The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How the New York Botanical Garden Uses Tumblr to Delight Their Fans

There are many ways to leverage social media to showcase your nonprofit’s unique personality and point of view. Pairing compelling and relevant content with online channels such as blogs, social platforms and email can create a lasting impression of your organization. The New York Botanical Garden has done an amazing job of mixing beautiful images, community conversation, education and personal reports through their blog on Tumblr — an easy-to-use customizable blogging platform that emphasizes community, social sharing and photos.

I asked NYBG’s Director of Online Content, Ann Rafalko, to share her insight on why they chose Tumblr to publish this type of content and how it’s helped their organization spread their message and connect with fans. Ann says, “I absolutely love Tumblr, and think every institution should have one. It’s a fantastic way to communicate internally, externally, and to reach new audiences.”


New York Botanical Garden

Photo Source: New York Botanical Garden


Network For Good: What was your inspiration to start a Tumblog for the New York Botanical Garden?

NYBG: The New York Botanical Garden is big: 250-acres. I knew there were a lot of stories happening out in those acres, and I wanted to give everyone–visitor, employee, member, scientist, student, volunteer–the chance to tell their stories. So far it has worked out pretty well, in fact, one of our colleagues liked participating so much, she even started her own Tumblr!


Network For Good: What kinds of things are you sharing on Tumblr?

NYBG: From what started out as a place to share the Garden’s stories, the NYBG Tumblr has evolved to fill many roles: It’s a little bit of a brag book in that it’s a great way to get our press clippings out in a non-pushy fashion; it has become a place to share pictures as it’s very easy to connect Tumblr to all sorts of beautiful photo-sharing sites, like Flickr, Instagram, and more (and to have multiple users sharing those photos simultaneously); it has become a bit of a chatroom, where people can ask us their gardening questions, and we answer them; and it serves the very traditional blog functionality in that it allows me and Matt Newman, our Web Content Specialist, to share links and stories that we think are cool or that people who share the NYBG mindset need to know about.

Network For Good: How does your Tumblr site fit in with or complement your other social media efforts?

NYBG: Our Tumblr is indispensable to our social media efforts; it fills a very important void. When I started at the Garden in September of 2010, I was getting a lot of requests to share this link or that link with our visitors, and I was completely flummoxed as to how to do that. I felt that Tweeting provided little context, and I worried about overloading our friends on Facebook. But Tumblr? Tumblr is made for that kind of thing, because you can’t just paste a link onto a blog without saying something about it, it forces you to provide context; “this is why this is imporant,” or “this is why we’re proud of having been mentioned in this article,” or “thank you so much for visiting us!” And then you can hook your Tumblr into your Twitter (using an rss-feed reader like TwitFeed), and boom, your message goes out on Twitter too.

NYBG Tumblr

Photo Source: New York Botanical Garden Tumblr 


Network For Good: How are your supporters reacting? How about internal stakeholders?

NYBG: Internally, people seem to really like it. We have found the like-minded people on our staff to help us keep it filled with interesting, compelling content. It’s a useful resource, internally and externally, and I think we have done a pretty good job of selling it and proving its worth. The most important thing has been to ensure a steady hand on the tiller. Everything is moderated and/or read by me to ensure that nothing wrong, inappropriate, or silly slips through, though mistakes happen. Botanical Latin is tricky, genuses change, dates and times get moved. When that happens we just apologize, make an edit, and move on.


Network For Good: Do you have any tips to share with other nonprofits considering using Tumblr to help spread their message and connect with supporters?

NYBG: I think the most important thing about using Tumblr, and about effective social media in general, is to not constantly talk about yourself. No one liked that girl in high school, and no one likes that institution on the Internet, either. Be interesting, be compelling, share interesting things from your neighbors or like-minded institutions, decide on a message, and stick to it. The Internet is changing rapidly, and any nonprofit looking to harness its power effectively has to take a little bit of a leap of faith from time to time and try something new.

Tumblr is a great technology to take that leap of faith on, so long as you’re not turning over your institution’s message to an intern, and so long as you have someone who truly wants to do their very best for your institution. Tumblr is a great way to expand, show off a little, and to introduce yourself to a new demographic.


Key Takeaways:

  • Tumblr is another outlet for creatively sharing your organization’s stories.
  • If you have amazing photos, use them!
  • Don’t forget to add a little context with your links and images — let your fans know *why* something is cool, important or interesting.
  • Leverage Tumblr’s full potential by connecting it to your full blog and other social media profiles.
  • Enlist interested staff members to help create and curate content for posting.
  • Make sure the content and comments you post are consistent with your organization’s core values.
  • Be responsive to comments and questions from your followers — and try sharing their comments and photos related to your mission.

Visit NYBG on Tumblr for more inspiration:  

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

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