Guest Blogger Post: “Every NPO should act like a tech startup”

Social media marketing is such a powerful tool right now that nonprofits can really learn a lot from, but I know nothing about it, so I called in someone who does! Daniel Sosa, is someone very close to me with a career focused around tech startups. He is a natural at marketing and creating a social presence for companies, and is determined to do so as efficiently as possible. His growth strategies have helped several companies (including his own) as they have moved forward in their industry. Daniel’s passion and drive for this type of work does not go unnoticed by anyone he works with. I have learn a lot from him in the time that I have known him, and continue to do so. Since I am a firm believe that nonprofits can learn a lot from the for-profit world, I asked Daniel to give a little insight into how nonprofits can act more like a tech startup to grow their organizations.

Daniel Sosa says:

Having followed Angela’s blog and career for some time, I’ve become a fan and supporter of her view’s on NPO’s and how they should invest in themselves and operate more like a business, to become sustainable, grow, and increase their impact.  With that said, the truth of the matter is that many nonprofits are lacking resources and struggle to operate efficiently.  I believe technology and the social web can help change this.

I come from the tech startup world, where the name of the game is figuring out how to make a huge impact with next to nothing in resources, hence concepts such as “Growth Hacking” and “Virality” which are synonymous with how tech startups grow, are gaining lots of traction and awareness.  So today I’d like to talk about how NPO’s can utilize technology to make a bigger impact with limited resources, and share my favorite tools to help you get started.

The fact is that information technology and social web has given us the ability to provide valuable information and position it in a “Pull” format. What does this mean? With so much information being consumed in the digital age, the best marketers and organizations are positioning their voice and content in a way where its no longer the unappealing advertising of the past, but ultra accessible information on demand.  Anyone who believes in your mission will not only have access to it, but easily be able to share it with the world.

There is no better example of a nonprofit leveraging this concept than the ALS Association’s success with the Ice Bucket Challenge.  This is modern day marketing at its finest, which I define a set of tactics and best practices for creating organic sharing, participation, and user growth.

So let’s break down what the ALS Association did:

  1. Acquisition: Created easy to execute (anyone can do it) social contest
  2. Activation: Launched contest with a “1-to-Many” viral hack.  Specifically it was a 1-to-3, this is important to note because a successful referral program only needs to be 1-to-1, hence if most failed, it would still succeed
  3. Retention: Social responsibility, a good cause, and transparency of the process created high participation which drove the referral program
  4. Revenue: ALS Association raised over $22 million dollars and much more in just awareness.


The ALS Association is a very successful example and there is no simple recipe that can berecreated since creativity is a big part of the process. The idea I’m promoting is that we no longer need a huge budget, we just need to appeal to our audience and get in front of them in a way that promotes engagement and sharing.  As an NPO our best marketing and sales teams are the people that believe in our cause, we must empower them with the tools to do so.

With a goal to not overwhelm you (and keep you engaged for my next post) here are some simple tools to help you get started.

  • Take away the heavy lifting: The best social organizations know that the trick to promote sharing is to make it as simple and fast as you can. These tools allow your followers to share anything you want them to share with one click, and allow you to control the message as well!
  • Track everything: We live in the information age. Your resources are too limited to waste time doing things that aren’t working, to track everything, focus on what works, remove what doesn’t. I suggest 10 minutes to talk data at every weekly staff meeting.
    • Yesware– (Aka the best thing ever):  Allows you to track who/when your sent emails where opened, create templates to reach out faster, track templates to see what works.  Best of all this integrates with your Gmail/Outlook.
    • Understand your social analytics: Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest all give you analytics on what is providing your best engagement, use this to share better not more.
  • Automate social media… but not too much: To be good a social media you have to be social! Which means don’t just post, get in the trenches and engage as much as possible.
    • Dedicate 1-hour per week to just searching relevant information and engaging with others
    • Buffer: This great tool is like Hootsuite but better and faster.  Automatically sets your updates for best times and publishes for you.
    • We can’t all hire professional designers, Canva allows you to make professional and beautiful designs and banners. Anyone can do it!

This is just the tip of the iceberg; Step away from your daily routines and take time to think about efficiency, growth, and today’s changing landscape.  We have a unique opportunity to be personal, connect with people, and communicate at scale in the ways we could never in the past. The trick is to use technology to be more human and more appealing instead of just leveraging tools to create more noise on the web.  The result will be a bigger impact in a world that desperately needs it.

My Suggested Books:

  1. The Lean Startup: Eric Ries
  2. The Thank you Economy: Gary Veynerhuck
  3. Growth Hacker Marketing: Ryan Holiday

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