We’ve all heard the stories of social media success. President Barack Obama was perhaps the first US presidential candidate to raise a significant amount of money via social media. The Ice-Bucket Challenge generated awareness and raised over $100 million for the ALS Association in addition to millions more for other ALS charities. Countless charities have raised vast amounts of money through crowd funding campaigns and other social media campaigns.
Despite the success stories, there is a dark side to social media that can actually hurt your nonprofit organization.
Let me share a cautionary story involving Ursinus College. It reveals how, when used improperly, social media can embarrass your charity, cause supporters to abandon the organization, and reduce contributions.
Here’s what went horribly wrong:
Got to love a janitor with a ‘Ban Fracking Now’ sticker on his bucket. Barack is clearly reaching his target demographic.”
“Yoga pants? Per my DTW visual survey, only 10 percent of users should be wearing them. The rest need to be in sweats – or actually get dressed.”
“Just saw an Aborigenese in ‘full gear’ talking on an iPhone. What’s next Ben Franklin driving a Tesla?”
“Bruce Jenner [Caitlyn Jenner] got 25 K for speaking engagements. Caitlyn gets $100K. What wage gap?”
Those are just four of the, ahem, colorful tweets posted on Twitter by Michael C. Marcon, an insurance executive and 1986 Ursinus graduate. These tweets, and others from Marcon, might have gone unnoticed except for one thing: When they were posted, Marcon was a member of the Ursinus College board of trustees and, as of July 1, he served as Chairman of that board.
Recently, several of Marcon’s tweets were publicized on Facebook by Jordan Ostrum, an Ursinus senior, and later on Odyssey by Haley Brush, an Ursinus English major. She told Philly.com, “The tweets that were sexist made me really uncomfortable…. Comments like that are really inappropriate for someone in his position.”
David Bloom, another member of the Ursinus board, made an even stronger statement about Marcon’s tweets when he resigned in protest. He said, “I read strong evidence of an elitist, racist, sexist, body-shaming, anti-LGBTQ, exclusive-minded and generally intolerant individual.” He also called for Marcon to resign.
Ostrum was the first to publicly raise the issue of contributions when he said, “I pledge to not donate money to the Ursinus College Annual Fund while Michael Marcon remains on the Board of Trustees… If he remains on the board, they are saying yes [to] his behavior. I will say no — with my money.”