Essays

Most Nonprofits Don’t Need to Be on Twitter

By now you’ve most certainly heard of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter late last week, and in the subsequent melodrama, many of you may have probably paused to consider your organization’s engagement on the platform – and possibly remind yourself how to log back into your account.

And no doubt many of you who manage your organization’s social media accounts will have a conversation in the next week with your executive director wherein they will casually ask, “Hey, what are we doing on Twitter these days?”

So before you get “develop a new successful Twitter strategy” thrown on your plate, we want to offer you some encouragement and send a reminder that most nonprofits do not need to actively maintain a presence on Twitter.

Where to spend your time online

Don’t get us wrong: we strongly encourage you to engage with audiences on social media. It’s an invaluable tool for communicating. However, given the limited capacity of many nonprofits, we would advise you to focus on platforms that expose you to much broader audiences, especially Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

According to Pew Research Center, just 23% of American adults use Twitter. By contrast, Facebook is used by nearly 70%.

Elected officials, policy professionals, journalists, and members of the media, however, overwhelmingly favor the platform, which is why Twitter drama gets amplified into our national discourse and why we’re so often led to believe that most of us are supposed to care about what’s happening there.

But for most nonprofits, it’s just not worth the time invested.

Twitter’s pros and cons

So why might you want to use Twitter?

There are definitely a few instances when Twitter has been a reliable tool for nonprofits. If your organization engages in legislative advocacy, if you’re plugged into policymaking or academic research, or if high-profile earned media is an essential part of your communications strategy, then you should be on Twitter. (Not sure what your communications strategy is? We can help with that!)

Remember though that these are trade-offs. Take for example earned media: Twitter has been a great resource for connecting with journalists, following their interests and beats, and discovering which organizations end up quoted in their stories. Spending time on Twitter can help you hone the perfect pitch that becomes the best headline you’ll receive all year.

But getting there takes so much time and energy.

You have to continuously feed the beast with new content and posts so that your organization shows up in the feeds of journalists and you have to continuously scan the platform to see where conversations are headed. This is certainly the case for many social media platforms, but again, you’ll very likely see better returns engaging on other platforms.

How to evaluate your Twitter presence

Let’s talk briefly about how to evaluate your organization’s performance on the platform.

First, take a step back and assess the return you’re seeing. How are your posts doing in terms of generating likes, retweets, and follows? Are they getting meaningful engagement at all? More importantly, do you see traffic from Twitter on your website, and is it generating email sign-ups, event registrations, donations, etc.?

Next, think about how you personally interact with the platform. Do you regularly scroll through Twitter to check the news or is it an after thought? Do you craft posts specifically for Twitter or are you copying them between platforms as part of your social media spray-and-pray?

You might be doing great, and if so, congratulations! Consider presenting at your next nonprofit conference and share what your doing and why it’s working.

But if you have no evidence to substantiate that you’re seeing positive results, it’s probably time to disengage from the platform. And if you pull up your organization’s page only to see no one has posted to in in 3-4 years, it’s definitely time to disengage.

Best practices for hibernating your account

We’re not saying you should log in one last time to delete the whole thing. The truth is, no one knows the future of any social media platform and five years from now, it may be the place to be. Hibernating your account is the right move, especially if you control a good handle for your organization or have the name directly (such as @BoldBison).

Here are a few steps to take before going into hibernation:

  1. Block a few hours on a Friday afternoon for this because you’ll need a little time.
  2. Feel free to delete your old posts – years old content is irrelevant. But, as you read through old posts, make note of ones that generated particularly high engagement and see if there is any reason why it performed so well. Was it retweeted by a popular account, did it have a good photo or caption, did you tag other accounts?
  3. Be sure to copy down any compelling messages or captions you see and download any good photos you don’t already have saved.
  4. Check the accounts you’re following and make sure you’re not following anyone who’s a red flag (they might have been fine years ago and have since… drifted).
  5. Once everything is cleaned up, edit the account’s bio to let followers know that you’re taking a break, that they can find you on other platforms, and that they can sign up for your newsletter on your website. Add your website URL and logo, so folks know this is your organization’s official account.
Remember: you’re the expert

So, we at Bold Bison give you permission to disengage from Twitter if it’s the right call for your organization. Please understand that we’re not anti-Twitter, per se, nor are we inherently pro-Meta platforms. We just approach this from a pragmatic cost-benefit perspective and we encourage you to do the same.

You only have so much capacity, and too often, the latest fads and trends become a distraction that keeps us from focusing our time on what’s effective and what’s most likely to help us actually articulate our message.

Most of all, if this comes up, don’t forget that you’re the communications expert in the room.

And we at Bold Bison are always happy to back you up on that.

Lights! Camera! Action! at River Rally 2022

Thank you so much to the 40+ participants of Lights! Camera! Action!: Let’s Make a Video – Bold Bison’s workshop at River Rally 2022! It was amazing and inspiring to see such energetic engagement with our goal to create a video that would connect new audiences to water conservation.

