Social Media Tips from the Grassroots

Social Media Tips from the Grassroots

By Susie Polnaszek, Program Officer Center for Nonprofit Excellence of the Community Foundation for Monterey County

Which comes first, the nonprofit or its social media presence?

For Families of Color Monterey County, it’s a new world of nonprofit outreach, with social media eclipsing traditional methods of organizing, creating interest, and getting people involved.

“Most people use Facebook these days or can access it and it’s free, so that was the best way for us to get started,” said Lauryn Ricigliano, Co-founder of Families of Color Monterey County (FoCMC), not yet its own nonprofit but a recent CFMC Neighborhood Grants Program grantee.  We spoke with Lauryn about her social media strategy and tips for engaging with followers and the community.


The group launched in 2016 to offer “community education and empowerment initiatives centering on the needs of families of color and focused on developing equitable access to resources through advocacy, education, and community building.”

It has since sprouted other initiatives, such as Family Biking Monterey County and Dads of Monterey County and Dads Read. Lauryn uses social media daily to let the community know about the events centered around FoCMC’s mission, from balance bike clinics to Dads meet-ups.

Q: When you were just starting out, what steps did you take to build Facebook followers? Then how did you engage them?

Fmailies of color Monterey CountyLauryn: Word of mouth and our own Friends lists to start. We also post on local, related affinity Groups in the area, like Monterey County Families, and we belong to groups nationally. While there are 800-830 families following our page, we are more interested in measuring the number of people who show up to our activities and gatherings, e.g. Dad’s Read – 15-20 dads with kids. For our monthly meet-ups, our numbers are more mixed. We know families are busy and stuff happens!

As far as engagement goes, we offer resources that people can’t find other places.” – Lauryn Ricigliano, Families of Color Monterey County 

We critique and curate multi-media resources and then many people leave a donation for those downloads. Since we can see who accesses the resources, we know that most people who like and donate are white; through our tracking we can see where they come from.

Social Media As Education Tool

A lot are white families who seek education. We also share social media posts from other places and that is part of the education. Not many local white families have a lot of direct, meaningful relationships with black/brown people. They’ve told us they are seeking education for their families. Another approach we use is to have closed (Facebook) groups because people don’t want to post pictures of their kids on the Facebook page. An example of a closed group is Dads of Monterey County.

Beth Kanter 6/15 workshop

Q: Why is social media important to your group?
Lauryn: Printing and website development cost money. Without funds, how are we going to get the word out? Facebook works for us because it is free and there is no signup needed. We don’t currently collect emails, but we may start for our own accounting and for funders.

Q: Are partnerships with other nonprofits a part of your communications strategy? If so, tell me more about that.
Lauryn: Yes, and my advice is “take it slow and make the right partnership,” especially exploring fiscal sponsorship. We even pinned something on our Facebook page that describes the ways we want to partner with other groups.

Social Media Tips

Q: What have you learned about social media that you think other local nonprofits should know too?

  • Take great clear pictures of events on your phone and think about composition.
  • Use Canva when creating an image for the Facebook event. Have beautiful illustrations that are engaging.
  • Illustrate what it’s like to come to an activity or meet-up. Families that are disabled may say, “can I access that space?” They will want to be able to see the space, to see if they can get there. For our biking group, people could see from the photos that some were actually walking. Not all were riding bikes. Men may be reluctant to participate in the Dad’s Read too. they ask, “what is it like? Is it OK?” It’s important to reassure and tell that story.
  • Use Facebook Events to Gauge Interest. Facebook shows a reminder if people are “interested” or “going.” It shows in their feed. It’s also a way to interact and ask questions. As a Mom, I like to use Facebook as a calendar to help keep me organized. It’s also an easy way to post updates and reminders within the event.

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