How to Become Relevant in 2018 – Practical Advice for Small Non-Profits

How to Become Relevant in 2018 – Practical Advice for Small Non-Profits
Guest Blog – by Sean Carnell @seancarnell28                      Reading Time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds


Before I provide you with particular advice, I think it’s important to mention the following:

  • The outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion annually, $702 billion of which is spent on trip and travel spending (Outdoor Industry Association)
  • More Americans participate in outdoor recreation each year than attend NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games combined (Outdoor Industry Association)
  • 47,000,000 people visit national wildlife refuges annually, and Friends Groups are THE brand ambassadors of the National Wildlife Refuge System
  • The average US consumer spends 5 hours a day on their mobile device (Tech Crunch)
  • 50% of that time is spent on social media, messaging, media, and entertainment applications (Flurry)

So what does that mean, and why does it matter? Well, we can an incredible opportunity to make a difference, and the way in which we communicate has changed.

 In the social media platforms listed below, I articulate why they are important and how you can use these platforms to increase your relevancy, membership, and contributions our nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System.



You might have noticed over the past few years that the number of people that see your Facebook posts continues to decline. The term for this is called “organic reach” and it will continue to decline for a number of reasons. First, there is more competition from advertisers to get their content into your News Feed and second, Facebook is changing their algorithm so that the News Feed is showcasing more content from your friends, and less from branded pages. In a recent study by M+R, which benchmarks the performance of non-profit marketing efforts, they determined that each Facebook post only reaches 7% of your Facebook fans. (M+R)

 So what can do you do about it?

  • Focus on creating meaningful content that sparks interactions (likes, comments, shares) rather than post mediocre content just because you can
  • Share engaging videos on Facebook
  • Encourage your Facebook fans to subscribe to your email newsletter
  • Re-allocate your time to assets that you own, like your email newsletter or blog
  • Allocate some of your paid media budget to Facebook. If you want to reach your target audiences, you will have to pay for it because organic reach will only continue to decrease.  


Twitter is the cocktail party of the Internet. It is a social media platform that allows you to jump in and out of conversations that are relevant to you. To be successful on Twitter, you have to understand how to use and leverage hashtags properly. A hashtag is a word or phrase proceeded by a hash or a pound sign that aggregates messages related to a specific topic

Below is an example of how you can use relevant hashtags to build meaningful relationships with refuge supporters on Twitter.  

  • Visit https://twitter.com/search-home
  • Type in a relevant hashtag, such as “#mypubliclands”
  • After you hit enter, you will see the top and latest tweets from people who used the hashtag “#mypubliclands”
  • You will notice that most people are talking about public land issues. Based on your expertise and knowledge, this is your opportunity to participate in the conversation by engaging with those people via likes, comments, or retweets.
  • Repeat this process with different hashtags that are related to your field



 Instagram started off as a photo-sharing app and has expanded to become one of the most influential social media platforms out there today. For non-profits, Instagram is the fastest growing network of three platforms mentioned here. (M+R)

People love posting photos of nature, wildlife, and their outdoor experiences on the platform, which provides Friends Groups with incredible opportunities to connect with people who love national wildlife refuges. If I was volunteering in my Friends Group nature store, here is what I would do in my downtime:

  • Open the application and search “XYZ National Wildlife Refuge” under the places tab
  • After you hit enter, you will see the top nine Instagram posts from people who tagged “XYZ National Wildlife Refuge” in their photo
  • I would click on all nine posts, read the content, and add a thoughtful comment to each one with the hope to provoke conversation
  • I would repeat this process every day
  • After I’ve built a strong relationship with these people, I would “surprise and delight them” with the following:
    • Give them a 20% discount on any item in my nature store
    • Offer a private refuge tour with a special Friends Group Member
    • Invite them to special events on the refuge and waive their fees
    • Connect them to other Friends Group members across the country
    • Offer to share their content on my Instagram page
    • Encourage them to tag my Instagram account in their future post
  • Then, and only then, would I ask them to become a member of my Friends Group

I hope that this piece was of value to you and I want to thank you for your dedication and efforts to conserve our nation’s public lands.  If there is anything that I can do for you, connect with me on Twitter @seancarnell28  or contact me on my website.

Sean Carnell @seancarnell28 is a Senior Marketing Account Executive at MOSAIC and is actively helping organizations grow their constituencies. Visit Sean’s website to learn more about his recent work.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2018/06/how-to-become-relevant-in-2018-practical-advice-for-small-non-profits/

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