Social Media for Nonprofits: 11 Important Ideas for Success
Anyone familiar with using social media for nonprofits knows there are both challenges and advantages.
Organizations are often run by small teams and volunteers, with resources and budgets stretched thin. And with organic reach plummeting in favour of ad dollars, social media can sometimes seem like a lost cause.
Fortunately, there are several tools and resources available for nonprofits on social media. Most platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, offer support and special features for eligible nonprofits. But they’re not helpful if you don’t know where to find them or how to use them.
Learn how to set your nonprofit social media strategy up for success. Get your message out and make every effort count with these timesaving tips.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
Benefits of social media for nonprofits
Social media marketing for nonprofits allows you to share your message on a global and local level. These are the primary benefits of using social media for nonprofits.
Education and advocacy is one of the first steps to affecting change. Share your nonprofit’s message on social media. Communicate your mission to new followers and spread the word about new initiatives, campaigns, and issues within your community. And connect with the people who need support.
Grow your base and recruit potential volunteers, speakers, advocates, and mentors. Social media can be a powerful community building tool for nonprofits. Create channels and groups where people can engage, share resources, and stay informed about issues that matter to them.
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— ACT (@ACToronto) September 1, 2020
Rally people behind your nonprofit with concrete actions they can take to support your cause. Promote marches, protests, marathons, and other events. Encourage followers to call politicians, pressure or boycott bad actors, or simply adopt more mindful behaviour. And of course, run fundraisers to collect donations.
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Posted by Fair Fight Action on Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Share your impact
Show people what your nonprofit can accomplish. Build momentum by celebrating victories, big and small. Let your contributors know you value their contributions and see how their help has made a difference. Share achievements, gratitude, and positivity, and you’ll attract more support down the line.
11 social media tips and best practices for nonprofit organizations
Follow these best practices to support your nonprofit organizations and social media goals.
1. Set up accounts as nonprofits
Most social media platforms offer special features and resources for nonprofits. Facebook and Instagram allow nonprofits to add “donate” buttons and run fundraisers from their accounts. YouTube offers Link Anywhere cards, production resources, dedicated technical support, and fundraising tools.
Make sure to enroll as a non-profit in order to access these benefits.
Here are platform-specific links for nonprofits:
2. Add donation buttons
If your non-profit collects donations, make sure you’ve added donation buttons on Facebook and Instagram. Both platforms have fundraising tools, too. But you never know when someone may discover your nonprofit on social media and want to contribute.
How to add a donate button to your Facebook Page:
- Go to your nonprofit’s Facebook Page.
- Click Add button.
- Select Shop with you or make a donation. Pick Donate and click Next.
- Click Donate through Facebook. (You’ll need to be enrolled with Facebook Payments for this to work.)
- Select Finish.
How to add a donate button to your Instagram profile:
- Go to your profile and open the menu.
- Select Settings.
- Tap Business then Donations.
- Turn the slider on beside Add Donate Button to Profile.
While you’re adding buttons, add links to your social media accounts to your website, newsletter, and email signatures. Make it easy for people to connect, and give them confidence they’re following official accounts. Find all the icons you need here.
3. Take advantage of free training and resources
There are tons of free resources available on social media for nonprofits. So many, in fact, that the time it takes to wade through them almost outweighs their benefits.
We’ve pared the top social media for nonprofit resources down into a concise list, sorted by platform.
Facebook and Instagram nonprofit resources:
YouTube nonprofit resources:
Twitter nonprofit resources:
LinkedIn nonprofit resources:
Snapchat nonprofit resources:
TikTok nonprofit resources:
Hootsuite nonprofit resources:
4. Develop social media guidelines and policies
Nonprofits are often run by lean teams and supported by a network of volunteers with varied backgrounds, schedules, and skill levels. Social media policies for nonprofits allow organizers to provide structure and maintain flexibility.
With clear guidelines in place, it’s easier to onboard new volunteers and deliver consistency no matter who’s running the accounts.
