February 26, 2012

Nonprofits Pin Their Social-Media Efforts on New Network

Pinterest, the popular new social network that allows people to share virtual pinboards of photos and links, is helping the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption do something it can't on other social-media sites: share its personality.

The nonprofit has 331 followers on one board on Pinterest, showing them a quote from Jane Austen and 22 other inspiring phrases printed on note cards, written on chalkboards, and overlaid onto photos.

"For us, this is probably the only place we could do something like that," says Staci Perkins, director of marketing and communications at the foundation.

The simple social network is attracting nonprofits that want to share images, inspiration, and ideas. While many nonprofits have attracted little more than a modest following on Pinterest, they like the network because it is especially easy to use.

"It's not one of those things like Facebook where you have so many layers to it and there are so many things you can do," says Joe Waters, a nonprofit marketing consultant who is active on Pinterest. "It's a virtual pinboard. It's not that complicated."

Charities are taking a range of approaches to using the network. The Dave Thomas Foundation shares news, resources, and more on the site. Large organizations like Amnesty International USA (1,596 account followers) and AARP (315 account followers) have joined to share images, as have smaller groups like the Georgia Wildlife Federation (47 account followers).

"I'm using it to highlight our mission and what it is that we do," says Jonathan Tonge, membership and communications manager at the federation.

Mr. Tonge's organization uses Pinterest to share some of the organization's large stockpile of photos of Georgia's native species and wild places. The same photos are on Facebook, but they are harder to find.

Because Pinterest is based on photos, Mr. Waters suggests that organizations give some thought to their esthetics. A sense of style goes a long way on this network, because it's more than just a gallery site, like Flickr. The site is also a great tool for helping nonprofits bolster their rankings on searches, said Mr. Waters, because it links to the source of images.

And posts on the site also hit a key set of potential supporters, Mr. Waters says. The site is dominated by women, a fact that both Ms. Perkins and Mr. Tonge have noticed, though they have seen more men join recently.

The Dave Thomas foundation also saw another possible benefit of being on the site early: "NBC Nightly News" began following it recently, though the broadcast doesn't follow the group on Twitter. USA Today has also followed the foundation.

Learn more: Join us to discover other ways nonprofits can use Pinterest in a live discussion with Mr. Waters, Ms. Perkins, and others, on Tuesday, February 28, at noon U.S. Eastern time.