Susie Bowie at the recent Council on Foundations fall conference. I don't think either of us was surprised by the response. The audience seemed to understand that social media (in some form) just might be here to stay, but aren't sure how to get started or how to "sell" their board on the idea.
There were several key takeaways from our session. As community foundations, we are often seen as community leaders and as a result, it's important to be transparent. Using online tools, we're letting our community see that we're real people and are approachable. It also gives us an opportunity to be active participants in discussing community issues. We learn what people are talking about online and have the opportunity to respond. So, yes, community foundations should use social media. (For more information, please see my blog post on the RE:Philanthropy site and view the session slides online.)
How do you get started? As we mentioned in our presentation, start small and learn from others. See what other organizations (and community foundations) are doing online and copy one that works for you. Don't feel the need to sign up for every tool. A recent study showed that Facebook actually surpassed Google in time spent on the site, so that might be the best place to start. Who doesn't want the attention of 500 million people?