What if one tweet cost your nonprofit $18,000?

Essentially, that just happened to Seattle nonprofit Reel Grrls, which empowers diverse young women to “realize their power, talent and influence” through hands-on media production. Given their media justice work it’s not surprising that they sent out this tweet in reaction to a FCC commissioner taking a job at Comcast on the heels of approving their merger with NBC:

“OMG! @FCC Commissioner Baker voted 2 approve Comcast/NBC merger & is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!? http://su.pr/1trT4z #mediajustice”

What is surprising is that Comcast was listening and retaliated by pulling a promised $18,000 in funding for a summer film workshop. That is until the story broke in The Washington Post, the Seattle Times and other media outlets. This caused Comcast to reverse their stand and pledge to continue the funding stating that, “this is not the way Comcast behaves toward its nonprofit partners.

This gripping nonprofit/social media drama continued through the weekend when Reel Grrls announced that in fact they would not be accepting Comcast’s money. Instead they’ve asked the community to step up and help fund this summer’s workshop . As of Monday May 23rd they had already raised $14,000 of the needed $18,000. In all they may find themselves on stronger financial footing than they were before the tweet and with a whole new crop of donors. (Update – Reel Grrls has now raised over $22,000 from 600 people, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.)

However I am concerned that people who were already nervous about what could happen when a nonprofit utilizes social media will use this incident as fuel for their argument and fears. I can almost see nonprofit executives all over the country racing into their communication offices with this story in hand shouting, ”This is why I don’t like social media and why our nonprofit shouldn’t use it.” I hope that nonprofits will use this incident not as a reason to retrench but instead as a reminder of some communication best practices.

Although Reel Grrls did nothing wrong with their tweet, it may have you thinking about how to keep your nonprofit out of hot water. The best thing you can do to avoid this is talk about it before it happens. Have frank discussions with the leaders in your nonprofit about what you can or cannot discuss via social media and other communications. Asked point-blank “what would freak you out if you saw it posted on our Facebook page? Are there things that we could never talk about in our blog?”

Sooner or later something will go a little sideways with your social media work, whether it be a comment that casts your organization in a poor light or a rogue tweet that could tarnish your nonprofit’s reputation. Get clear about how this will be handled inside your organization; who will be alerted if something goes awry, and at what stage?

Know your response. Think ahead about what’s likely to lead to controversy and how you will address it. Create a list of what you could post about that could be inflammatory and what your response will be to each scenario. Then know how you will respond by creating a Social Media Response Plan like this excellent example from the US Air Force.

Taking these steps will get your social media house in order and allow your nonprofit to be more authentic and interactive, without worry.

Read more on the story at:

Colorlines: Teen Girl Filmakers Stand up to Comcast Exec’s Bullying

Reel Grrls video response

Groundswell: Watch What you Tweet

Image: Flickr:wildxplorer
  • Jason Howe

    And this is the problem.  The FCC /Comcast deal is completely dispicable. It smacks of corporatism, fascism, cronyism, etc.  Basically, its a model for what’s wrong in Washington D.C.  The fact that Comcast pulls funding for being called out as Douchebags just illustrates how crooked the whole deal is.

    Look at it another way, is your organization willing to do buisness with an unethical one?  How much is it worth to you?  I think Reel Grrls are doing the right thing by refusing Comcast’s money.

    The only way to fix the above mentioned *isms is to call people out when it happens and keep the pressure on to keep folks honest.