A version of this blog post originally appeared on the JustGiving blog on 29 October 2014.
The nominations are in, and the judges have their scores. The top 30 charity CEOs on social media will be announced on Thursday 6 November. In a world where social media campaigns like #Wakeupcall and Ice Bucket Challenge can raise thousands of pounds and change countless lives, being a social savvy charity leader has never been more important.
In 2013, event co-founder Zoe Amar and I produced a guide for anyone who wanted to see their own CEO get on social media. A year on, we still get requests for a copy from staff and volunteers in all kinds of charities, all of whom are coaxing their CEO to take the plunge into the warm waters of social media.
So we have gone one better and produced a sparkly, new and improved briefing for 2014, available this week. We won’t spoil the surprise, suffice to say that some very well respected figures in the sector share their experiences in the briefing, stories we can all learn from.
Emotional barriers of starting
One of the big reasons we are doing the awards is to overcome arguably the biggest barrier to more chief executives and leading lights in the sector getting stuck into social media. The barrier isn’t skills though – after all, if you can run an entire charity, you can surely click the button marked ‘Tweet’!
No, the biggest barrier is an emotional one. Who am I to make public pronouncements on what I believe? Who would be interested? Will I annoy people? I’ve seen first hand that these are the thoughts that run through the heads of people who aren’t yet but want to be on social media.
The awards intend to show this group not just that their peers are already doing it and furthering important social causes in the process, but that no tragedies have yet befallen them as a result.
We genuinely believe that charities whose leaders are enthusiastic tweeters find great digital work easier at all levels. Julie Bentley of Girlguiding, one of 2013’s winners, leads a charity with a fun and award winning approach to digital. I bet this is no coincidence.
What’s more, a charity whose CEO walks the digital walk as well as talking the talk immediately gives credibility to their digital team’s work. This creates a culture that’s ready to take advantage of #WakeUpCall, Ice Bucket Challenge or whatever the next big fundraising meme may be.
Just look at the fundraising activities personally undertaken by one of the 2013 winners, Mark Flannagan of Beating Bowel Cancer for his charity. This leadership shows personal commitment to fundraising in general, commitment that no doubt spreads throughout their organisations.
Support for cause through individuals
The other huge benefit of social CEOs are the role that they themselves, with their own personal qualities, play in gaining support for hugely important causes. People give to people, so it’s as understandable as it is undeniable that many of us give to the person first and cause second.
Take a look at what Stephen Sutton did for Teenage Cancer Trust via Stephen’s Story. You would be hard pushed to find a more positive, motivating and inspiring man than Stephen, and we all truly connected with his values and him as a person. He inspired thousands to donate to Teenage Cancer Trust, supporting many other young people like him.
CEOs can do the same. They can use their personality to connect with donors and supporters on social media, one at a time, and bring them into the fold of their particular cause.
We are really lucky to have the support of some excellent organisations for this year’s awards. The whole thing is being run in association with Grant Thornton. We’ve also got some other great sponsors on board including TPP and The Access Group. Big thanks to them and their support for what we’re trying to achieve.