We’re thrilled to share the final result of what we produced together – and please feel free to share with your own networks:

Please do reach out if you’re looking to connect with us – we’re always looking to continue the conversations we start at River Rally. You can find Brandon and Patrick on LinkedIn.

Thank you again for a great session, and we’re looking forward to River Rally 2023!

Brandon & Patrick

Summer 2022 Upcoming Workshops

We’re thrilled to share that Bold Bison will be on the road this summer at some of the country’s top conferences. Be sure to catch our session at the following!

River Rally | June 4-7, 2022
Washington, DC

Lights! Camera! Action!: Let’s Make a Video – In this highly interactive, hands-on workshop, we will together make a complete 3-minute video from start to finish. Throughout the session we will work as a group and in teams to create talking points for the video, film the video right there in the room, supplementing what we shoot with some pre-recorded footage and images, and finally edit the video projected on the room’s screen so that everyone can see how editing decisions are made.

Sunday, June 5 | 9:30am (Workshop Block A)

Register for River Rally


Land Trust Alliance Webinar | June 8, 2022
Virtual

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Thinking Creatively About Branding – Between the accelerating impacts of climate change, a greater focus on equity, and the impacts of the pandemic many land trusts have fundamentally evolved their approach to their work. As a result, they’re often left feeling like their 10+ year-old branding just doesn’t quite reflect the work they’re doing for their communities today. Sound familiar?

Join us for a highly interactive and engaging workshop, where we’ll take a close look at what branding is (and isn’t); think through strategies to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your brand; and share a perspective on how to approach the idea of a brand update within your land trust.

Wednesday, June 8 | 1pm EST

Register Here


Northwest Land Camp | June 28-29, 2022
McMinnville, OR

Lights! Camera! Action!: Let’s Make a Video – In this highly interactive, hands-on workshop, we will together make a complete 3-minute video from start to finish. Throughout the session we will work as a group and in teams to create talking points for the video, film the video right there in the room, supplementing what we shoot with some pre-recorded footage and images, and finally edit the video projected on the room’s screen so that everyone can see how editing decisions are made.

Tuesday, June 28 | 1:15pm (Workshop Session 2)

Register for Land Camp


Land Trust Alliance Rally | September 15-17, 2022
New Orleans, LA

Storied Landscapes: What Making A Video Can Teach You About Your Land Trust – In November 2021, Bold Bison hopped in a car and traversed the Lone Star State, from Dallas to Houston to Austin to San Antonio to El Paso. Charged with the task of helping seven land trusts better understand how they can tell their organizations’ stories through video, we spent 10 days filming dawn to dusk with these land trusts, capturing just a snippet of their programs.

But in this brief moment, we heard incredible stories about the work of land trusts: how a land trust uses its access to real estate to support food justice in communities of color; how a community garden helped a family get back to normal after a years-long battle with cancer; how a preserve became a frontline for the humanitarian border crisis.

The stories speak to organizations that are so much more complex and intentional than a buy-protect-sell model for land trusts – and those are perspectives that must capture in our storytelling to connect with new audiences. In this thought-provoking workshop, participants will hear from their Texan counterparts to gain an understanding of how this video production process increased their storytelling capacity; boosted their communications confidence; and bolstered relationships with their partners and landowners.

Saturday, September 17 | 1:30pm

Register for Rally

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What’s in a Name?

“Why the name Bold Bison?” It’s a question I get all the time. And my answer is always the same:

“Because our communications must be bolder.”


I’m Brandon Hayes; I’m the founder and principal of Bold Bison Communications and Consulting, the business I started six months before the start of a global pandemic. Prior to starting my own business, I spent 20 years working in the nonprofit sector, which included significant time working in publicity for arts & cultural organizations and before a seven year stint as Communications Director with a land trust servicing the greater Chicago region. While this was my formal entrée into professional conservation, I’ve been an avid lover of the outdoors and a lifelong advocate for nature. 

It’s because of my passion for conservation that I’ve paid such close attention to the movement. And surely, there is progress to note. Conservation is starting to make the connection to agricultural land use and local food; environmentalism across the board is beginning to realize that people are a key component to healthy communities in a healthy ecosystem; organizations and funders are beginning to realize that a mission to preserve a local waterway and the people are interconnected, and communities often need to be invested before the natural assets.

But it’s also been stunning to see how a movement so widely supported by Americans has time and again failed to rise to the moment, especially during the watershed moments of the previous administration. 


Through both my personal and professional experiences, I’ve watched as conservation organizations (and non-profits more broadly) have slowly, but surely surrendered the rhetorical high ground on their issues. Whether on climate action, racial and economic justice, community organizing, and even public land protections, I’ve watched conservation organizations back away from participating in the actual work on their movement because it was controversial at the time – always offering up dismissive suggestions of mission drift, claiming that getting involved in a cause is, “nothing something we do,” while we only ever seem to actually define our work in the context of the most pressing grant report. 

