Tumblr for Nonprofits: binders full of ideas

January 3, 2013

The presidential election is so last year, but somehow the Binders Full Of Women page is still the first thing that comes to mind when we hear someone mention platform Tumblr.

If you haven’t yet stumbled on Tumblr, you’re in for some fun. Pick a random topic you love and there is likely a small or large community on Tumblr devoted to your topic, no matter how goofy or arcane (if not, this is your chance!). Tree Porn, anyone? No, it’s not what you think. Oh, and we are sworn to secrecy as to who on Resource Media’s staff loves the Cute Boys With Cats page.

Tumblr combines the info-sharing of Twitter with a stepped up display of photos and video, along with commentary, like traditional blogs, but just a tad more quick-witted. Unlike Twitter, users don’t aim to collect followers like baseball cards, but Tumblr does allow other users to like or reblog your posts, as well as sharing them via other social networks.

We would never advise a nonprofit partner to join Tumblr because it is the latest bright, shiny object (heck, it’s not even that new, having risen to glory in 2011). Managing an organizational Tumblr account is a time commitment. And it should not be thought of as an automatic social media repurposing platform. The best Tumblrs pull good content from around the web rather than promoting a single organization’s stuff.

But, Tumblr can be an effective way to reach new audiences, spotlight an issue, or raise your profile. And you can use it for a single campaign (leveraging a timely hook like the Binders Full of Women line from the debate), or maintain a long-term presence.

Here are a couple of ideas to get your wheels turning:

Fact checking. Use Tumblr to hold elected officials, corporations or government agencies accountable to what they say. Given the humor and occasional snarkiness that people have come to expect with Tumblr, you can let loose in a way that is not appropriate for press releases or other channels. Tip: follow journalists and bloggers to get their attention. For watchdogging inspiration, check out Media Matters and ProPublica’s Officials Say the Darnedest Things.

Sharing your visual riches. Does your organization have more great photos and graphics than room to display them? Cherry-pick images that relate to one specific theme and dedicate a Tumblr page to just that (baby animals, perhaps, or clever ways to live green?) Niche audiences are drawn to these types of pages. The National Wildlife Federation has a Tumblr dedicated to California critters. Even more specific is The Daily Otter.

Content curation. Meatless Mondays does this well, pulling together inspiring quotes, fun facts, and tasty recipes to encourage readers to forgo meat on day a week for their health and that of the planet. We could envision something similar on rain gardens, or green cleaning!

Bringing supporters behind the scenes, like Robin Hood Foundation did for their December 12th concert for Sandy Relief. The foundation also uses Tumblr to share stories and images that make the case for support and demonstrate real world impact.

What are your favorite Tumblrs? We’d love to hear from you!

Liz Banse and Nicole Lampe