It’s social media people!

My continual frustration with non-profit organizations goes on.   I have asked myself, is it because of the volunteer nature and the mindset of the leaders behind them? Do those two things coupled together create a lack of thinking outside of the box and getting up to speed on how other companies are operating?

Certainly, there has been some forward thinkers.  The Jewish Museum redid their entire shop inside and online.  They got Russ & Daughters to open a restaurant in the basement of the museum.  They have curated some shows that are in a contemporary mindset.  I’d be interested to see what those changes have done to the bottom line.

The SFMoma began a project that people were invited to text a number with the phrase send me and the museum would send the texter an image from the museum’s collection on their phone.  It did two things.  It delved into the storage of the SFMoma where many artworks have not seen the light of day in decades.  The most important thing it did was to engage an audience through social media that are now connected to the museum.

All non-profit organizations function because of the generosity of people who care about the mission.  That goes for museums, parks, Planned Parenthood and more.  In Europe, museums and parks are completely subsidized by the Government but not here in the US.  It is private capital that funds those organizations so engagement is key.  Fun fact, philanthropic giving has remained around 2% of our GDP since WWII. Boomers and Gen X’ers tend to give to specific organizations of choice where as Millennials and Gen Y tend to pair their volunteerism with giving.  Social investing is growing as well where people use their dollars towards change with the hope of a very small return.

Two-thirds of people over 65 use their own smartphones.  The number of people who use their smartphones under 65 increase as they get younger.  I’d love to see the age demographic that engaged with the SFMoma project and the e-commerce dollars at the Jewish Museum.  Impressive to see each of these organizations tapping into what profit organizations have already figured out.  It is all about social media people! After all, when organizations make smart moves about fundraising,  embracing technology and connecting with their patrons, it points directly to the people running the organization.  Just look upward.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    I have asked myself, is it because of the volunteer nature and the mindset of the leaders behind them? I’d say “yes,” at least in my realm. Some believe that general rules about how organizations should operate (things I’d call “good hygiene”) are trumped by mission, and somehow don’t apply to nfps.On the marketing front (not my area of expertise) I can easily see some people acting on the belief that their mission will pull people in, rather than the fact that they have to do a little bit more push than pull to meet them where they are.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I work specifically with non-profits and the public sector to bring new ways of thinking about about marketing and communications to them. There are many reasons why these organizations are reluctant to embrace social media and the internet in general. I have lots of insights in this area but have a ton of deadlines today. I will try to get back and share some of my observations and thoughts later.

  2. JLM

    .The confrontation between “earned” revenue and “donated” revenue is a constant in the non-profit world.When you use the word “marketing” in a non-profit, some folks hear “fundraising.” Many are deaf to any other source of funding.Fundraising is always the glue that holds non-profits together and most non-profit managements and boards are based on fundraising skills.The ability to run the business end of the non-profit requires a different orientation and skill set than to run a successful donor focused non-profit.Everything looks like a nail when you are a hammer.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. Sari Nickelsburg

    I’m a huge fan of The Jewish Museum as a museum-goer. I’m not a millenial (I’m a Gen-Xer), but they could probably attempt to engage prominent local influencers in an attempt to pull in that audience. 92Y does a great job with this through their lecture series. ie An event with a Leandra Medine, etc? Jenny Slate with her latest film? Easier said than done, I’m sure. Just an example. The city is likely filled with young, relevant artists/writers/filmmakers etc who could get the job done…assuming they’re willing!

  4. Jeff Jones

    Sf Moma partnered with the app Detour to provide immersive guided tours of the museum. Highly recommend going on a detour – they have tours in NYC. Here’s the sfmoma tour…. I’ve been on a Beat Generation tour, Castro , architecture and a few others and they are fantastic!

  5. Marilyn Machlowitz


  6. Bridget Goodbody

    A plug for museums and tech: museums have been more at the forefront of testing new technologies than many people realize – from iBeacons to AR/VR experiences coming down the pike. There are also tons of museums with great social media feeds. And many with sexy food options and stores (The Corning Glass Museum’s solution is amazing. Everyone enters through the gift shop! And their online presence is robust.) The Brooklyn Museums Ask A Curator app is also great.Thing is, like in everything tech, there’s a lot of failure that goes unrecognized. Company’s like Detour come in to partner with the museum, there’s a big PR push, and, then, they leave. SFMoMA just spent a fortune and a number of years turning its collection management system into a digital asset management system, which allowed them to do the latest SMS experiment. Many would say the Met’s issues stem from bringing in a digital team.Museums might not be succeeding as fast as we’d all like, but it isn’t for lack of trying.

  7. Kirsten Lambertsen

    My outsider’s perspective is that it seems like non-profits tend to have (not always) people who have the personal resources to afford less than market rate for their services in the leadership roles — sorta like I picture foreign ambassadors. Is that a massive misperception on my part?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I believe it was like that a long time ago but not so much anymore.