How To Succeed in Non-Profit Social Media Marketing

Today's user-friendly social media platforms represent a fantastic opportunity for not-for-profit organizations of all sizes to engage their target audience and attract new donors at scale. The problem most non-profits face is oversaturation of the more popular social platforms like Facebook and Instagram by traditional for-profit companies.

How can NPO's compete with what are usually smaller budgets than the big boys? There is still room for everyone to reach their ideal audience and leverage the massive engagement power of social media. We spoke with several not-for-profit executives such as Dr. Gail Barouh of LIAAC as well as the 17 experts quoted below. They've all agreed to share their most useful tips for making your NPO stand above the noise.


1. Social Media Presence “Gaps”

“One of the most interesting social media tips I could give is to leave some holes or gaps in the social media presence of a nonprofit organization. There should not be too many gaps but just enough so that a visitor might offer to help. We have used this technique a couple times in the past and several social media followers offered to volunteer to help our social media presence. This technique should not be used too frequently or in the wrong context but I believe it can be effective in engaging an organization’s supporters (especially those with technical and social media skills) if used properly once in a while.”

By Rithvik Musuku of Advancing Science Worldwide


2. Social Listening

“Social media is an great tool for all brands — this includes nonprofits. One extremely effective way to engage with audiences using social media is by engaging in social listening. Use social media platforms to crowdsource answers on what your audience is looking for and how you can deliver it. This includes asking questions to followers on each platform, as well as well as searching through discussions and hashtags to add your own input and advice.”

By Stephanie Sharlow of DesignRush


3. Properly Link All Social Accounts on Your Website

“My advice isn’t sexy or trendy, but it is easy-to-implement. And, more importantly, it’s a common problem. Two of the best, and most foundational, social media marketing practices for any nonprofit to follow are: make sure your website has correct links to all social accounts you want to promote (and remove the ones you don’t), as well as ask all key leaders to link to the social accounts or website in their personal profiles. It’s difficult to predict how or where someone may find your nonprofit online, and these two tweaks can help them get the direct, and correct, information faster. Once you have your foundational pieces in place, then you can build on them through shinier tactics like ads.”

By Kristi Porter of Signify


4. Videos Grab Attention

“Videos share your story in a way that can’t be conveyed in a graphic or 90 characters of text (the character limit of Facebook ad headlines). Whether you’re using behind-the-scenes footage of your live event, or personal stories of people affected by your advocacy issue — both of which Facebook recommends as topics — videos can help you grab your audience’s attention in the midst of increasingly filled news feeds.”

By Jeb Ory of Phone2Action


5. Focus On Relevant Social Channels

“For many non profits, resources are limited. Don't waste your efforts on channels where your target audience doesn't spend their time. Having a presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook sounds ideal, but might not be the most efficient route for you. Perhaps LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Reddit are better networks for your non profit. Find out where your audience hangs out and make a name for yourself there.”

By Jessica Dais of TakeLessons Live


6. Be Specific About Your Organizational Needs

“Be specific about your asks. It sounds basic but some non-profits don't solicit help on their social media and when they do, they aren’t specific about their needs. People who are following a non-profit on social media want to get involved so make sure you post information on how they can help, specifically, on a consistent basis. For example, ‘We are currently in need of 100 toothbrushes' or ‘We are looking for a volunteer to help us transport donations point a to point b,' or ‘We are looking for 45 water filter sponsors at $50/each by April 2019'. Be specific and you’ll get quicker, more effective responses to your most urgent needs.”

By Caroline Pinal of Giveback Homes


7. Leveraging Twitter to Engage with Corporate Partners

“Nonprofits need to tell their story to a broad target that typically includes a number of different audiences that want to see and hear different parts of the story. Nonprofits can continue to increase their donations, support, and share their story by using Twitter to engage with their corporate partners and sponsors. Connecting with businesses, retweeting their messages, liking their tweets, and tagging their accounts as part of their support of your nonprofit show that the nonprofit values the investment made by these for profit partners. While this process takes time, the time is well spent in promoting your organization.”

By Steve Ryan of RyTech, LLC


8. Develop A Unique Visual Brand

“Develop a strong, unique visual brand by which you can be clearly recognized and remembered. Water Mission, for example, is known for bright colors, vivid contrast, and hopeful, joyful imagery — and this brand recognition is due in large part to visual consistency across our social media channels.

In all of our communications, we strive to celebrate the incredible communities, families, and individuals to whom we provide safe water access. We highlight their talents, passions, and stories, thereby providing depth to the beautiful images captured by our freelance photographers. Maintaining a clear, consistent brand “look” helps your organization to stay top-of-mind for current and potential constituents.”

By Mackenzie Schiff of Water Mission


9. Take Advantage of Interactive Social Content

“Social media is an excellent tool for non-profits, as it has the ability to make a big impact with limited resources. As with any other segment of public relations, social media requires a strategy and creative ideas to achieve the desired results. It’s important to post interactive content (e.g., polls, Q&A sessions, etc.), which can provide valuable insights into your current follower base and help you create better-targeted content in the future. You’ll also want to make it easy for followers to donate by making the donation call-to-action clear (e.g., utilize the Donate button on Facebook and link the donation page on your website in your bio for other channels, add it to your team's email signatures, etc.). Another important tip is to use visuals when sharing links to your content to increase engagement and drive website traffic.”

