious to blog-like sharing on Tumblr and the New York Times "recommended" button on TimesPeoplePosterous will take an email from you and make it into a blog post; Google Reader will let you share articles you're reading right from the reader.  Most of the tools work right from a smartphone, making this activity portable for busy, traveling executives.  The ability to connect those sharing feeds to wider networks on Facebook or Twitter can help foundation leaders build a large reach without much effort.  If you're a subject-matter expert, so much the better; your reading share-list can become an effortless bibliography for others to consult.
  2. Post their activities, travels and meetings.  Take some of the mystery out of what foundation executives do.  You're traveling to meet with policymakers, grantees, other foundations; heading to conferences; conducting site visits to charities you've funded.  Show us the map, Foursquare checkin, TripIt itinerary or Twitter travelog that proves you're not stuck in the ivory tower, and broaden our view of what kind of legwork it takes to work in philanthropy.  Steve Case of the Case Foundation--a good example for all these points--describes a meeting at Twitter, above.  But imagine the impact if you compiled the trips and travels of all your on-the-move executives...
  3. Point us to what catches their eye from other foundations.  If you're a community funder who admires a major national program in an area you fund, tell us about it--and vice versa. It'll help even more if you tell us why it caught your eye.  One role of philanthropic leaders, I was taught, is to give potential grant-seekers enough information to make their proposals better, and ultimately successful. Giving us good models from a range of funders helps us see what you mean by quality.  All it takes: Share a link from something you're reading (see #1) about another funder.
Then there's that easiest and best thing you can do on social media: Listen. Read. Then start sharing in the three easy ways noted above.  A hint for executives in all sectors: You can try these steps, too, particularly if you're looking for a simple way to get going in social media without fear of it taking over your life. 

I offer communications and social media strategy consultation; content development; and training in public speaking, social media and related skills--and I welcome your referrals, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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