Thinking Differently About Social Media

Debi PfitzenmaierThe San Antonio Area Foundation welcomes Debi Pfitzenmaier, aka @MomonMars as a guest blogger on the topic of social media.  Debi, owner of PfitzPR, is able to leap tall heaps of reporters in a single bound, blog until all hours of the night, engage her clients’ customers in all kinds of interesting online dialog and pack audiences into musical reviews – all, while getting her beautiful, brilliant kids to school on time every morning. She’s taught English in China, walked along a fire line in Alaska, carried Elizabeth Dole’s shoes in a bag, helped raise a million pounds of food for the city’s hungry and wore a giant duck suit.

Do you ever have one of those light bulb moments? You know…one where the light’s been flickering on and off for weeks, maybe months. There’s an idea in there so close you can almost wrap your brain around it, and yet, not quite fully developed enough to shine enough light to make it all clear. Then one day, the pieces fall into place.

Such has been my most recent journey in social media. It started as a bit of an experiment…staying in touch with my family on twitter as my mom and step dad drove into San Antonio from Houston as Hurricane Rita approached the coast. It didn’t take long for me to see some serious potential in this unique tool.

And so I dove in with both feet, hands, eyes, ears, nose – you guessed it – all of me. I was addicted. For about three months. Then I was just tired. I disengaged, and slowly began to re-engage in a way that enabled me to manage the tool, rather than the tool managing me.

As I began to roll into using these social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, LinkedIn – for my clients I started to see much more potential than just use as a “communication tool.”

You see the words float by…engage, groups, friends. The talk is all about involving your fan base in conversation, cultivating ambassadors. There’s no room for push media or direct marketing in these venues, we’re told. These are not bulletin boards, ads or brochures. Okay, then. What are they?

They are communities.

And that was my light bulb moment.

For all the talk about communities, most of us are still using social networks as tools. But what if we starting actually approaching these venues as virtual communities? Could it work?

I think it can. Why? Because a communication tool is so shortsighted. Instead, we’re looking at creating connections that sustain individuals and strengthen communities. Active, resilient, confident communities. Wow – pretty cool mission, isn’t it. And it lines up pretty well with the mission of community foundations, doesn’t it?

So how do you do it when what we are used to is sending out our key messages?

Start by thinking differently. Think about the way you start a conversation. You don’t stand in a corner of a room and shout out what’s on your flyer. No, you develop a relationship through listening and goal setting, and then providing resources and mentoring, and by allowing and encouraging other members of your community to provide the same to each other.

This is a paradigm that’s not rooted in self-interest but in an understanding of mutual responsibility. Toss that around in your mind for a moment. Now THAT’S thinking differently about social media, isn’t it? When you shift into that paradigm, you begin to realize that your goal is as much as the development of individuals as it is the development of communities. Notice, in our new paradigm, I said nothing about the development of your organization. Shocking, I know.

However, because strong communities are built through connectedness, we find that the long-term reality of these types of social networks is that they do become the precursors for increasing involvement in organizations and in the greater community. They spur people on to volunteer, donate or advocate for a cause.

I’m still working on this new paradigm, but I think I’ve identified four critical steps to creating connectedness…

1) identifying where your communities are already engaging and reaching out to them in those networks;

2) engaging communities to determine their priorities for participation;

3) developing plans to outline how participation could be increased through reaching out to your communities initially, establishing ways to keep them engaged along the journey and determining strategies to re-engage them when they fall by the wayside; and

4) committing resources to the project long-term.

At some point in the process, it’s important to outline expectations so people know and understand that it is their responsibility to participate, share, comment, encourage and help others in the community grow and learn.

I’d like to know what you think about this paradigm. Have you heard it before? Do you think it’s possible? What tips do you have to add that might be helpful to other area foundations thinking about venturing into the social media sphere? Am I on to something smart? Or just being sidetracked?

Debi Pfitzenmaier, PfitzPR


Social Media in Action

Last week, I went to ActionCampSA held at the UTSA campus.  This ‘camp’ was organized by local social media giants Colleen Pence, Debi Pfitzermaier, Luis Sandoval, and Fran Stephenson, with the help of UTSA’s Molly Cox.  Many other wonderful folks participated as presenters.

Besides learning a great deal about how nonprofits can use social media more effectively to raise awareness, fundraise, and build community, the attendees were able to network with friends–old and new.

Here is a summary slideshow generously shared by Fran Stephenson.

Here is a link to Matthew Egan who gave an awesome talk about SEO.  He turned on the light for me on this subject.

For good information all the time follow:






Who’s Putting the ‘Social’ in Social Media

Sometimes I feel like Sybil–the women with multiple personalities.  I’ve so immersed myself in social media, both on the job and personally, I sometimes have a hard time keeping it straight.  As Communications Manager at the San Antonio Area Foundation, I want to keep our social media profiles on a professional level.  I post items relevant to the Area Foundation–our programs and services–and to the community.  With the profile under my own name, I can get more personal (funnier), especially with Facebook where I connect with many members of my family.  Yes, my grandkids can say “my grandma’s on Facebook!”

One really helpful activity for any social media maven is to attend tweetups, camps, workshops, etc. with the other social media mavens in town.  According to a recent poll, San Antonio is a very active social media city, coming in at #25 in the U.S.  I am proud that we are doing so well in this arena.  I think we do a good job at leveraging the power of social media into community awareness issues.

Here is a slide show created by @writeontime aka Donna Tuttle, who has been very instrumental setting up opportunities where we can share our social media knowledge and meet each other in person.  Last week, at one event, I got hugged like an old friend by three folks I had known previously only online.

