Based on the beautiful island of Tasmania, the Bob Brown Foundation is a different kind of fund
In this age of rapid destruction of the biosphere, attended by cynicism and pessimism, the Bob Brown Foundation uses ecological reality and optimism to promote real environmental wins. They carry out work that aids people to protect more scenic land environments, wildlife and marine ecosystems in Tasmania, Australia, Antarctica and across the region.
The Foundation promotes the protection and enhancement of: The wild and scenic beauty of Tasmania, the ecological integrity of Australia and the happiness of humanity on Earth!
Led by Bob Brown, a man who fought for environmental protection decades before others woke up to the harsh realities of climate change, the Foundation is making a difference each and every day for the betterment of our home.
We had the honor to sit down with the Executive Officer at the Bob Brown Foundation, Steven Chaffer, to talk social strategy and moving supporters to action!
Here’s what he had to say.
ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?
Steven Chaffer (SC): I have been managing social media communications for the Bob Brown Foundation since our inception in 2012. As the Executive Officer and sole staffer for a small but growing organization, I got my start in this area simply because there was no one else to do it. Sink or swim. We didn’t sink but I definitely swallowed some water.
(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with the Bob Brown Foundation?
(SC): The Bob Brown Foundation is an environment not-for-profit that campaigns to protect the natural environment. We are based in Australia’s island state of Tasmania, home to some of the most magnificent wilderness areas and the tallest hardwood forests on the planet. Our founder and chair, Bob Brown, was instrumental in saving the wild Franklin River from being dammed in the 1980s and spent the next 26 years in parliament, state and federal. He was the leader of the Australian Greens before retiring from the Australian Senate to set up this foundation.
(AS): The interest in environmental preservation seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?
(SC): All of us depend on this planet’s air, water and soil to survive. Sooner or later, everyone realizes that. Bob likes to quote HG Wells: “History is a race between education and catastrophe.” Perhaps the pendulum is swinging.
(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your nonprofit?
(SC): That we are based in Tasmania, the most beautiful island at the bottom of the world. Come for a visit and see for yourself.
(AS): What do you think will change about the Bob Brown Foundation over the next five years?
(SC): We will continue to grow and encounter all the benefits and challenges that entails.
(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?
(SC): My strategic avoidance of having a strategy will probably have to change. Facebook seems at risk, if it hasn’t already happened, of being awash with slick graphics and confected content. There is a lot of room for ‘authentic’ voices and images. Real things happening in the real world. But a graphic is easier…
(AS): What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause you support?
(SC): My inbox.
(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy the most, how often do you post?)
(SC): Almost 80,000 likes from people who care about the future of the planet and want to see real action to protect it. Most are fans of Bob and admire his lifetime of activism, both in and out of political life. Some of the most popular posts we put up are photos that Bob has taken. I think people like that sense of connection—of seeing the natural world from someone else’s unique personal perspective.
(AS): How do you use social actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?
(SC): For us, ActionSprout Actions are a good way of converting people from passively supporting our campaigns to a more active involvement. They are a great first step for involving people more closely in our work. Whereas a lot of communication tends to be one-way, these kinds of actions allow people to move from being spectators to active supporters, without leaving the comfort and familiarity of the social media space.
(AS): I know you’ve been experimenting with donation actions on your Facebook Page. Can you tell us a little about that and how they went?
(SC): We have a decent size audience on social media at around 150,000 followers. While positive comments, likes and shares are great, it’s vital to convert this support into tangible action. People are often very happy to make a donation to support an issue they care about, but they have to be asked. ActionSprout’s donation actions on Facebook allow us to make that ask to a whole new group of supporters that ‘like’ us on social media but aren’t part of our list and therefore were never actually asked for a donation.
The majority of donations we received in our first appeal were from ‘new’ supporters, making it a successful fundraiser and a valuable list-building exercise. We have run about three different appeals now and they have had mixed results ranging from $3,000 to a few hundred dollars. Hard to know if that is down to the issue, the copy, the timing or all of the above. It will be interesting to see if our social media audience will continue to yield decent results or whether the well will eventually run dry.
(AS): What have you learned from past success? How did it change your behavior?
(SC): I think we learnt that you can’t beat a good issue; that really strikes an emotional chord with people. You can write great copy, use a stunning image and follow all the tips but if the issue does not resonate with people, you will struggle. Problem is, it can be hard to pick what will really move people. It’s early days for us and if I’m honest, still a bit hit-and-miss.
(AS): How do you measure the success of your Page? What metrics do you focus on?
(SC): I don’t study the digital tea leaves as much as I should, but I think sharing is a good indicator of a post or action’s success. If people are motivated enough, by what you have presented, to bother to share it with their friends, that’s a great sign. It is also the key to the power of social media: the multiplier effect.
(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?
(SC): Have a go, try different things and use your own voice as much as possible. It’s an obvious point to make but there is a lot of stuff out there and almost as much advice on how to do social media. The ‘best’ time to post, the ‘right’ language, the ‘perfect’ image. While much of this advice is no doubt good, you run the risk of producing content that looks like every other Facebook post.
People live vicariously on social media. We all do so to some extent. Your friend just went on an amazing trip and before you know it, you’ve clicked through all 100-something of their pictures. The same can be especially true of public figures. As Steven said: “Some of the most popular posts we put up, are photos that Bob has taken. I think people like that sense of connection, of seeing the natural world from someone else’s quite personal perspective.” If your organization has a “Bob Brown”, tap into this opportunity to connect with your supporters.
Supporters don’t always act until you invite them to. Many of your supporters may be hanging around your Facebook Page either not sure how to help or thinking they can’t be of help. Until you present them with an opportunity and invite them in, you’re leaving valuable help and resources on the table. Actions are a quick, easy way to encourage supporters to act.
Don’t be afraid to run against the grain a bit. There are tons of folks out there who tell the right and wrong ways to manage your Facebook Page. We’re guilty of it ourselves! While these pieces of advice are important, what’s more important is doing what works for your audience. If the advice works then use it. If not, don’t. Don’t get caught up in thinking that there’s only one right way to manage your Page. At the end of the day, only you know what that is and how to best accomplish it. This will take some experimentation and trial and error, but that’s okay. Pay attention, learn and have fun.