The recent blizzard has caused chaos on the East Coast and created severe political problems for Mayor Bloomberg as residents decry the lack of snow removal. Meanwhile, in Newark, Mayor Cory Booker is using Twitter to communicate with residents to better direct snow removal efforts. In some instances, he is shoveling out cars himself. His use of Twitter has reached the national media (I suspect his Public Relations Department may be helping as that is what they get paid to do) While I applaud the hands-on leadership
in Newark, his use of social media points highlights the power of this new management tool. At Community Grants Associates, we believe that such tools will continue to grow in importance in the field of grants.
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook offer organizations with the means to not only shape messages for larger audiences but to frame a personal response. While non-profits seem to fully understand this message, cities and school districts have been slower to grasp this importance. Like their non-profit cousins, government organizations do many things well. However, this positive message tends to get lost in larger scale media of the traditional press release. Such positive messages tend to work better to more targeted audiences. For example, fixing a neighborhood issue probably will not interest a big city newspaper but will prove very interesting to local community groups or neighborhood associations. This idea is consistent with the current trend to use technology to meet problems facing governments, (aka Government 2.0). In fact, in an earlier post, we noted that IBM was sponsoring a Smart Cities competition to provide talent and technology to solve problems confronting communities. (Please note the grant is due 12/31.)
In terms of funding, the use of social media can have similar uses for both raising one’s profile with potential funders and in managing funds received. City departments, teachers, and other units now have a means to gather information at the local level to correct potential problems and share success stories. This strategy can serve to raise one’s profile in the funding community, provide specific data and example for grant applications, and serve as a conduit to share success stories with funders and the public at large. For example, federal officials are continually requesting that local governments share stories and photos with them about the American Reinvestment or Recovery Act. At the grant management level, the use of social media may help spot problems (i.e. the unhappy member of the target population served) at a very early stage.
As I have a friend who is a press officer for a major city, she would kill me if I did not note a couple of important caveats. While cities and large organizations clearly will have rules for these types of things, I cannot help but see the potential in this sort of approach. Also, it is important to remember that is said on social media provides a written or video record that is forever. A certain amount of discretion is thus necessary. At my company, the rule is that we would never say anything on-line that I would not feel comfortable saying to a client.
As 2010 closes, the staff at Community Grants Associates strongly believes that the following year will demonstrate the power of social media in the world of competitive grants just as it has done in the world of fundraising.