A social media policy for nonprofits should include:
- A directory team members, roles, and contact information
- Security protocols
- A crisis communications plan
- Relevant copyright, privacy and confidentiality laws
- Guidance on how staff and volunteers should behave on their own accounts
In addition to social media policy, it’s worthwhile to draw up social media guidelines. These can be combined or treated as separate documents. Here’s what your guidelines may include:
Guidelines should equip teams with the information they need to succeed and prevent your nonprofit from straining limited resources.
5. Create a content calendar
A content calendar is a good way to keep your nonprofit team on the same page. It also allows you to plan ahead so teams with limited resources aren’t stretched too thin or left scrambling to put things together at the last minute.
Anticipate key events that are important for your cause. For example, a nonprofit that champions women will likely want to plan content for International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day and Gender Equality Week. Don’t forget traditional holidays or important anniversaries either.
Take a look at Twitter’s Marketing calendar or Pinterest’s Seasonal Insights Planner. Note the keywords and hashtags so you can benefit from increased reach during these events. #GivingTuesday is an important social media for nonprofit event, too.
B Corps are pioneering innovative solutions to protect their communities during this global crisis. On #NationalBeerDay, we’d like to spotlight some inspiring breweries exemplifying just how incredible our #BCorp community is. Check out the comments to see just a few examples! pic.twitter.com/NVyjy4xiZI
— B Corporation (@BCorporation) April 7, 2020
Once you’ve accounted for external events, get more granular with your nonprofit. Develop a social media content strategy that compliments your organization’s objectives. Decide when it might be best to run campaigns and fundraisers.
Determine your posting frequency and start scheduling content. If possible, aim to post consistently.
When are the best times for nonprofits to post on social media? We break down the best times by platform here. Be sure to also check your analytics to confirm when your followers are most online and likely to see your posts.
Hootsuite Planner is a timesaver for teams—especially for overworked teams. Assign tasks, approve content, and see what’s coming up so messages don’t get mixed. Our Composer will also suggest optimal times to post your content.
6. Share stories about people
People connect with people. It’s as simple as that.
Studies repeatedly confirm that posts with pictures of people in them tend to receive more engagement. Twitter research finds videos that include people in the first few frames leads to 2X higher retention. Another study by Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs reports that photos that contain faces are 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more comments
These days people increasingly want to know who’s behind the brand and logo. That’s true of nonprofits, too, especially since building and maintaining trust is imperative. Show your audience who founded your nonprofit and why. Introduce people to your volunteers. Tell the stories of the people and communities you’ve been able to support through your work.
View this post on Instagram
✨New Staff Alert✨ • • • Meet Jalen! Jalen Noel (she/her) is a Black trans woman multidisciplinary artist, poet, writer, spoken word performer, digital artist, and graphic designer who can also throw down in the kitchen. She has worked with The Okra Project since June 2020. She designs, coordinates, and hosts programming for the Black trans people we work with. She also procures non-fiscal partnerships to support fundraising, sponsorship, and donations for The Okra Project. Jalen believes in Okra Project’s purpose of feeding the community and providing resources for those in need. As the first person to helm this role, it has been her focus from the outset to lay out a clear, determined, and community lit path for others to follow. Her previous work experience has been in marketing, design, customer service, communications, public relations, and food hospitality. These combined strengths help guide her vision for communications and programming at The Okra Project. The Okra Project seeks to provide a multitude of resources to address the global crisis of violence faced by Black Trans people, and Jalen Noel is hyper focused on helping sustain that mission, by any means necessary. Community is strongest when we tell our stories, when we come together, when we fight back, and when we are nourished. She understands that sentiment to the fullest, and it totally informs her connection and dedication to Black trans people, both in New York and abroad.
7. Post shareable content
Create content that people will want to share. What makes a post shareable? Offer something people will find valuable. It could be anything from an informative fact to a heartwarming anecdote. And never underestimate the shareability of strong visuals—especially video.
How-to’s and tutorials continue to be popular across social media, from Pinterest to TikTok. If your nonprofit social media strategy includes education, consider trying these formats.
