Organization: National Wildlife Federation
Organization Size: 400 employees
Name: Danielle Brigida
Digital Marketing Manager

1. What was the very first social media tool your organization utilized, and when?

Back in 2006 when I joined the organization we had a MySpace page with 25 friends. They passed it off to me and I started doing outreach with it to connect with people who might speak up about wildlife issues.  From there I signed us up for various Facebook groups and profiles and continued experimenting sites like and Care2.

2. What social media tools are you currently utilizing? Which tool has been surprisingly useful in getting out the word about your organization and its programs? The least?

We currently use a plethora of online tools to spread the word and talk to people. While the giants (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube) are great for outreach and relationship-building, we’ve had surprising successes with StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Plancast and other sites. I join as many social media sites as I can and try to spend time learning each community so I can offer advice to others on how to engage with them.

The power of social media really proved itself for us when the Gulf oil disaster first hit mainstream news, it was our web and social media presences that helped disseminate news and information to keep people up-to-date in real-time with our work on the ground. Twitter was the most useful for connecting with individuals. And for that event, Facebook Causes helped us raise the most money we’ve ever raised on social media. We were able to get more than a million fans and raise more than $100,000 on our oil spill cause. However, we would have not had these successes had we not had an established presence on both networks.

As for the least useful tool, I find it hard to pick any one in particular. Just because it may not work for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for another person building a community. There are definitely tools that I spend less time with, but that’s because I may not have found our audiences very active on them or I may just be spending time on other sites.

3. Who maintains your social media campaigns? Are they paid, full-time, part-time?

I am the only person who is paid to work on social media full-time. Our programs have started working social media outreach into some of their job descriptions, especially when their goals revolve around cultivating certain audiences. For National Wildlife Federation’s Twitter, I have two incredibly amazing helpers: Kristin Johnson and Kevin Coyle. They help me make sure the NWF Twitter account is kept fresh and monitored. This isn’t officially part of their job, they are just nice, and find value in seeing how our followers respond to the messages we push out. I am working to pitch hiring someone else, so I can better support the organization’s brand online.

4. Are you tracking Return on Investment (ROI), and how? Please summarize your ROI.

With specific social media campaigns, it is easier to have specific goals and measure whether or not you met them with the time allotted. When it comes to the overall organization I track social media in three basic ways.

Overall Reach (number of friends, followers or subscribers)
Traffic (how many people are actually coming to our website)
Interaction (are people sharing our content? Where?)

I use a combination of Postrank analytics, Topsy, Addthis and many other tools to calculate the interaction portion, and the other two are simple to find through website analytics and social site updates like Nutshellmail or Facebook’s Insights.

We put out a quarterly report that collects qualitative and quantitative information. We include everything from industry trends to fundraising numbers based on web analytics. It’s very useful when proving a point for social media. Right now our organization gets more than 20% of the traffic from the surplus of social media sites we are on.

5. Of all the mass communications tools your organization is using (website e-newsletters, social networking sites, mobile), which is resulting in the most online dollars being raised (directly or indirectly)?

Email is still winning in the online donor department, and in terms of traditional communications we receive a shocking number of donations through direct mail. I foresee our members relying on traditional communications tools for a while. This year however, we broke records in terms of money raised on social sites (due mostly to our work around the Gulf oil disaster).

6. Did you experience resistance from higher ups in the organization initially utilizing about social media, or were they supportive?

Actually, the CEO, Larry Schweiger (@ljschweiger) and COO, Jaime Matyas (@ecosoccermom), have been behind me since the beginning. They were supportive and encouraged me to test and experiment.

As an organization we still haven’t invested in a large team or even in expensive tools, but our senior leadership has been very supportive of us spending employee time to test things out. This time is incredibly valuable to our organization as we grow our digital networks.

Since we are a larger organization, I do run into some push-back–mostly around a desire to protect our resources–but we have come a long way. I hope to use the knowledge we have gained from social media to determine future allocation of resources and help the organization in bold ways that help wildlife as well.

7. What the best piece of advice you could offer nonprofits about social media, and online communications in general?

No matter what your size, as a nonprofit, you have something to offer the social media space. Use social media to listen to relevant conversations, learn from your supporters, improve your work and connect with individuals and leaders that can spread your message as their own. As nonprofits we can help bridge the gap between the things we need to change in this world and the people who want to help.

8. Are you currently investing resources in mobile marketing i.e, a mobile website, texting, mobile Apps, text-to-give, etc.?

We are definitely working more in that direction. We did do a mobile text campaign after the Gulf oil disaster that raised us more than $150,000. We have also partnered with several iPhone apps and are constantly rethinking how we do things to incorporate mobile technology more.

9. What do you think are the most important skills necessary in a social media practitioner?

I think having an open mind, being relevant, authentic, transparent and willing to experiment are things that are important to social media practitioners. While many people claim to be experts, the real social media users know that they will always be students, and they love it!

10. What is on your To Do List for 2011?

For 2011, I’d like to explore more into geo-location sites, mobile apps and question-and-answer sites. It would be great to help our NWF staff establish themselves as leaders. But mostly, I want to continue serving as the go between for the organization and the community that supports it. I find it incredibly important that I continue serving both my employer and the loyal members we have.  I’d like to mature the efforts we do have while keep experimenting and testing!

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[Book Interview] Nonprofit Example of Social Media Excellence: National Wildlife Federation