Getting started on Google+ for nonprofits

Google+ logo #googleplus

Last week, I wrote a post for explaining why I was checking out Google+.

A week later, I love it! I've would probably stay on Google+ if I didn't have so much invested in sites like Facebook, Twitter, and FourSquare. True, I am feeling a bit overloaded. For years it was habitual to post things to Facebook and Twitter, now I have to forcibly remind myself to.

I think Google+ will be incredibly helpful for nonprofits and teams. So here are my initial tips for fundraisers and nonprofits if they get an invite to Google+.

  • Accept the invitation!

    There's something special about being on the ground floor of a social media platform. Google's been developing this internally for the past year so, while there's certainly room for improvement, Google+ isn't nearly as glitchy as other site have been. But accept the invitation as a person, not as an organization. There will be options for businesses and organizations later. But right now, it's about people. Which is really refreshing. So be a person. Jump in and explore. And share your feedback, the Google+ team is incredibly responsive and making tweaks all the time.

  • Fill out your profile

    Google+ Profile - Marc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.comOne of the first things people will do when they see you on Google+ is mouse over your name. That shows who you have in common with that person. Some will put you in a circle based on that. But many will click to your profile. I find getting a blank profile quite annoying. Look at other people to see what they put. Some profiles are really sparse. Some people are very detailed. Find out what feels right for you and then fill out your profile! Please, oh please, at least add an image! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Be prepared for the red notification square

    Google+ notificationOne of the reasons I'm so connected with Google+ is that they've integrated the red notifications button across their other services. Whether I'm in Gmail or Docs or doing a Google search, the notifications are there. This is really smart of them and incredibly convenient. I can keep up with Google+ conversations without having to go to a different site. This will allow you to be keep in close touch with your donors, your board, or your other connections.

  • Experiment with the circles

    Google+ CirclesGoogle+ allows you to organize relationships based on circles. This is huge for nonprofits. Now you can communicate with just the group you want to. Currently, most networks expect you to just do a public update. And you sit at your desk, cross your fingers, and hope your fans see it. Google+ seems to reduce the finger crossing significantly. I'm really excited about this aspect of circles. If I were still in a nonprofit, I'd set up circles for:

    • my board members,
    • my development committee,
    • donors, and
    • any staff of the nonprofit.

    Each constituency can be in its own circle. And you can make a circle for all of them too.

  • Try a hangout

    Google+ Hangout check your hairI love the hangout feature. A form of video chatting. In a fun example of Google's style, the chat starts with a "green room" giving you the chance to check your hair! ๐Ÿ™‚ Google+ developers describe hangout as a "front porch." You click on the "hangout" and anyone that wants can drop in. So far I've done hangouts with people on four continents. It was much more personal than email discussion lists or even Skype calls. I forsee this having a tremendous potential for nonprofits. We at are planning on weekly "office hours" hangouts for our members. I can imagine nonprofits organizing a hangout with their ED and supporters. This puts a whole new spin on "fireside chats"!

  • Get the mobile app or use the mobile browser

    More and more of your donors are using their phone to access the web. So get a feel for how you'd communicate with this. Two amazing things about the mobile version:

    1. Instant Upload: When you take a photo or video, it's instantly uploaded. It's not shared but it's ready to share whenever you want. I find this much faster than the upload options from Facebook, HooteSuite, TwitPic, or Flickr. As a nonprofit, wouldn't you want to have a nearly instant way to show supporters the great things you're doing? Now you can! The best part is that, based on a week's poking around Google+, pictures seem to be the most "reshared" things. So you text coupled with a picture seems to increase the odds of others sharing it with their circles.
    2. Check In: There is a good check in feature on the mobile app and site. I happen to really enjoy FourSquare, but can you imagine being able to check in to your mission/service sites and letting only those who are interested know? Say you are at the satellite site of your homeless shelter, you could "check in" and let all your supporters know, reminding them of the satellite site is there.

Those are my "getting started" tips. I see much more potential for collaboration on Google+ than I've seen on the other platforms.

Granted, the chances are great that most of your supporters aren't on Google+ yet. And there isn't a feature for letting nonprofits have a profile. But now is a great time to hop in as an individual. Get familiar with this platform before your donors and board members get here. Ask questions. Be interesting. Experiment with work-related posts and personal posts. (My favorite so far is Jeremiah Owyang's post about the crockpot in his office. )

Find out what works for you and what doesn't. This isn't going to make Facebook or Twitter go away, so take those lessons to the places your organization does have a presence.

And, when you get in, I'd love to connect! My Google+ profile is at

Already using Google+? What tips would you add?

Let us know in the comments below!

Social Media for Nonprofits

There are two new books on social media for nonprofits, check out my Nonprofit Social Media and my Google+ for Nonprofits.

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marcโ€™s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, heโ€™ll be singing 80โ€™s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. This is a really helpful step by step approach for jumping in and getting started. Thanks for the great resource!

  2. Thanks for the "office hours" idea for using the Hangout feature - I think this could be a terrific way to stay in close touch with a team - in a personal, informal way - when a tight deadline is looming.

    It's going to be fun, figuring out our way around Google +1 and seeing how its use evolves as more and more people come on board. Already, this one feels like it has staying power - certainly, compared to the late unlamented Google Wave!

  3. Chas: You are quite welcome!

    Rebecca: So true. I wanted to like Wave but...

  4. Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet - quite honestly overwhelmed with keeping up on all the other social network. I was hoping someone else would give me the rundown and there you were!!

    That "Hangout" feature is awesome! Our little community chamber of commerce could really put this idea to good use!

  5. Hi Mark,

    We have a mutual acquaintance in Sandy Wilder of Leading Edge. I am very honored to be included in your company in her joint mention of both our Google+ posts.

    I really enjoyed your post here today. You've offered some stellar ideas for nonprofits. I also share your sentiments about being a bit overwhelmed, but also excited about G+. To add to your great resources, I picked this up a few days ago: Reserving an entity name for your business or organization page on Google+ so you have it when those types pf pages become available.

    Thanks again for a great read!

  6. I don't know what it is, but I can't get connected with google+. I'm wondering if it will just take a bit of time as switching from Myspace to Facebook did.

  7. It is that in part. It's also that Google+ hasn't opened its API so there aren't alot of third party apps yet. So you have to actually go to that site.


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What would you add?