How Multi-Chapter Nonprofits Can Create a Consistent Brand on Social Media (via nonprofit tech for good)

All medium and large nonprofits with multiple chapters eventually experience a unique, but common problem in their mobile and social media campaigns. Quite often their chapters created Facebook Pages or Twitter accounts before the state, national, or international office was ready to move forward with mobile and social media, or also common, the head office gave the green light to their chapters to create their own presence on mobile and social media, but now regret the decision because the nonprofit’s online brand is inconsistent, and in some cases, being poorly represented. On the flip side, some head offices have chosen to not allow their chapters to have their own presence, but are now ready to move forward with a comprehensive, organization-wide mobile and social media strategy. Either way, large nonprofits with multiple chapters have much to gain by empowering their chapters to create mobile and social media communities tailored for their local area provided that it is done well and with much preparation.

In the cases where the head office has to reign in the chapters, it is much more complicated. It’s common for the chapters to resent the head office’s sudden intervention and they don’t want to lose their creative freedom and control over their social network communities. However, there’s always room for improvement and creating a consistent brand across all chapters and encouraging an organization-wide adoption of best practices benefits all parties involved. Chapters need to be open to expert direction, and the head office needs to provide valuable and useful guidance and easy to implement instruction. Doing so requires a significant time investment, but it can and should be done:

Step 1: Create an email lists of chapter mobile and social media campaigners.

The head office should create an email list of those who are responsible for mobile and social media campaigns at chapter offices. To successfully build a consistent brand across all chapters, the head office will need to be in regular communication with the chapter offices. If there is staff turnover, a system needs to be in place to ensure that new staff are added to the email list and that the old ones are removed.

Step 2: Create avatars and banners for your chapters.

On your nonprofit’s  website, the head office should offer a downloadable version of your nonprofits primary avatar (250 x 250 pixels). If the avatar needs to be customized to mention a city, state, or country, provide a Photoshop file of the avatar for those chapters that have the capacity to customize the avatar themselves. If they do not have the capacity, then the head office must  customize the avatar for them. Provide simple instructions on how they can submit a request for a customized avatar and give them a time frame for when they can expect the avatar to be sent. While customizing numerous avatars may seem cumbersome, in reality it takes less than two minutes to add a city, state, or country to a Photoshop file. Avatars only change in the case of organizational rebrand, so if you do it once for all chapters, it’s likely years until you will have to do it again.

Additionally, the head office should design at least five different versions of banners and backgrounds for social networks and then upload them to your website for easy download. By providing five, you give the chapters a choice in how to brand their social networks. You should also suggest that they select and rotate banners at least three times a year. That said, five new banners should be designed and added each year. If last year’s banners are no longer timely, remove them from your website and request that your chapters do the same.

Step 3: Create a best practices document.

In addition to avatars and banners, the page(s) on your website dedicated to creating a consistent brand across all chapters should also include (to begin with) the ten most important best practices that the head office wants their chapters to implement. When best practices change or new ones are added, email your chapters. Always be helpful and of service and let your chapters know that they can contact the person in charge of the organization-wide branding effort, likely your new media manager, if they have any questions or concerns. It will help melt resistance. To lessen the likelihood of squabbles, source each best practice with examples and links to nonprofit technology resources that back up your enforcement of the selected best practices.

Step 4: Offer training through webinars.

At least twice annually, schedule a mandatory webinar less than 60 minutes in length that demonstrates live the best practices. GoToWebinar and ReadyTalk are the easiest webinar tools to use and you should budget at least $100 a month for the month the training occurs if you need to train 100 attendees or less. For 10 chapters or less, use Skype Premium. Google+ Hangouts are free, but not as reliable as the paid services. You should alert your chapters at least three months before the webinar is to occur that they should save the date. At two months before, send another reminder. At one month before, register them for the webinar and send them their login and call-in information. And of course, in the weeks before the webinar, send weekly reminders.

Step 5: Publish a monthly e-newsletter to feature chapter excellence and provide resources.

Odds are that the chapter staff in charge of managing your nonprofit’s mobile and social media campaigns on the local level are limited in their ability to research current trends due to time constraints. Thus, the head office should publish a monthly e-newsletter that features blog posts and articles related to mobile and social media best practices as well as customized advice for the chapters. For example, if the head office decides to become active on Instagram and they want to recommend that their chapters do the same, then the head office should write a short article about how the chapters should create and configure their Instagram accounts and provide links to resources about how to use Instagram successfully. Also, each month the e-newsletter should feature a chapter that is excelling in its use of mobile and social media. Doing so demonstrates that the head office appreciates the efforts of the chapter offices and also provides an incentive for other chapters to excel in their use of mobile and social media.

Step 6: Create an enforcement policy.

For the chapters that repeatedly ignore best practices and do not attend webinars, it needs to be made clear that an executive staff member at the chapter office will be contacted and notified to trigger a review process. If during the review process it is revealed that the problem is a result of the chapter not having the staff resources necessary to maintain the social networks effectively, then the promotion of all mobile and social media campaigns should be halted until a new staff person or volunteer is found to manage the campaigns. If the review process reveals that chapter staff do not cooperate simply because they do not agree with the best practices or resent the top-down directive, then a discussion needs to take place about a new staff person taking on the responsibility. Most chapters will see the logic of the best practices selected and appreciate the effort to train them to become better at managing mobile and social media campaigns, but occasionally personality conflicts occur that need to be resolved.

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