3 Ways to Manage External Expectations as a Nonprofit Social Media Manager (Corrie Oberdin)

Corrie Oberdin

Social Media is one of the only marketing mediums where most people think they know more than a little bit about it. That’s why, nonprofit friends, I am going to say some words that we’ve probably all heard, in one combination or another, that can muck up a nonprofit social media managers day:

“(Insert board member name) thinks we should be on TikTok.”

When you work at—or with—nonprofits, inevitably, you get board members, donors, and volunteers who have social media marketing ideas for you.

Sometimes, they are incredible because they are from people who work in the industry and want to provide advice or support. Other times, they are from people who don’t know marketing or social, but read something in an article, heard about it at a conference, or attended another nonprofit’s event where they saw something in action that they think is perfect for your organization.

No matter where the ideas come from, they can be challenging to navigate.

On one hand, our donors, board members, and volunteers are on your team—they want your organization to be successful, and they share ideas in the hopes of helping the cause.

On the other hand, depending on your organization’s culture and how you handle external input from stakeholders, it can feel like you aren’t driving the bus (and sometimes, like the bus is driving you).

I’ve worked with nonprofits that have navigated external expectations & suggestions well—and some that let donor & board member suggestions ultimately overturn their plans.

What’s the difference?

Three key things:
1. Having a Communications Strategy
You probably know this, but I’ll say it anyway: having a communications strategy, and understanding how your social media program supports it, can be the difference in suggestions adding to your never-ending to-do list or supporting your program.
It doesn’t need to be fancy either—just knowing who you want to reach, and why (and how social supports that) can make the difference between a 20-minute conversation or losing 20 hours on a project you can’t sustain.

2. Talk About Your Social Program
I can’t say enough about sharing about your social program (in Annual Reports, board meeting presentations, 1:1 donor meetings & volunteer onboarding) and training those in leadership positions (especially those who talk to donors) in what your social program is focused on.
When key stakeholders understand what you are trying to do on social media, they know what they can do to help (which can cut down on “helpful suggestions”).

3. Know What You Need to Succeed
When you get an idea (or, better yet, an offer to fund or support a channel), it helps when you know what your department needs to take the next step.
Say my example (“Let’s get on TikTok!”) is something you have been evaluating, but you know that you need equipment or additional people power. Being able to say what you need to execute can be crucial.
When you know what you need—or what’s next on your list—for social, you can have open conversations about what you need to support a social channel (and maybe get some funding or equipment).

Not every suggestion will be headed off (or will ultimately get you funding), but having a solid strategy, communicating it, and sharing what you DO need can help manage those suggestions.

Corrie Oberdin @corrie
Freelance social media/content dev for nonprofits & also love to helping small businesses market themselves sustainably.

Tell Us Below:

How do you handle “helpful suggestions” as a social media manager?


Always, always start with a strategy and every strategy should start with goals!
“(Insert board member name) thinks we should be on TikTok.” <<< this is so true.

I hear it too, especially about Pinterest and LinkedIn, places where people might not have a solid presence.


Yes! I think a lot of times what I see happen is that donors/board members/community stakeholders will hear about a channel (in the news, at a conference, or see another nonprofit using it), and want answers as to why “we” aren’t using it. Having a solid strategy & a why behind what you do is so important to answer those questions. :slight_smile: