November 29, 2022

Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations

By Piper Bonacquist

Nonprofit organizations often run on a tight budget, directing the majority of their funds towards the programs that fulfill their mission. This means there isn’t much money left over for marketing and communications, making social media an important tool for nonprofits to advertise their work and engage their supporters.

Hootsuite shares four benefits of social media for nonprofits: it can promote awareness of the organization and the issues it works on, build communities of supporters, inspire people to take action on a cause, and share the impact of the organization’s work. 

For some brands on social media, a large number of followers is the main goal. For nonprofits, however, numbers alone aren’t helpful. If a nonprofit organization has thousands of followers but most of them aren’t actually interested in its mission, they aren’t useful. According to Julia C. Campbell, a digital marketing strategist, “The key is to build a thriving online community of your nonprofit’s ideal fans–the ones who will actively engage with your content, share it with their networks, and respond to your calls to action.” 

Here are five tips for nonprofits looking to build engagement with their followers and get the most out of social media:

1.

Make sure your accounts are registered as belonging to a nonprofit. This gives you access to special features, like hosting fundraisers for schools and accepting donations from personal fundraisers on Facebook and Instagram, promoting hashtags on TikTok, and special courses on Pinterest. 

2.

Use hashtags wisely. Don’t just hashtag the name of your organization or use your own branded hashtags. This won’t help people find you if they don’t already know you exist. Use hashtags that are relevant to the specific work you do, as well as those more broadly related to the themes your work falls into. For example, a nonprofit working on combating deforestation should also tag its posts with phrases related to climate change in general. 

3.

Be responsive! Brickfish, a digital strategy agency, found that 83% of Facebook users and 71% of Twitter users expect a response from an organization the same day they ask a question. 42% of social media users expect a response within one hour, and 32% expect a response within 30 minutes! While stretched thin nonprofit employees may look at those expectations and think, “Yeah, right!” the important takeaway is that the more your supporters feel heard and valued, the more likely they are to continue to support your organization and encourage others to as well. Too often, I see nonprofits post on social media but fail to engage with the people who like, comment on, and share their content. A quick note of recognition and thanks or an answer to a question will go a long way.

4.

Tailor your content to specific platforms. Don’t just cross-post the exact same thing on all your accounts. Campbell suggests using Twitter to share news and action alerts, Facebook to share stories about the difference your work makes to your organization’s clients, and Snapchat and Instagram to share behind-the-scenes peeks into the organization.

5.

Finally, don’t try to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick 2-3 that are most suited to your organization’s target audience and focus your efforts there. A few well-maintained, responsive accounts are much better than several mediocre ones where comments and questions go unacknowledged.

Having a great social media presence may seem like a lot of work or even a distraction from the nonprofit’s mission, but when done well, it can be a cost-effective way to engage an organization’s supporters and raise awareness of the important work it is doing.

9 thoughts on “Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations

  1. I really like your tips about staying responsive and tailoring content to specific platforms. When I’m scrolling through a brand’s social media account, I always forget that there are people behind the screen curating content for the organization/company. I usually will spend more time looking through their content if I see that they’re engaging with people and creating a dialogue past the initial post. In my mind, it helps give them a voice and make them personable.

  2. Hi Piper,

    You brought up some great tips in this post. I hadn’t really thought about how important engaging with supporters is. You’re right, a simple response can go a long way. Social media is a great tool to build connections and has the ability to reach all around the world.

  3. I can totally relate to the budget crunch that happens in nonprofits when it comes to social media. In my experience, it gets pushed on as a responsibility on people who are already extrememly busy (and often not social media savvy). Or, it goes to volunteers which may or may not make great, engaging content that aligns with the brand and mission. I think that harnessing social media will be a game-changer for small nonprofits fundraising in the future.

  4. Piper, this is such a great blog. I have always had an interest in nonprofit PR, so this caught my eye! You make a great point that there are many assets to nonprofit PR. It can make a big affect on communities.

  5. Thank you for sharing these tips Piper, they are really great! You make a great point about keeping social media presence limited to 2-3 that are most well-suited to an organization. Far too often orgs feel pressured to be active on every platform but if they don’t have the resources, they can spread themselves too thin. Just like you said, it’s better to have fewer well-managed accounts than too many where information can get lost and audiences feel pushed away.

  6. Piper, I loved this blog so much as I just got done with an internship running socials for a nonprofit and I was just nodding my head throughout the whole post. First of all, I think Hootsuite is SO helpful, not the most updated formatting but the whole premise of it is splendid and saves soooo much time. Second, the hashtag portion is so relevant. At my nonprofit we would only use branded hashtags and I knew it wasn’t getting us any kind of new coverage that we were looking for, so if I could go back in time I would ask my boss if we could do un-branded hashtags or if that was against policy.

  7. Hi Piper! This post is full of some really great advice for any PR practitioner in the nonprofit sector. I especially appreciate how you highlight the importance of quality social media content over quantity. I had an internship a couple of summers ago doing research and creating content for a local nonprofit. I wish I had known some of these things before starting there, rather than having to learn the hard way.

  8. As someone who has done a lot of work with nonprofits and who runs one, I really enjoyed reading this post. Social media is such a useful tool for the nonprofit world. There a lot of really useful tips that I hadn’t thought about before and I plan on incorporating them into my social media posts. Thank you.

  9. This is an amazing read. I currently intern on the Media team for a nonprofit and I will definitely be keeping these tips in mind! I also agree with making sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with too many social media platforms. Just working on 2 platforms can become a lot of work, so it’s great advice to focus on a small number and really make it strong.

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