YNP Success Story: Using Facebook to Market my Nonprofit

By Ash Bruxvoort

When I first started working at The Nature Conservancy just over a year ago we had an infrequently updated Facebook page with around 200 Fans. The page had been up for about two years, and I made the case that I wanted to try my hand at running the fan page. Our tech guy was pretty happy to have it off his plate, so there wasn’t much of a fight there.

Strategic Planning & Goal Setting
My boss took a little bit more convincing. I created a strategic plan for Facebook, which involved looking at other organizations in our same market’s Facebook page. I looked at five “competitors” (in reality all of these people are our partners) and made notes about what content was working well for them, how many fans they had, when they were posting, how often they were posting, and what were the areas I thought they could improve. I took all of this information and created a plan for what kind of content we should post, how often, what times of day, and who I wanted to target. In my opinion, creating a strategic plan like this is absolutely key to the success of your Facebook page. It will help guide you in what you are posting and prevent the “Oh my gosh, I haven’t posted anything on Facebook in a week!” panic attack.

Part of this strategic plan was a numbers goal. The first goal we set was to reach 1,000 fans, because this was the mid-range we were seeing for organizations in our market. The maximum range we were seeing was 3,000, which became our long term goal. We reached our first goal of 1,000 over the course of four months entirely through more frequent and better posts. This got our organization fired up about Facebook and our senior management wanted more results. In June we set aside some money in our budget to run Facebook advertisements, and just last week we hit that 3,000 mark. Note: It’s not impossible to grow your Facebook fan base without advertising money, it will just take longer.


What Does It Mean to Have 3,000 Facebook Fans?
Having this many fans on Facebook has already made a big difference for our organization. One of the biggest things we struggle with is that no one has heard of us, when we’re actually the world’s largest conservation organization and are working across the state of Iowa. Facebook has been a great way to connect with people who have never heard of our organization. The majority of our fans aren’t members, yet, but they’ve given us an invitation to share information about our organization with them, and I hope that continuously working on this relationship will eventually result in new donors. I see a lot of new people regularly engaging with our content, and to me this is very exciting. Now that we have this expanded base the biggest things I’m looking at are how can we turn these people into event attendees, volunteers, and donors.

What Is the Best Content to Post?
The biggest question I get about Facebook is, what kind of content should we share? Well, that’s not always an easy question to answer. I have found that the kinds of posts that are most successful on our page are posts about the work we are actually doing. If we do a prairie burn or host a volunteer work day, people are always excited to see the pictures and hear the stories from our conservation staff.


This is a great example of a post that goes over really well on Facebook. As you can see it got 91 likes, 4 shares, and quite a few comments. This is just a picture one of our conservation staff members took of something he found while he was working.

When thinking about content, think about two things. What are things that a lot of people are going to like, and then what is the message I want to get across. Make sure you’re posting about both things. If you’re posting things that are highly engaging, like pictures of baby turtles, it’s more likely that the article you post about best management practices for agriculture are going to show up in people’s newsfeeds.

A lot has changed at The Nature Conservancy since we made our Facebook page a priority. There is more communication between philanthropy/marketing and conservation staff, our board is more interested in marketing and what it can do for our organization, we started a Twitter feed, our state director started a Twitter feed and we embarked on a relationship with a new marketing firm. For an organization that didn’t really do any marketing just a year ago those are some big changes from something as simple as a Facebook fan page!

Get to Know Julia Hogren

Name: Julia HogrenJuliaHogren.png

What she does: Development Coordinator at UnityPoint Health Foundation

Age: 27

How she spends her free time: I try to read and write as much as possible. Glennon Melton once said, “Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale,” and I agree, so I try to live by that! I also enjoy spending time with family and friends, practicing yoga, watching TV, running, traveling, coffee shops, cooking, volunteering, exploring new restaurants and wine. I hope to get a dog or cat soon as well!