By Caitlin Berry of inferno





10. Time for Show and Tell

“Marketing for a non-profit is all about the heart. Donors give from their heart so by showing how their funds are doing good work for the communities they serve, that is the strongest strategy. Social media gives us a great opportunity to “show and tell” in real time. Doing a Facebook live while they are returning a rehabilitated seal back into the wild is a great example. Show your community, and especially your stakeholders, how their money is fulfilling the mission of the organization.”

By Adrienne Irizarry of Leviosa Communication, LLC


11. Focus On The “Why Now”

“When it comes to social media marketing for nonprofits, Grant believes answering the question ‘why now' is crucial for driving follower response. With an obvious deadline and reason for giving, social media users are more likely to donate. For example, many nonprofits ran successful #GivingTuesday campaigns asking their followers to begin donating to them on the RoundUp App. If 25 new donors joined that day, the organization would receive a bonus award of $1,000, which got people's attention! This led to very high engagement on the posts and dozens of new donors.”

By Grant Hensel of Nonprofit Megaphone and RoundUp App


12. Start the Conversation with a Question

“Start a conversation by asking a question. Non-profits often have a harder time engaging their audience on social media, so my best advice is to ask a question whenever possible. Take it one step further and offer an incentive for answering your questions with a giveaway, or a shout-out.”

By Melanie Trottier of The Agency


13. Take Advantage of All Social Platform Tools

“Use pre-existing social media tools to move your fans up the ladder of engagement. For example, the Facebook birthday fundraisers makes for an easy ask to your fan base — making them more than fans, but donors and fundraisers. It turns a passive fan into an evangelical for your cause and extends your small donor fundraising.”

By Laurie Lenninger of HeadCount


14. Creative Event Marketing

“One of the best things we did… move away from just buying ads to using some of our marketing dollars to create experiences that elicited user-generated, organic content.

Two interesting events we did in 2018 :

  1. Collaborated with an artist and a great coffee shop in town for a print-your-own t-shirt event. We had the artist design a fantastic print featuring our event, IMMERSE, and the coffee shop’s name, Deeply. We then hired a screen printer to set up a press. Creative City Project, Deeply Coffee, and the Artist @badboipapi promoted the event on our social platforms. The first 200 guests were able to print a shirt for free. It generated tons of social traffic AND helped people become walking billboards for our event the month leading up to IMMERSE 2018.
  2. Together with Orlando Utilities Commission, we created a large-scale sculpture with 200 energy efficient light bulbs. Two halves of the installation went up in different parks around the city for one month leading up to IMMERSE 2018. During that month, tens of thousands of images were created by guests to the parks and shared on social. The full piece came together along the main thoroughfare in Downtown Orlando during our event and created even more user generated content.

We’ve gotten a lot of value out of doing more than just putting all our marketing money into ad buys. We want to create meaningful experiences for existing and new audience members, and it works!”

By Cole NeSmith of Creative City Project


15. Don't Forget to Grow Your Email List

“Use social media platforms to grow your email list. Consider adding surveys and petitions to your social media channels, and add an opt in box that gives you permission to send email messages. This will help you begin to engage potential donors over multiple channels throughout the year. Another benefit to doing this – you are moving these supporters into a platform that you control (email marketing), rather than keeping them in a platform that you don’t control (like Facebook, Instagram, etc.).”

By Maureen Wallbeoff of Practical Wisdom for Nonprofit Accidental Techies


16. Set Up Your Social Calendar

“For non-profits, I recommend starting a social media calendar. On that calendar, make sure you have a post scheduled for at least once a day. The posts should vary: share a recent blog that was published on your website, post an image of your founders accepting a large donation check, or post a video of your volunteers out in your community. If you are going to do anything on your social media channels this year, it should be pushing your major events. Whether that be a silent auction event, a 5k fundraiser, or a gala, make it known that you have one scheduled for your non-profit. Announce these events at least 3 months in advance and increase the occurrence of these posts as the date approaches. Post images from last year's event or write a blog or publish a press release about the event. If your audience is younger, create a hashtag that is unique to your non-profit and whenever you post an image or video about the upcoming event, be sure to use that hashtag.”

By Audrey Strasenburgh of LogoMix


17. Let Your Passion Shine Through

“You want your current and potential donors and sponsors to really see your passion for what is it that you do, and the impact you're having. Plan to create video content of you and/or other members of the nonprofit speaking directly to the viewers, explaining what you are up to, new initiatives, new funding goals, etc. These don't need to be professionally produced: a smartphone propped up and some decent lighting would do the trick, if paired with a genuine person in front of the lens, giving an update. Content like this shared on social helps to quickly build trust with your organization.”

By Chris Bryant of Empire Studios and Diana Bryant Ministries


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