Demonstrating Board Leadership with Social Media

Sections of this topic

    This is a companion piece to an article at my blog, Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant: Demonstrating Board Leadership with Facebook

    I write and present about how small nonprofits should use social media. I am usually writing about it from the standpoint of what a nonprofit should do. This is about what Board Members should do. Almost every small nonprofit I work with has an underutilized web presence. Some have made an investment which is big for them in a new website and are disappointed that the website does not generate much in the way of online donations. I frequently wince when I see these websites and some of the fundamental mistakes that have been made.

    However, board members can do a great deal to boost the overall web presence of their nonprofit. Today, in addition to a website, having a vibrant social media presence is an important tool in any nonprofit’s toolbox. It is a key way to build relationships with existing supporters and to find new ones.

    Having a website is not like “If we build it, they will come.” They won’t – that only happens in the movies. You have to DRIVE traffic to your website. And the best way to do that is with a vibrant social media presence.

    First, let’s look at what a nonprofit should ideally be doing with its overall web presence:

    • Engage existing supporters
    • Find potential new friends (donors, volunteers, etc.)
    • Find volunteers
    • Find people who are interested in attending events – and maybe sell tickets
    • Identify potential Board Members
    • Build better relationships with all of the above people
    • Get donations

    The last one – get donations – comes later. First, you have to do all the other things. Board members can help with some or all of these goals by just incorporating their nonprofit into what they already do with social media. Different board members will use different aspects of social media and they can all contribute in their own way. I am not talking about asking your friends to give money online. If you feel comfortable doing that, by all means, go ahead. But that is not what I am suggesting here. I am talking about how you can be an ambassador online just by tweaking – a very little bit – what you already do. Let’s look at the possibilities.


    My article, Demonstrating Board Leadership with Facebook is getting a record readership, and I am getting lots of feedback about sharing it with other Board members. I go into detail with these items in that article but here are the highlights for board members on Facebook:

    1. Like the organization’s page
    2. Like comments and comment on the page’s posts
    3. Initiate posts on the organization’s wall.
    4. Initiate posts on your own wall.
    5. Post pictures


    LinkedIn has become an important resource for nonprofits. You can use LinkedIn to give positive exposure to you and to your nonprofit. Here are a few ways:

    1. Update your profile

    LinkedIn has a new category in its profileVolunteer Experience & Causes. You can enhance your profile and give some exposure to your organization by updating your profile to include your Board Service. You can see mine as an example.

    Marion’s LinkedIn Profile

    2. Donor and Board Member Prospecting

    Use the search and advanced search to find people who have particular professions, went to your university, and more to find people you know who may be a good match. This takes a little time but you can do it whenever you have free time and you just might find some good prospects to invite to be a Board member or to invite to an event.

    3. Update your Status

    You can update your status to show activities you are involved with at your nonprofit – always include a link to their website. Updating your status can serve to keep both your name and your nonprofit’s name in the sight of your business friends. It is a win-win situation. Short, but effective. If you have linked your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, you can just click to have this update appear automatically on Twitter too. Use this to promote events, seek new Board members, etc.


    I love Twitter and I am active on it. I enjoy being part of an active nonprofit online community and learning about incredible opportunities, great resources, and events all the time on Twitter. It has been wonderful to finally meet people in person at conferences or at a workshop who I have only known on Twitter. But I don’t see Twitter as being very useful for the purpose of a Board Member using it to build relationships for a nonprofit. If you are on Twitter, be sure to mention your nonprofit sometimes especially if they are on Twitter too.

    There are two exceptions to this that Twitter is wonderful for – advocacy and promoting events. If advocacy is a part of what your nonprofit does, Board Members who are on Twitter should definitely be using their 140 characters for advocacy. Make sure you use relevant hashtags (#) and you will see lots of new followers.

    If your nonprofit is having an event and you have local followers promote the event and link to the nonprofit’s website – not the homepage but the event information page. Be thoughtful in using hashtags so that more people than just your followers may see the tweets.


    Do you read blogs related to the work of your nonprofit? Be sure to leave comments and mention your organization in the comments when appropriate.


    Do you have a website – personal or small business? Include your board membership in your biography and have a link to it in the bio. If appropriate have a small “ad” for events that your nonprofit is having on your website.


    Pinterest is new and you may not have heard of it, but it is very fast growing. It is a new social media site that is perfect for people who like visuals and it is very simple and easy to use. It is essentially a bunch of online bulletin boards. Once you have a Pinterest account – which you can associate with your Facebook account, you can easily “pin” visuals on a board. You can have lots of Boards and it is best to have all the visuals on that board be about a common topic. This is the link to one of my favorites – nonprofit infographics by Beth Kanter: If you have a Pinterest account, create some Boards with visuals about your nonprofit. Cover an event or a program. Use a brief description. And then…post an invitation to see your Board on Facebook, twitter LinkedIn, etc. You get the idea – have it go viral. I think that Pinterest may take off and become very popular so I am including it in this list of social media things to do.

    I hope this article has given you something to think about. These are all easy things to do but they can have a big impact if enough people take just a few steps. And I promise it won’t seem like work at all, once you dive in, you’ll enjoy it.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.