What she loves about her job: Communications work, for me, always needs to have positive repercussions. I’ve consistently worked at nonprofit organizations because there is a significant sense of community and commitment to reach goals. Healthcare is an arena that affects literally everyone in life, good or bad. At the UnityPoint Health Foundation, I’ve learned about so many people, patients and staff, who directly benefit from donated funds. Philanthropy helps our hospitals provide key programs and services for patients and families in Des Moines. My job as a development coordinator allows me to think of creative ways to get that message across.

High point in her career: When I worked in communications for a large church in downtown Chicago, part of my responsibilities involved email newsletter management. There was one gentleman who could no longer attend services, but absolutely loved the congregational community and spirit of the church, and so he wanted to receive email communications that contained daily devotional reflections from staff and leaders. Except these emails, for whatever reason, never went through to him. We consistently failed to figure out why he couldn’t get the darn emails! I felt so terrible, and he was so frustrated. Finally, I just decided to personally send him the email. Every single day. It only took a minute, and brought him joy, and so I did that for months. One day, he sent a letter to our head pastor that included a $1,000 donation. He said he wanted to express his gratitude for the fact that I always remembered to send him his devotion. It wasn’t part of my job, technically, to do that sort of thing–but in reality, it was indeed the point of my job: to care for others despite inconvenience.

What inspires her: I’m constantly inspired by other people. My relationships are a constant source of motivation and creative guidance, and I am so grateful for that. I’m also inspired by art, literature, fashion, faith and nature.

How she got to Des Moines: I came to Des Moines a year ago after accepting a position with the UnityPoint Health Foundation. I spent a brief period in the Quad Cities, but prior to that, worked and lived (and loved) Chicago for about 3 1/2 years.

What she wishes she knew when she started her career: Five years ago, I didn’t realize that part of building one’s career involves trying different things. Most people don’t figure out their dream job straight away; instead, it’s a process of small successes and failures that guide you toward a better understanding of how your particular strengths fit in with an industry or organization. Fortunately, I’ve always been interested in learning new skills whenever possible, but I don’t think I realized in the past how valuable that trait would become. I started picking up graphic design skills on a whim, and now it’s a substantial part of my career path.

What she wanted to be as a little girl: I wanted to be a writer, as well as a ballerina, a mom, a pianist and a singer. I read constantly, often getting into trouble in grade school for sneaking books under my desk. I also talked to anyone and everyone; according to my mother, I had a habit of inviting every guest at the door into our home, including the postman. That desire to read and connect is still with me today, but in a much more regulated way!

Dream job?: My dream job is to be a writer and a mother. Luckily, that combination comes in many forms!

Connect with Julia on LinkedIn and Twitter

Would you like us to get to know you? Then say hello!

On Avoiding Burnout...

Burnout is an unfortunate reality for many of us in the nonprofit sector. Rick Kozin, director of the Polk County Health Department, recounted his career trajectory from community organizer to his current role at the beginning of our September discussion group at their facility.

He shared a refrain from an “anti-burnout” song that resonated. Remember:

“My life is more than my work; my work is more than my job.”


July Discussion Recap: Share Your Social Media Tips

By Sarah Welch, co-chair, professional development committee

At July’s YNPN discussion group, we asked everyone at the table to come up with one social media strategy that works well for their organization. None of us seemed to want to claim the “expert” title, but through this sharing process, we learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in managing social media for a small non-profit. Here are ten tips for managing a Facebook page that stood out to me:

  1. Look for examples of organizations that are doing social media well and model after them.

  2. Post photos for way more engagement and reach than any other type of post.

  3. Careful about posting through third-party apps like HootSuite, which tend to have less reach than posting directly through Facebook.

  4. Commit to posting consistently. Set a reasonable schedule for managing social media and build it into your workweek. Schedule your posts.

  5. Have more than one administrator who is trained to manage the page.

  6. If you mention an organization or someone who likes your page in a post, make sure you tag them. If you’re struggling to tag an organization, look at the end of its Facebook page URL, not the organization name on the actual page.

  7. Consider the “boost post” option as a cheap way to increase your reach if it’s for something specific like an event.

  8. Acknowledge funders, board members and others connected to your organization.

  9. Be friendly with your neighbors. Share their posts and they’ll hopefully share yours.

  10. Think about your goals: Why are you on this platform and is it reaching the audience you really want to engage?

What other tips would you offer based on your experiences managing a Facebook page?