It’s a cowardly retreat to what’s comfortable and familiar, rather than honestly discussing the work that needs to be done and the existing needs of the communities we purport to serve. 

It’s an existential problem for the non-profit sector… But it’s not due to a lack of passion. 

Some of the most talented, innovative, and forward-thinking people I know are folks I’ve met supporting conservation and local food movements – folks realigning their small community arts organization to amplify the voices of their environmental justice movement; folks fundamentally rethinking the meaning of local food economies in the wake of the pandemic; folks in under-resourced roles whiteknuckling their work in overburdened communities simply because they care. I could go on all day and we’ve all met people like this. 

If these movements are going to enact the change they envision, then we need to activate these passions, we need to amplify the voices already doing the work, and we need to reach the audiences that already overwhelmingly support our cause with bold messages and bold visions of change. 


I firmly believe that anyone passionate about an issue can be a fabulous communicator of that issue. What I’ve noticed missing in the sector are the tools, trainings, supports, and strategies that allow all the passionate folks we know communicate with the full impact and confidence that reflects why they came to this work in the first place. And especially in the wake of the pandemic, I’ve seen new leaders step up, and organizations respond successfully to all kinds of new challenges and opportunities – but many of them left wondering how to define themselves in this new space we’re working in. 

There has never been a more important time to be communicating boldly about your work and I cannot encourage enough to not hold back. And if you need help, Bold Bison is equipped to help you think through these issues. I invite you to take a look at our robust portfolio of recent work and read through our services – I assure you this list is but a snapshot how we can help your organization.

I founded this company to expand the communications capacity and help guide the strategic thinking of non-profit organizations. The Bold Bison team is always happy to meet with you, get to know your organization and hear where you’re at, and offer a recommendation. 

Please feel free to get in touch. It’s why we do this.

And welcome to the herd.

Brandon

Workshop: Better Word of Mouth Marketing

Tuesday, March 2, 2021
10:00 a.m – 11:30 a.m. (PT)

Even in the era of social media, the most effective marketing strategy is word of mouth. Regardless of your role – board, staff, or volunteer – you can represent your organization more effectively and encourage positive buzz. Join the brilliant Andy Robinson and me to learn how to engage potential supporters, develop compelling messages, and deliver them effectively. 

Hosted by The Nonprofit Association of Oregon

Presenters
Andy Robinson, Principal, Andy Robinson Consulting
Brandon Hayes, Founder, Bold Bison Communications and Consulting

Lights! Camera! Action!

Video is an absolutely vital tool for involving volunteers, donors and neighbors in the work of land conservation. Unfortunately, many land trusts and conservation organizations approach video as something that they need to spend a lot of money on, hiring professionals rather than doing it themselves. In an effort to show that making a video is fun, easy and inexpensive, I premiered a workshop at Rally 2017 in which I didn’t just talk about the importance of video, but instead worked with attendees to create a brief video— brainstorming messaging points, shooting interviews and editing footage—right there in the conference room in a 90-minute hands-on experience.

We had so much fun that the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) brought the workshop back for every Rally since, including virtual Rally 2020. The workshop has been so popular, in fact, that LTA asked me to compile my notes from the seminar for a story in Saving Land, their print publication. I’m happy to share that story with you.

Lights! Camera! Action! Let’s Make a Video, Saving Land, Winter 2021 (p. 32)

Photo: Noah Powell

Conservation Must Meet This Moment

In May, I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop at River Network’s Virtual River Rally, and in September had a chance to “sit down” with River Network continue to the conversation.

We had a very illuminating conversation during which I expanded further upon my view that the conservation sector must find ways to be true leaders in a movement for social change.

“I think we are well past the point that any organization can simply decide to make equity, diversity and inclusion a priority in their next strategic plan over some number of years. That moment for inaction through slow action is gone, and we need to act decisively.”

For far too long – and despite overwhelming public support – the conservation movement has surrendered the rhetorical ground in the public sphere and retreated from focusing on the changes needed on our planet in favor of projects that are fundable.

I firmly believe it is nonsensical to try and separate the work we do to care for our planet from the true and everyday experience of how we live on this planet. I founded Bold Bison not just to start conversations like these, but also to help the conservation sector rise to this moment, so I am thrilled to share this interview with River Network.

Read the Full Interview

Earth Day R.I.P.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an event that first took place some eight-and-a-half years before I was born. Sitting here on the forty-second day sheltering-in-place in Chicago from COVID-19 and watching the Earth Day messages from conservation and environmental organizations large and small fill my email inbox and my social media streams, each fighting with the other for my click and my credit card number, I think, “To hell with Earth Day.” Earth Day was an effective tool of and for its time. But it is not for our time.

Let this 50th Earth Day be the last. We need something new.

Continue reading “Earth Day R.I.P.”