I am what the tech people call ‘a late adopter’ but now I am on twitter, I find it a surprisingly useful tool. I can’t see it replacing grant report forms or monitoring visits, but I do think it has a role to play in grant management. I have added it to my toolkit and try to ‘follow’ every charity I fund. This is what I think it adds:
- Because twitter is another way in which charities present themselves externally, following a charity you fund can provide you with a sense of their activity, how they respond to donors, and how they promote their cause. I don’t read every tweet, but it is one source of information in reviewing how things are going. Mostly this will be informative and reassuring but there are times when it may well prompt me to pick up the phone and get in touch. For example, noticing a job advert for a new CEO or a ‘keep us from closure’ appeal may be extremely useful information to see if you have not been told directly.
- Charities working in a particular field or locality often share information that is relevant to their work and clients. Reading this can help keep you informed about the issues their service users are dealing with - such as the impact of welfare reforms and other government policies. Films in particular can be a great way to bring their work alive and deepen your understanding of what you are funding.
- Part of grant management is offering help when you can. A retweet from a funder can help raise the charity’s profile with a new audience. It is an easy way to offer in-kind support and can often be win-win where it raises the profile of the funder as well e.g. when a funded charity wins an award.
Personally, I don’t use Facebook for work, but there are also funders using Facebook to good effect.
I would not suggest that funders become the drivers of a charity’s social media strategy. But I do think you should bear in mind that they are one audience for your communications. According to a recent poll, only 16% of non-profit organisations follow their grantors on Facebook or Twitter (see link), so the rest may be missing out on useful information about projects funded and funding available. In the US, 45% of foundations use social media: 65% using Facebook and 40% using twitter (see link). So remember to follow funders, and potential funders, on twitter. Use it to thank funders for your grant, tell them about significant happenings like winning awards and update them on events and publication launches.
And for fellow funders, I encourage you to start using twitter to follow the organisations you fund. In addition to having it as a grant management tool, you will get access to lots of interesting sector conversations and findings, and you can ask infrastructure bodies to promote the funds you have available.
Not bad for a late adopter!