Advice for Individuals Starting a Career in Non-profits

We asked a few of our LinkedIn group members for words of wisdom to help young YNPs begin their careers. The answers were as profound as they were practical. Leave a comment with your own advice.

“If you stay open to every idea- every offer and every inspiration – and follow those paths, you will find yourselves in places that you would have never imagined.” – John Mark Feilmeyer

“Nurture your network: collaborate, find a way to say yes, stay positive — you never know who will send an opportunity your way.” – Mary Bess Bolling

“Be ready to wear multiple hats and expand your knowledge. You will learn multiple facets of the organization and find that there is a lot of crossover between departments. You are all on the same team – be ready and willing to support others in their work. And, always be open to gaining new skills outside of your job description.” – Kristin Schaaf 

“Be excited about coming to work -especially on the days when you have no idea whats going to happen.” – Zeb Beilke-McCallum

“Speak up! Be ready to offer ideas and to take leadership of a project. There will be so many opportunities to contribute beyond your “defined” role and those are often the most exciting and fruitful moments of your career.” – Sarah Welch

“Set up a schedule to manage your time and priorities from the start. Be ready to re-arrange them at moment’s notice.” – Lee Goldsmith

Be sure to join our LinkedIn group for great networking and discussions.

LinkedIn Recap

By Josh Ingalls


I had the opportunity to discuss LinkedIn with a group of YNPN members the other day and wanted to share the insights I gained from this experience.  First off, the group was great!  Incredibly smart people, working in a variety of different roles, and all were extremely personable.  What a great group representing Iowa and young professionals interested in the non-profit world.  If you have a chance to attend one of these events I would strongly encourage you to take it.


As for the topic of the night, LinkedIn, I think the most important insight we discussed was related to how you need to think about this social network in a significantly different way than the other major players in the space.  For example, Facebook is probably comprised of your offline relationships that you have brought online.  Your friends and family likely make up most of your connections, and you use Facebook to interact with them.  Twitter is different in that you actually create an online connection with those you don’t interact with directly offline.  You might follow celebrities, thought leaders, athletes, news organizations or companies.  So the connections take on a different flavor, but once again you use that medium to interact with them.

LinkedIn is different.  Your connections primarily come from your professional relationships, many of which already have a preferred method of communication outside of the social network.  So, even if you connect with your co-workers, you will not use LinkedIn to send them a message because you have their direct email or phone number.  That seems to be the difference that throws a lot of people off.  They go through the trouble of creating a profile and connecting with people, only to say, “Now what?”

But there is a really great benefit that LinkedIn provides once you have taken these steps.  By connecting with your professional network, you gain access to their networks.  That means your 100 connections turns into 10,000 2nd degree connections and 1,000,000 3rd degree connections.  That geometric growth in your professional network is incredibly powerful when it comes time to reach out for a variety of reasons.  If you are looking for a job, preparing for an interview, searching for talent, or just have a question for an SME, that larger network of professionals can help you out.  That is the power of LinkedIn and why it is worth it to invest energy in building a great profile and connecting with your network.

Once we talked through this idea, the other topics were important but not quite as transcendent.  We discussed how companies are using LinkedIn as a primary method of finding talent for hard to fill roles, and I shared success stories of how The Principal has done so.  We also talked about how to create a great profile and discussed specific examples of how attendees can use this medium to address some of the challenges they are currently facing.

All in all, it was a very interesting and engaging conversation with a great group of people.  Are you running into challenges using LinkedIn or struggling to get started?  Need help thinking through strategies to make it work for you?  Leave your comments or questions and lets discuss as a group.

Reflections on Community Engagement from YNPN’s June Discussion

By Aubrey Alvarez, Executive Director of Eat Greater Des Moines


The YNPN Discussion Group with the topic of Community Engagement through Partnerships was my first experience with the YNPN group – and it was great! In my new role with Eat Greater Des Moines, I’m working to build successful connections among individuals, organizations and groups impacting our food system – the intended result of these collaborations being increased access to healthy food for all in Central Iowa with a stronger economy. 

