With the love of reading and children’s literature at heart, the Make Way For Books (MWFB) mission is “to foster and support the success of children in our community through cultivating a love of books and reading.” But how do they do this? Besides their work in the community at various preschools, libraries, and the annual Tucson Festival of Books, teaching the importance of reading to children daily, MWFB connects with their audience by various social media portals. MWFB uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Perhaps they take some social media advice from Dr. Seuss:
But Melinda Englert already has a strategy that is working. She writes that “each social platform engages a different audience (though some may overlap somewhat). Facebook largely engages our families. We are actually trying to build more engagement from families who are attending our programs regularly and use Facebook both as a way to show people what we are doing and to keep families connected and updated about opportunities to attend MWFB events. I would say Facebook is the platform on which we are most active.” But they also use Twitter “to engage both younger audiences (teens we are working with in a partnership with Tucson Unified School District) as well as many other organizations and professionals.” Melinda told me, “We are continually learning more about how we can make social media work for our audiences—to reach, engage, and inform the families, educators, partners, donors, and volunteers we work with. For example, we are creating a video blog that will more actively engage people with our videos hosted on YouTube.”
James Howe recommends several tips on how a nonprofit organization can benefit from social media, but it seems that MWFB already knows these tips. They are very professional, authentic, and personable. I’ve seen them at their tent during the annual Tucson Festival of Books, all smiles and happy to share the benefits of literacy and wonderful books. Howe writes “people have relationships with people, not with organizations” and MWFB is completely brilliant with this. The organization’s volunteers thrive on reading to and with children in person on a regular basis. And because they already center around their community in Southern Arizona, they already apply James Howe’s fourth rule that “social media is about community” and it’s evident that “with community it is possible to achieve something bigger than you could as an individual.” Because of MWFB, according to their most recent annual newsletter, “Over the last 15 years we have served over 150,000 children and parents, placed 226,405 books into homes, and provided programs and opportunities for children to fall in love with books and reading” and they credit the volunteers, donors, board members, advocates, and staff. After fifteen years, MWFB is a proven community constant.
James Howe concludes his list with how added value is crucial when using social media and MWFB often provides useful tips for parents and caregivers to use with the children in their lives. Also, using social media and tagging posts appropriately leads the intended audience (which is any- and everyone!) to take advantage of their tools and perhaps even come to the organization’s aide, which is to arm our youth with the power and love of reading.
Helene Soloman writes that social media “means conversations, not one-way traffic, and honest writing, not pre-packaged messages,” and this is evident with Make Way For Books. They push out invites to the public for participation in the form of feedback and also reading- or book-based events. Barbara Fagan-Smith writes in her article that while the tools to connect to people (social media) have changed, the fundamentals have not when she writes that “face-to-face communication remains the most powerful and effective way to connect and inspire people.” Social media is an added value and extended outreach to what MWFB already offers so many children in Southern Arizona.
Make Way For Books is an organization that has done its social media homework. The organization has paved multiple pathways to inform and teach parents how to read to their children and to give children a love of books and reading that will pave a road to a bright future. So, as the company proclaims, they do indeed and in multiple ways, “make way for books!”
Fagan-Smith, B. (2014). The changing role of the communication professional. IABC: CW bulletin Fagan-Smith.
Howe, J. (2014). 10 social media basics every nonprofit needs to know. IABC: CW bulletin Howe.
Make Way For Books. (2013). Make Way For Books: The early literacy resource center: 2012–13 annual report. Retrieved from: http://www.makewayforbooks.org/pdfs/AR_2013.pdf
Solomon, H. (2014). Social media for nonprofits. IABC: CW bulletin Solomon.