How foundations can move beyond social media phobia

Posted on November 07, 2011 by The Patterson Foundation

By Melissa Thompson, The Patterson Foundation Communications Partner

Recently, one of The Patterson Foundation’s Initiative Managers, Pam Truitt, shared her apprehension about learning to blog as a way to share the nonprofit partnerships and collaboration work of the Collaborative Restructuring Initiative.

Learning and sharing is a value of The Patterson Foundation, so Pam is not alone in her blogging quest. All TPF partners are expected to share and learn with and from others – many of them do this through the TPF blog network.

I couldn’t help but think her candid remarks echo the thoughts of many foundation leaders, staffers and partners:


You could replace the word blogging with just about anything social-media related.

But as Pam later writes, the impact and connections she has made once she decided to take the plunge have been well worth the nerves.

As communicators, it’s our job to help alleviate some of those nerves while guiding and integrating staff or consultants into the fold. Here are our top-five lessons to help make integration easier:

1)    Set the Stage – Have you ever explained why or how it’s beneficial to be social - or what that even means? Have you discussed expectations up front (will people be blogging once a week, twice a week?). Setting the stage helps create a level of comfort because people know what to expect.

2)    Create an Environment for Learning – Training is key when you are asking people of various skill levels to contribute to social media. Group trainings are a great way to build a foundation, but one-on-one time is also important to help build confidence.

3)    Praise Publicly – Many of our bloggers are featured in the TPF internal newsletter - sent to staff and partners twice a month. They are recognized for great points of view and exciting initiative progress.

4)    Peer-to-Peer Engagement – Many people are afraid that no one will care about what they say.  Encourage staffers to comment on blogs. This encourages internal learning and starts a dialogue for others to join.

5)    Create Ground Rules – Be sure that everyone knows and understands the social media policy. This will also help set expectations - even when dealing with negative social media comments or crisis situations.

What else would you add to this list?

As TPF prepares to attend the Southeastern Council of Foundations Annual Meeting this week, each TPF attendee will have his or her social media strategy in tow- ready to blog and tweet live from the conference (@ThePattersonFdn #SECF11 on Twitter). Join in the conversation online.

About The Patterson Foundation Communications Lens

As The Patterson Foundation’s strategic communications partner, the communications lens provides strategic consultation and ensures all communications are consistent with TPF’s mission and values. The strategic communications partner also works with TPF, its initiatives and lenses to leverage and build relationships for the greatest impact.

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