SMEX16 Small Charity Questions and Answer Session

11th February 2016
Small charity discussion group
Small charity discussion group 

Recently I ran an open session for small charities at the annual Social Media Exchange event (SMEX16). The idea of the lunch bite session was to help small organisations who have few resources with their burning marketing and communication related problems.

In this blog I am going to share some of the questions and some suggested tactics and possible solutions.

Q1 – If you’re small (tiny) what’s the minimum manageable amount we should aim to do daily / weekly / monthly on social media?

  • I would suggest that there is no one size fits all answer to this, as each charity has different resources and reasons for using social media.
  • I discovered this guide which I think offers some good guidance.
  • I recommend considering scheduling social media in one go to save time but also ensuring you block out time to listen and respond to your followers rather than only thinking about publishing. Examples include Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweet Deck and others in this article.

Q2 – How can we get all staff involved with promoting the charity? We have a lot of resistance. “I work on the front line. I use my time to help service users not to write about what I do. I don’t have time to tweet about it!”

  • This is something I am quite passionate about, when you work for a charity, spreading the word about what you do, is part of everyone’s job, no excuses! I think it should be written into job descriptions, contracts and KPIs.
  • HOW staff do this is up to them and I think the choice of how they do it cannot be enforced, if they prefer to talk to people and help out at events rather than having a personal twitter account and sharing the charity messages, that is fair enough.
  • Could you run some lunch and learn sessions to offer training and support for team members who may not have used social media but are interested in learning to help share skills and boost confidence, monthly is great and if you can cover different platforms each time all the better.
  • Perhaps we as comms managers can try and come up with more easy mechanisms to help encourage everyone to be as evangelical about the cause as possible. Short interviews that are possible to complete in a short period of time, sharing social posts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email newsletter links) regularly on email and encouraging them to share them with their networks and make it so convenient it is impossible to ignore.
Discussing small charity communications problems
Discussing small charity communications problems

Q3 – How can we improve reach and engagement on social media and reach new audiences?

  • One of the easiest ways of increasing your reach is to use paid adverts to get your social posts in front of more eyes. However not always an option if you have no marketing budget.
  • Using popular hashtags and topics can help to reach new people but you need to try and think quality not quantity as you still need to try and target people who will be interested in what you do.
  • Idea – action – review: I would always recommend trying out new ideas, and then checking to see the results, we have the luxury of analytics where we can clearly see what content works best and try and deliver more of it. Each of the social media platforms provide analytics to make it easy to track but you could also try some tools.

Q4 – We lose out to bigger organisations that have a similar message. Whether in engagement, coverage etc. How can we stand out more as a local charity in this big arena with larger charities?

  • I wonder if there is a way to use your small size to your advantage, to consider how agile and how much closer you are to your beneficiaries you are than the larger organisations are.
  • Perhaps try to target more local media (which will target your audience more specifically anyway) with contextual case studies and encourage your beneficiaries and supporters who might be willing to share their story.

agony aunt

Q5 – How can we capitalise on press when we get it (we recently had a piece in a national newspaper) and keep momentum going. Plus get the story into more media now it is not ‘exclusive or newsworthy’?

  • Try to run a campaign alongside media with social content to make sure that anyone who hears about your work can instantly find related stories on your website and social pages.
  • Ensure you follow up and thank journalists who do feature your story, this does not happen as often as you might think and will be greatly appreciated.

Q6 – How do I demonstrate the impact of communications function on the cause or campaign?

  • Closing the loop to measure how the communications team have tangibly helped the charity reach its goal is the Holy Grail, although it is not easy to do.
  • Setup goal tracking and conversion tracking on google analytics, ensure you have weekly automated reports to keep track of the progress you are making ideally including social growth.
  • If you do outreach or promote events ensure that on the sign up forms you include a field asking how people heard about your organisation and report back on the top sources.
  • Consider trying to do a quarterly comms update for your trustee board and staff teams to involve them and help them see the progress.


If you are a small charity there are several helpful sources of support and information.

  1. View the storify from the SMEX16 event for helpful advice and tips – view here
  2. NCVO’s Know how non profit
  3. Small Charities Coalition – free membership, resources, skills matching/ mentoring and low cost training – SCC website
  4. Third sector comms facebook group
  5. Low cost events – Charity Meetup, Barcamp NFP and NFP Tweetup
Questions from the Small charity discussion group
Questions from the Small charity discussion group