On June 13, Leisha Barcus, VP of Community Engagement with the Science Center of Iowa, shared her experience building successful partnerships. After reflecting (really, procrastinating on writing my first blog), I’ve narrowed down what was shared into three main points:

  1. Be strategic about who you approach for partnerships. Don’t just throw darts at a wall and hope it works. While there is value in spreading the word and getting more people working together to accomplish a goal, before you friend every organization in Central Iowa on Facebook and schedule tons of meetings, think about the potential result of the collaboration. What is the mission of the organization you are looking to collaborate with? If you work together, what benefits will each of you experience? Ultimately, how can you help them accomplish their goals without adding more work?

    On the other side, if you are approached regarding a collaboration, keep in mind that it might not be a fit now but it could be a great match in 3, 6, or 12 months. Just because something doesn’t work now doesn’t mean it couldn’t work in the future. 

  2. Take a second look at those organizations you may have considered competitors. Leisha shared an example of a recent partnership among the Science Center of Iowa, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and the World Food Prize. All collaborated to host Earth Day events at their locations while linking and promoting collaboratively. Each organization could have organized a separate event and “competed” for the attention of potential attendees and/or sponsors. Instead, by working together they were able to promote through their channels and increase their reach. As a consumer, isn’t it nice when everyone plays nicely in the sandbox?! 

  3. Bring something to the table. Just like any good potluck, bring something to the table. And think broadly! Things your organization does regularly could be a challenge for another organization. Do you have skills with social marketing? A great base of volunteers? Purchasing relationships?

    An example close to me was Eat Greater Des Moines’ relationship with RecycleMe Iowa and Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS). RecycleMe Iowa is a doorstep recycling service that caters to apartments, condos and small businesses. They also coordinate or consult regarding zero waste indoor and outdoor events. CISS’ mission is to provide free shelter and meals to homeless adults regardless of physical or emotional conditions, and to facilitate their move toward self-sufficiency. On the surface, why would our small, new non-profit with a focus on food work with a for-profit recycling business and well-established local non-profit? During discussions, we realized we have a shared goal – rescuing food from landfills.

    If we work together with restaurants, catering companies and other organizations that have events with food (and probably leftovers) we can accomplish all of our goals. RecycleMe Iowa has relationships within the restaurant and catering industry – those with extra food. Eat Greater Des Moines has relationships with local shelters, like CISS. CISS staff and volunteers will pick up and transport any leftover food; all they need is a call!

    Through our collaboration, we are hoping to expand upon the great work already happening by outlining a process for anyone wanting to be involved. Each of us brings something to the table, helping each of us have a bigger impact. 

A unintended benefit of my procrastination, besides the deal I made with myself that I could get a pedicure if I used the time to write, was this article by Beth Kanter that came across my phone. From the short review, “Give and Take” by Adam Grant will be the audio book for my road trip to Nashville.

Ultimately, there are opportunities all around for collaborations but they take work. No matter your field of work, surrounding yourself with others from different organizations or roles allows growth for all.  

Comedian Amy Poehler highlights this when she reminded us of the following: “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

YNPN Super Swag Social


RSVP to the Facebook event

What are non-profit organizations notorious for?? Asking for money.
Ok, yes, but what else?? Low budgets.
*Dramatic Sigh* Ok, yes, but there’s something else….. SWAG!

YES, SWAG! We all have it. If you are a non-profit professional you know how to hawk it and even sometimes have to bribe people with it.

If you have ever volunteered, you probably have an XXL t-shirt (because for some reason that’s the only size non-profit shirts come in).

So gather up your super sweet swag and come show it off! Think t-shirts, hats, lanyards, wristbands, buttons, waterbottles, paper fans, hand sanitizer, pens, (What else?)

Superlatives and eternal glory for:

  • Best vintage swag
  • Most swag worn at once (30 pieces of flair anyone?)
  • Most unique swag
  • Craziest swag

Have extra swag you want to share? Bring it for the Swag Swap! (YNPN would like to remind participants to always swag swap responsibly).

If you don’t have swag (yeah right) come anyway, maybe you’ll get lucky and someone will have extra.