Here’s what to do if an #earthquake happens. #learnfromme #safetytips #alwayslearning #earthquakeshake #safetyfirst #redcross
♬ SHIFTING – TruFeelz
Statistics and facts often reveal the cold truths behind certain issues. Infographics can help you tell the story behind the numbers. Take advantage of the carousel format on Instagram to parse out complex or multilingual information across a series of images. Try to design each image as a standalone. That way people can share the slide that speaks to them the most.
Strong call to actions and motivational quotes work here, too. Want to rally people behind a message? Imagine your post as a protest sign. What would you want to carry down the streets and wave over your head?
8. Run a hashtag campaign
With the right hashtag and nonprofit social media strategy, your organization can shine a spotlight on important issues.
Choose a hashtag that drives your message home and is easy to remember. For example, UNESCO created the hashtag #TruthNeverDies to raise awareness about crimes against journalists. On its own, it’s pretty self-explanatory, and easy to rally around. Timed to coincide with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the hashtag earned more than 2 million impressions and was shared on Twitter more than 29.6K times.
Other nonprofits have tapped the popularity of hashtag challenges on TikTok. The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a #DanceForChange to promote sustainable farming in Africa. More than 33K videos were created during the campaign, amassing 105.5M views.
@sherriesilver Together we can feed the world 🌎 ❤️👊🏽 @mreazi let’s #danceforchange
♬ Freedom – Mr Eazi & GuiltyBeatz & J.Derobie
9. Launch a fundraiser
Step up your social media marketing for nonprofits with a fundraiser. Fundraisers have always been possible on social media, but now with several fundraiser tools in place, it’s even easier to collect donations.
On Facebook, verified nonprofit organizations can create a fundraiser that lives on their page. Other features include a Facebook Live donate button and a fundraiser thank you tool. You can also allow people to create personal fundraisers for your nonprofit and add donate buttons next to their posts.
Instagram also supports Live Donations, for fundraisers that you can run yourself, or other accounts can run on your behalf. You can also create donation stickers for Instagram Stories, and allow people to share them.
TikTok now has donation stickers, too, but for now they’re only available for certain organizations.
10. Signal boost with tags and partners
Partnerships should be a core part of your nonprofit social media strategy. Why? The best way to reach more people on social media is with more people.
Join forces with like-minded nonprofits, or team up with corporate partners and influencers. Working with partners allows you to share platforms and connect with a new audience that will likely be interested in what you’re doing.
Use tags and encourage engagement to signal boost your posts. For example, B Corp tagged all its certified companies mentioned in an article it shared, increasing the odds that each account and its followers will like and share the post.
To promote an upcoming event, the nonprofit United States of Women took advantage of Twitter hashtags, mentions, and photos tags—sending implicit notifications to all parties involved to like RT.
We are SO excited to announce that Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex ✨ is joining our #WhenAllWomenVote Couch Party with @WhenWeAllVote alongside @GlamourMag’s @SamanthaBarry, @ValerieJarrett, @YNB, and @DJDiamondKuts.
R.S.V.P. now to save your spot: https://t.co/lg7LrmztgM pic.twitter.com/T0rJTVcbm9
— UnitedStateofWomen (@USOWomen) August 19, 2020
Tag-to-enter contests can be an effective way to reach more people as well. Run a challenge or giveaway and ask participants to tag friends for a chance to win.
Need a little more of a boost? Consider social media advertising.
11. Host an online event
Events are an important way for nonprofit members to come together, organize, share knowledge, and affect change. Social media is no longer just a place to promote these events. It’s a venue for hosting events, too.
Many events that would have once been held in person have gone virtual, opening them up to much broader audiences. Just about every platform, from YouTube to LinkedIn to Twitter supports live events, from webinars to dance-a-thons. These events can be streamed across multiple channels, and include live chat and fundraising.
LGBTQ+ media advocacy nonprofit GLAAD uses Instagram Live to host a weekly GLAAD Hangout for its followers.
In honour of National Indigenous History Month, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund raised money by hosting performances from musicians and artists.
National Geographic Society promotes its mission to protect the planet with YouTube series, including Photo Camp Live and Storytellers Summit. Don’t forget in-person events can also be broadcast live or recorded and published for social media.
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