Know a charity social media star? Award nominations now open | Zoe Amar

We’re looking for social media stars in the charity sector. Nominations for this year’s social chief executives awards are now open

If we can learn anything from Donald Trump’s use of social media, it’s that he has the power to turn a news cycle with a single tweet. He’s proven that social media is an incredibly powerful resource for leaders, politicians and other key stakeholders – and it’s now more important than ever to encourage our leaders, specifically those involved in charities, to be inspiring and influential online.

That’s why we are delighted to open nominations for the fifth Social CEOs awards today, co-founded by Matt Collins, managing director of digital agency Platypus Digital, and me,to recognise charity leaders who are trailblazing in the digital sphere.

Last year’s winners included Chris Askew of Diabetes UK, Jo Youle of Missing People and Philip Goodwin of VSO, with the awards reaching 3.3 million people on Twitter alone.

The judging panel of voluntary sector leaders will select an overall winner from the top 30 CEOs, and there will be individual awards for the best trustee, senior leader and rising star on social media.

This year we are also offering two new awards for the best digital CEO and the best leader on digital platforms. These awards will focus on those whose leadership has helped their charity make strides online, so judges will primarily be interested in any statistics and examples to support this. Nominees for all awards should be leaders from any registered charity, regardless of size or cause, and we are keen to have a diverse range of applications.

So why should more charity leaders use social media, and what impact can it have?

Stand out from the crowd

Charity leaders need to be more confident about expressing themselves on social media, says Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of Nia. Being bold will make you memorable to all the right people.

Be authentic: There's too much bland already. Don't be afraid to reveal your emotions and passions. We don't need more leader-automatons.

— Karen Ingala Smith (@K_IngalaSmith) August 23, 2017

From social media to social change

Last year’s overall winner Ruth Ibegbuna, chief executive of RECLAIM, thinks that social media has raised the bar for what we expect of leaders. Lending your voice to the cause online will create long-lasting change.

Just doing amazing, life-saving programmatic work isn't enough. Charity leaders must use their voice to influence much-needed social change.

— Ruth Ibegbuna (@MsIbegbuna) August 23, 2017

Paul Breckell, chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss, believes more “positive social media engagement really can equate to more positive social impact”. Action on Hearing Loss has seen an “immediate and direct impact” by engaging with “broadcasters, politicians and policymakers around television access for people with hearing loss, and by engaging with restaurant chains to encourage better acoustic environments as part of our Speak Easy campaign”, he says.

Connect with your supporters

Charity leaders need to be proactive about using social media to connect with supporters, says Brita Fernandez Schmidt of Women for Women International UK. In turn, this will help demystify what their organisations do.

People connect to people not organisations - so leaders can use social media for supporters to get to know them

— Brita Schmidt (@BritaFS) August 24, 2017

Theresa Shearer, chief executive of ENABLE Scotland, believes if more charity leaders embraced the benefits of social media they could help nurture partnerships and support their charitable visions. “For me, social media has become an essential platform for raising awareness and support of ENABLE Scotland’s vital campaigning, influencing and fundraising activities – as well as to connect with our staff, supporters and the people and communities we support,” she says.

Recognising effective leadership

It's an easy way to connect w/ beneficiaries, stakeholders, the sector, influencers, the media and supporters. Helps u be a better leader!

— Sophie Livingstone (@LivingstoneSoph) August 25, 2017

It’s important to remember however, that social media isn’t the end game – it’s about using these channels skilfully as part of your leadership toolkit. “Social media makes you a better leader, every day. It challenges you to be relevant, responsive and collaborative, and to think and act beyond the tramlines of your organisation’s current activities,” says Stephen Hale, CEO of Refugee Action.

Sophie Livingstone of City Year agrees that leaders need to think about leadership first and social media second – and use social media to build networks and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders.

As our previous winners say, if you’re a leader who wants to grow their influence and fight for social change, then you need to be on digital platforms.

Submit your nominations here. The results will be announced on Friday 17 November. All entries must be received by midnight on Friday 29 September.

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network is a media partner for the awards.

Talk to us on Twitter via @Gdnvoluntary and join our community for your free fortnightly Guardian Voluntary Sector newsletter, with analysis and opinion sent direct to you on the first Thursday of the month.

Looking for a role in the not-for-profit sector, or need to recruit staff? Take a look at Guardian Jobs.


Zoe Amar

The GuardianTramp

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