As the first of our series in profiling the best engaged not-for-profits, I recently had a chance to sit down with Karen Snider, national manager for the Canadian Red Cross, and talk about the successes they’re having in digital engagement. This is the third of three posts.

11) Who are your front line community people? What are there titles and what are their key jobs?

The front line is a true reflection of our organization. On Twitter, we have experts in various areas, such as disaster response, first aid and CPR, bullying programs, government relations, web services and international operations. Job titles range from executive level, senior management, directors, advisors, instructors, etc. Many of our volunteers are also on Twitter.

Our official accounts are managed by our Public Affairs teams and we try to loop in our expert colleagues as often as possible.

12) What’s the biggest surprise you’ve experienced in creating a smart/engaged not-for-profit brand like Red Cross?

At the beginning, a lot of people don’t understand the tools and they are afraid of what people might say. But the reality is that people generally say good things about our organization. Whenever there is a question or concern, we’ve been able to respond. In some cases, we’ve converted nay-sayers into supporters just by simply responding to their concerns.

13) What does Red Cross do that would not be considered standard operating practice in most not-for-profits/companies (surprise us)?

We use social media to have fun – and to make fun of ourselves a little bit. We let our personalities shine through in the process. We’re kind of nerdy in a Red Cross way! We get really excited when the Twitter community organizes fundraisers on our behalf (like JapanQuakeTO) or when bloggers mention us. We love when others engage in our nerdy stuff and participate in blogs, such as “Name the 5 things that are wrong in this picture of a backyard pool”

One thing we have a lot of fun with are ‘Food Friday’ blogs where we talk about food stuff, such toasters that are in the shape of defibrillators or what we are eating for the holidays. Nat&Marie even invited us on their show to do a ‘disaster dining’ segment where we prepared a tasty treat (peanut butter cocoa balls) based on foods you could keep in your disaster kit.

Our blog has been the best place for our Red Cross shenanigans. In fact, a colleague once asked me, “Is this blog sanctioned by the Red Cross?” It sure is! It’s energetic and fun – a real shift in our culture of communications.

14) Anything we missed – rallying cry? special ritual? hiring practice? inspiring story? organizational setup? what people don’t know? a key insight?

One thing I’d like to add is a tip to non-profits to not underestimate Facebook. We launched our Facebook page after the Haiti earthquake, but we really didn’t start actively using it until December 2010. We’ve garnered thousands of new followers in such a short time, simply by providing content on a regular basis. Facebook was also the number one referrer to our donation page driving 32,000 clicks to our site during our appeal for funds for Japan.

15) Why do you love doing what you do?

For me, it’s the perfect blend of all things that I love – communications, social media, helping people and humanitarian aid. The Canadian Red Cross truly is an incredible organization to work for – I have tremendous pride in being part of the work that Red Cross volunteers and staff do, not just around the world, but right here in Canada.

Read more:

1st post in the series
2nd post in the series

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