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January 23, 2012 
 
 
Turning Social Media
Into Revenue

 
"Return on Influence" and "Return on Engagement" are all well and good, but you know "it's all about the Benjamins." (P. Diddy—the original association guru.) The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has found some new ways to use social media to bring in real dollars.
 
ASHA online community & social media manager Maggie McGary flanked by AFG president Sandra Renner and executive director Amy Lotz
ASHA online community manager Maggie McGary (center) dished social media advice to an Association Foundation Group event last week. (She's with AFG president Sandra Renner and executive director Amy Lotz.) At its annual conference, Maggie says ASHA has started to sell a sponsorship for its "Twitter wall" (a screen that scrolls all the tweets from attendees using the event hashtag). ASHA also sold sponsorships for its "Tweet-up," a meet-up organized solely through social media. In addition, the association sells Facebook ads targeting its more than 35,000 fans and has had great success offering exclusive discounts on its products to Facebook fans. Maggie tells us ASHA's new white label social media platform also has built-in revenue generating capabilities that will allow it to target advertising.
Pinterest
Facebook remains king of the social media realm, but there are a couple new tools to keep your eye on. Maggie says one of the latest social media darlings is Pinterest, a site that lets you create an online bulletin board to post and share photos around different themes. Pinterest recently became the #2 source of traffic for ASHA's blog. It turns out that the site is popular among many ASHA members as a way to share visual therapy ideas. "I was prepared to just ignore it," Maggie says. "And all of sudden, it became ignore at your peril." She says the site probably makes the most sense for organizations that represent what they do visually. Pinterest's users are primarily female, so it might not be a good fit for organizations whose members are mostly male.
ASHA online community & social media manager Maggie McGary
Google Plus is another new tool to watch. Google's answer to Facebook makes it easier to target which of your contacts see what—whereas friends, family, and colleagues are generally mixed together on Facebook. Even more reason to pay attention: Earlier this month, Maggie says, Google announced a new search algorithm that gives more weight to items shared through its social network. "It's going to change the way search engine optimization works." Ultimately, Maggie says Pinterest and Google Plus may not be for every organization; it depends where your members are.

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Non-Profit Advocacy ROI: $115 to $1
 
nonprofit advocacy
Speaking of return on investment, a new study from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy looks at the ROI of 501(c)(3) non-profit advocacy. It finds that $231 million in advocacy funding from foundations to 110 non-profits was leveraged into more than $26.6 billion in benefits to communities in 13 states over a five year period. That breaks down to $115 for every $1 invested. The advocacy campaigns with the greatest monetary impact helped raise the state or local minimum wage, increase public school funding, and create affordable housing development through Housing Trust Funds. In some cases, those advocacy efforts led to additional government spending, but in others, it was a matter of making government programs and services more efficient and effective.
Rural Organizing Project
Photo by the Rural Organizing Project
The 110 organizations studied used multiple tactics, from meetings with legislators to grassroots mobilization to litigation. (Above, the Rural Organizing Project in Oregon mailed 11,000 postcards to voters asking them to oppose a '08 anti-immigration ballot measure.) One key strategy was mobilizing marginalized people to tell their stories publicly through the media or meetings with policymakers. Coalitions also proved extremely important. In addition, the report calls legal advocacy an underutilized tool with potential for deep impact. One example: After Hurricane Katrina, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center sued HUD and the Louisiana Recover Authority for, in some cases, awarding grants based on pre-storm home values rather than the cost of rebuilding. The lawsuit resulted in an additional $2 billion in compensation to rebuild.

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