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Northwestern Settlement has provided essential social services to Chicago for well over a century.

While the nonprofit’s mission to nurture, educate and inspire children and families in need has never wavered, the way it reaches donors, volunteers, potential partners and the people it serves has changed drastically.

Social media is now a key component of Northwestern Settlement’s strategy, and Sprout Social is on hand to help the organization navigate a constantly shifting online landscape with limited budget, staff and time.

I was wearing many hats. So when the leader of a social media workshop for nonprofits showed us Sprout Social and what it could do, I was like, ‘Wow, this is so much easier.’
Katie Taylor
Director of Development, Northwestern Settlement

Multiple Audiences, One Mission

Northwestern Settlement’s programs run the gamut, from a Chicago-based food pantry that provides hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and clothing to families to a residential camp and outdoor education center located in Wisconsin.

“Programatically, we’re dispersed,” said Katie Taylor, Director of Development at Northwestern Settlement. “But at the end of the day, we serve low-income families. We’re in the business of disrupting generational poverty, and we provide opportunities to help people get back on their feet.”

Nearly all the organization’s programs have their own Facebook pages, and others are found on Twitter and Instagram as well. Strategically leveraging these pages was a priority for the organization, but doing so efficiently seemed impossible without the right social media management platform.

“I had to go out and fundraise,” Taylor said. “I had to go meet with people. Then I had to handle social media. I was wearing many hats. So when the leader of a social media workshop for nonprofits showed us Sprout Social and what it could do, I was like, ‘Wow, this is so much easier.’”

Each of Northwestern Settlement’s social pages serve a unique audience. For instance, the organization’s page for Rowe Elementary School, a college-prep charter school, is focused on recruiting students and sharing important news with parents. Yet each page is also intended to show current donors, volunteers and partners how their contributions are supporting the organization’s work.

“Current donors and volunteers are our connection to potential new donors and volunteers,” Taylor said. “They’re the people that tend to like most of our posts and share them. And just because of the way the algorithm on Facebook has changed, they’re the ones who are organically getting our content in front of others.”

Through Sprout, Northwestern Settlement can easily track who is sharing its content and when, as well as how that content performs. It also opens up the door to monitoring social media for new opportunities to engage online audiences.

The organization receives notifications through Sprout when people message it, mention it or share a post across all social channels, empowering Northwestern Settlement to quickly see who’s engaging with it online and respond.

Say we want parents to see one post and donors and board members to see another post—knowing when those two audiences are most likely to be active online is very important. Sprout helps us schedule things better and know when to post what.
Katie Taylor
Director of Development, Northwestern Settlement

Staying a Step Ahead

Social never stays still, and that can cause problems for organizations suddenly dealing with a new set of rules.

For instance, the new Facebook algorithm created a challenge for Northwestern Settlement, as the organization has a limited advertising budget and relies on organic marketing.

Fortunately, Sprout enables Northwestern Settlement to easily track performance at the post-level, providing insight into the best times to publish for maximum reach.

“Seeing how different posts perform at different times is a big help,” Taylor said. “Say we want parents to see one post and donors and board members to see another post—knowing when those two audiences are most likely to be active online is very important. Sprout helps us schedule things better and know when to post what.”

Sprout also helps save precious time, allowing Northwestern Settlement to schedule content and compare performance across all social channels at once.

Northwestern Settlement report

Success at Speed

While social is vital to Northwestern Settlement’s operations, it’s far from staff members’ only responsibility. Sprout enables users to execute on strategy quickly so they can move on to the next task.

“Sprout is really helpful because we all have to do so many other things on any given day,” Taylor said. “If we go in and set things up for the next week, we can set it and forget it, then check back in and see who’s mentioning us and make sure everything’s working smoothly.”

The Sprout platform also makes measuring ROI a breeze. Instead of logging into each social network individually and collecting data, the team at Northwestern Settlement receives a comprehensive overview of all social channels in one place.

“Obviously how much money we’re bringing in and people volunteering to work are big for us, but it’s also about people clicking through the links we post,” Taylor said. “Are they coming to our website from social media and getting to know us? Are they signing up for our email list? Are they taking that next step and actually finding a way to get engaged?”

Over the course of its first three years using Sprout, Northwestern Settlement achieved a:

  • 73% increase in social impressions
  • 100% increase in social engagements
  • 590.6% increase in social messages received

That includes:

  • 2 million impressions
  • 25,100 engagements
  • 4,100 link clicks

This success continues today. Month over month, as of May 30, 2018, the organization captured nearly 26,000 impressions, resulting in a:

  • 126.7% increase in social messages received
  • 22.6% increase in social engagements

Social is an ideal way for nonprofits like Northwestern Settlement to tell their stories and get introduced to new people.

It’s also a great way to encourage people to get involved. Fifty-five percent of people who engage with nonprofits on social take action, be it donating money (59%) or volunteering (53%).

Through Sprout Social, Northwestern Settlement is better poised to inspire people online to help meet the complex needs of their fellow community members.

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