When: Thursday, May 30 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

Where: 515 Brewing Co.

Lessons from Cycling Cross-Country

By Emily Boyd, AmeriCorps Member at Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines

I made the best and also the worst decision of my life last summer: to bicycle across America.

Knowing graduation was upon me back in December of 2011, I wanted to participate in one grand adventure before this real-world thing became a reality. So, I signed up to bike from San Diego to Myrtle Beach so people in Kenya could have access to clean water and HIV/AIDS treatment.

I could have never prepared myself physically enough to climb thousands of feet or mentally to bike 80 miles a day without completely losing my mind. I also never would have expected the clarity that comes from just pedaling for hours on end or the fabulous relationships that gave me transformational perspectives.


The first day of June, I met eight individuals in San Diego and from there we pedaled our way across the southern part of the country and spoke at many water stops and any other opportunity we had available in order to meet our goal of raising $40,000. Besides learning how to dodge semis when crazy dogs were chasing me on the freeway, I learned professional skills I use to this day in my career:

You can’t control people. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I really came to terms with letting people be who they are without it affecting me. If it was affecting me, I spoke up. I realized it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Make a simple ask. I love Blood:Water Mission‘s statement that $1 can give one person in Africa clean water for a year. It’s specific, you know how the money affects a life and most people have that to give. What does a $5 donation do for your organization? Even if people can’t give a lot, they’ll feel more compelled to give when it’s specific and easy to understand.

Just do it. Far too often, people are unsure if their ideas should be voiced or if they should make the bold decision to apply for a position that’s “out of their league.” The fear of making decisions can be crippling at times, but can you imagine wondering “what if” years down the road?

If you find that a little adventure is just what you need to develop yourself more, check out Venture Expeditions, as they host many different trips annually that benefit different nonprofits across the nation. Biking worked out perfectly as an AmeriCorps position opened up at Rebuilding Together days after the tour ended. You can currently find me helping coordinate volunteer groups with home repair projects in the community and trying to find ways to make Des Moines a better place to live.

Ride on.


Resource Sharing, YNPN Style

By Sarah Welch, co-chair, professional development committee

My interest in YNPN began when I took a non-profit job that requires more than I know. As communications director for Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, I’m not only writing stories and managing social media, which I’ve handled before, but also delving into new territory with volunteer recruitment, designing materials and asking for donations.

I felt reassured that I wasn’t out of my league when at YNPN’s first “resource sharing” themed discussion group, someone asked about graphic design support and half the room raised their hand saying they needed help as well. But then, as we put our heads together to come up with ideas of where to turn to for support, I realized that we may not be experts at everything, but non-profit professionals sure are resourceful. And we have a lot to learn from each other.


From the two resource sharing discussions we hosted in April and May, I’ve compiled a list of tips, websites and tools shared by topic. I cannot vouch for everything here, but I hope it’s a good starting point if you, like me, are seeking advice in a wide range of areas. Thank you to those who attended these discussions and were willing to share and ask questions.

Graphic Design

  • Apply for programs like Design Assign with the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists or a Footprint grant from Allegra; many local marketing firms are generous with pro bono or reduced-rate services for non-profits
  • www.phoster.bucketlabs.net lets you make your own posters from templates
  • Edit photos and make collages with sites like pickmonkey.com and fotoflexer.com
  • Sparked.com, a microvolutneering site, could connect you with a volunteer designer
  • Elance.com lets you pitch ideas to freelance designers

Social media

  • Diosa Communications which runs nonprofits.wordpress.org offers tips and cheap, in-depth webinars on how to use different social media tools as a nonprofit


  • Ruby Van Meter and Easter Seals take requests for volunteers
  • Many large companies want to partner for larger volunteer projects
  • YPC’s charitable committee features a non-profit of the month and promotes other non-profits looking for volunteers

Blogs to follow

Accounting education

  • Coursera offers free classes from major universities including accounting classes
  • DMACC and Des Moines Public Schools have community education courses


Let’s keep this discussion going. Share your questions or most valuable resources on our LinkedIn page or leave your comments here.

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