If you are interested in putting the ‘social’ in your social media, here or elsewhere, look up gatherings like these:

Feel free to contact me, Laura Carter, if you have any questions.

@LauraCarter   A Small Blog

Technology Transforming Philanthropy #2

In the second half of a conference call, hosted by the ProNet Professional Work Group of the Council on Foundations,  Laura Carter, Communication Manager, answered these questions about how the San Antonio Area Foundation uses social media as a part of their Communications PR and Marketing campaigns.

What were your goals?

Several things encouraged the San Antonio Area Foundation Communications Department to enter the social media realm in the spring of 2009.

• The economic situation

• Presenting the San Antonio Area Foundation as a thought leader, influencer and resource

• Trying to reach new audiences, including the media

• Becoming more transparent

• Publicizing our news such as grant application availability, grant and scholarship announcements, workshops and class schedules, initiatives…

• Conversation and engagement with other nonprofits, community members, media…

What is your strategy?

We are using the Multi- Channel Approach illustrated by this graphic


Information in the 21st century has to flow. You can’t rely on using only one or two platforms for your message anymore. And, with all that is available, free of charge, why would you want to?

I think the best way to explain multi-channel approach is to give an example.

We create a media release announcing a recent grant distribution. The media release is sent to local media, print and TV, usually via email. Included in the email are links to our website and any videos, podcasts, blogs that might be relevant. The release is posted on our website on homepage and on the news page with photos and links to many of the following that apply:

• Video interviews with grant recipients posted on YouTube.

• A podcast of a grant recipient posted on

• The press release and/or recipient story posted as a blog in WordPress.

• Grant recipient pictures posted on Flickr (I ask recipients to share photos with us)

• We twitter @saafdn with links and pictures, we post story links on Facebook.

• We post the press release on PitchEngine, a social media distribution system

In addition, we send an e-news letter to our constituents with one or more stories linked primarily to our website.

Our Planned Giving Director includes a short reference to the grant awards and includes links to our website in her weekly e-news to financial advisors and donors. (Crescendo generated)

We post article/press release with video and/or pictures on local community news websites

How do we measure success?

The obvious answer is we count our website hits, blog, video and podcast stats, Twitter followers and FB fans. We determine what web pages are getting the most hits. I look at the search subjects and most popular blog posts.

I use twitter hashtags whenever I can and check to see what’s being RT. You can probably measure any increase in media attention by published articles or reporter contacts. If you use social media to fundraise or recruit volunteers, which we do not, you can certainly measure any success you have from your campaigns.

How do you address the issue of accessibility?

The economy was sliding fast when we decided to make use of all the free social media platforms that were available. We knew most of our fund donors were not communicating electronically. But, the nonprofits and outreach fund donors, volunteers, financial advisors and other potential donors are using email, internet and social media.

We still do a traditional annual report, with a flip-book on the web.

The Development Department has plans to increase the number of email addresses we have for our donors, and are considering a quarterly hardcopy donor letter. We still send invitations via mail, even if we send electronic as well. We have utilized postcard announcements, but I don’t think they are effective.

The current Pew report states that 1/5 of American adults don’t use the internet. This needs to be taken into account for any well-rounded media strategy.

Another Pew report showed that the largest increase in social media users, especially Facebook and Twitter, in adults 50-64. This is seems prime age for perhaps planned giving campaigns or volunteer recruitment.

What about time management?

I read a blog the other day that stated “since human talent is the largest needed component of doing social media, it’s professional development that is at the core what it costs to implement a social media strategy.”

Probably, the most time-consuming part of social media is getting started. It definitely takes time to learn to use the different media platforms and to figure out which ones are best for your organization. The best way to start is by looking at what other nonprofits, especially community foundations are doing.

You also have to take into consideration your resources. If you can do your own video, photos, web content management, you are able to incorporate more channels.

Don’t feel like to have to add everything at once. You can pace yourself. Find your place between skill and challenge in trying new platforms. Once you pick up several good channels of social media, you can begin to ‘flow’ your news and information.

If you have any questions about the information posted here, please contact Laura Carter.

Technology Transforming Philanthropy

Recently, the San Antonio Area Foundation Communications team took part in a conference call hosted by the ProNet Professional Work Group of the Council on Foundations.  We were asked to demonstrate how social media is making community foundations more adept at keeping donors informed, engaging new constituents and bringing the community together around key social issues.

Margaret Anne Lara, Vice President of Communications presented the following information as background to the San Antonio Area Foundation implementation of our social media strategy.


•     Registered Twitter users numbers over 145 million –

•     Facebook has more than 500 million active users  –

•     From December ’07-’08, Facebook added almost twice as many 50-64-year old visitors than it added under-18-year-old visitors  – Clean Cut Media

•     YouTube streams just under seven billion videos per month – “That pretty much means  everyone on the Internet, on average, is watching one YouTube video per day” – The Washington Post

•     57.1% of reporters read blogs 2-3 per week – The Hatcher Group

•     22% of adults online are on Facebook – Pew Internet

•     51% of wealthy donors prefer to give online – Convio Wired Wealthy Research Report

  • Social media basics
  • Organization mission, vision, objectives
  • Current and intended constituents
  • Listening and monitoring
•          Perceptions of your CF/Department
•          Constituency engagement
•          Current communications satisfaction
•          Communicating key strategies
•          Website and social media usage
Build and Launch
•          Identify communication tools and define measurement
•          Start a communications calendar
•          Mix and integrate channels
•          Assign ownership of audiences – who is talking to who?
•          Share results
•          Constantly listen and evolve


Social Media Thought LeadersBrian Solis –
Deirdre Breakenridge –
Beth Kanter –

If you have any questions about this information contact Margaret Anne Lara