Keeping your donors in the loop is hands down the simplest way to succeed at fundraising. Communication is the lifeline of every nonprofit-donor relationship. If you don’t create awareness about your cause and promote your organization, no one will know you exist, and you will likely end up running out of funds. There is no better way to connect with your donors than with social media.
Research shows that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking desirable action—donating money, volunteering, or engaging in other actions that support a charity.
Unfortunately, most nonprofits get overwhelmed when it comes to social media marketing. In this article, we will look at a stepwise approach to social media marketing so that you can use it to win more followers and more donors.
Why your social media strategy matters
87% of nonprofits use social media. But the sad thing is most of them are not seeing much success. The biggest reason being that most nonprofits run their social media profiles like personal accounts—unscripted and unplanned.
Research indicates that 67% of nonprofits do not have a documented social media strategy. But if you take the time to create a proper social media plan, you will be able to greatly improve your chances of success and enjoy some of these benefits:
- Promote awareness: Social media is a great tool for reaching out to people who have never heard of your nonprofit before and nurturing them to become donors.
- Show your results: Thanking donors by showcasing the impact of your cause is one of the best ways to win more support from them. Social media allows you to do this publicly and freely on a large scale.
- Keep your stakeholders in the loop: Social media is a great tool for informing your stakeholders about important events, outcomes, and impact. You can share news, polls, and any other important information.
- Drive people to your website: You can use a social media account to funnel people to your website, where they can learn more about you, or even opt-in to join your database and receive your emails.
How to choose a social media platform
With over a hundred social networks in existence, there is no way you can be active on each one of them. First, most nonprofits have limited resources (particularly money and staff). And second, not all social networks will be ideal for helping you further your cause. So, you need to strategically choose the social channels that will offer the best chance of accomplishing your goals.
There is a lot that goes into choosing which social media platform to go with. But the two main factors that will influence your decision are these:
1) The platform your ideal audience is already using
You need to meet your donors where they are already hanging out. For example, if you are targeting people who are older than 40, TikTok may not be the right platform as it’s mostly popular among teens. Therefore, begin by researching the social networks your target audience is already using. You can conduct surveys or look at already available data.
2) The kind of content you want to share
Another factor you should take into account is the kind of content you will be posting. For example, Twitter’s 280-character limit makes it unsuitable for long posts.
Let’s look at some of the most popular social networks that are ideal for most nonprofits:
- Facebook: As of 2022, 2.934 billion people actively use Facebook every month. So, it’s no wonder that 98% of nonprofits who use social media have a Facebook account. You will find users spanning almost all demographics, and from just about anywhere in the world on Facebook.
- Twitter: 77% of nonprofits say they have a Twitter profile, making it the second most popular social media platform that most nonprofits use.
- Instagram: As the 4th most-used social network, and with 1.22 billion monthly users, there is a good chance that you will connect with your ideal donors on Instagram. This is especially true if you are targeting a younger audience or looking for volunteers, as 18-34 year olds make up 60% of Instagram’s audience.
- TikTok: This has quickly proven to be a big player in the social media space. Launched in 2016, it has already grown to 1 billion monthly active users. And it has been named the fastest-growing social network.
Other large social networks worth considering include YouTube, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.
Elements of a social media strategy: 6 things to consider
Wondering what you should include in your social media plan? If you skip some important elements, the strategy may end up being incomplete, thus rendering it useless. Here are some of the most critical things you should think of as you are making your social media strategy.
You aren’t just on social media because you’ve heard that it’s what other nonprofits are doing. The entire purpose of creating a social media account is to raise more funds (and allow you to fulfill your philanthropic obligations).
Hence, define what you want to achieve with social media. Do you want to grow your donor database? Would you like to increase the amount of funds you raise online? Specify it.
To ensure that the goal is effective, make it SMART, which means that it must be:
- Specific: Clearly outline what you want to achieve; break it down into bite-sized pieces.
- Measurable: Assign a number or some other metric to the goal so that it’s easy to measure (for instance, get 30k followers or increase social media donation by 20%).
- Attainable: There is no point in setting goals that are not achievable. You will only demotivate your team. So, ensure that whatever goal you set, it is practical and that you have the capability and support to achieve it. Analyze your previous wins or the success stories of other nonprofits and use that as a benchmark.
- Relevant: The goal must also align with the organization’s overarching mission. Think of your social media goals as branches of your nonprofit’s primary goal.
- Time-based: The goal and tasks related to it must have a deadline by which they must be achieved.
2) Target audience
Your social media plan must also specify who your target audience is. You may know who these people are. But others on your team, especially those in charge of running the day-to-day activities of your social accounts, may not.
This is why you need to include all the customer profiles you are targeting in your social media strategy. This will also help your team know the kinds of messages this target audience will best respond to, making content creation easy and fast.
3) The posting schedule
The holy grail of every social network is getting the algorithm to work for your brand. An algorithm is a sophisticated code that decides what each user on the social network sees based on their likes and engagement with other posts. Ideally, you want the algorithm to always favor your content as this will boost your reach.
And how do you do that? By posting consistently. Consistent posts increase the engagement you get from your followers. Algorithms take that as a sign of your content’s popularity and value and push it to even more people.
Posting consistently has another benefit—the more your followers see you, the less likely they are to forget you. Remember, what’s out of sight is out of mind.
We will go into detail about posting schedules later in this article.
5) Your social media policy
You also need to think of how you want people to perceive your brand’s voice. Positive, witty, playful? Whatever tone you go for, you must ensure that it’s one that your target audience will identify with and also one that aligns with your brand.
The policy should include the kind of content you want posted on your social media accounts. This will act as a brand guide of sorts for your team to know the do’s and don’ts, which will reduce the need for lengthy approvals. Or even the possibility of posting something offensive.
Another thing to consider is how you will respond to comments and negative feedback. How you handle such incidents can show your professionalism and how much you care about the feedback you receive. Remember, nothing goes unseen on the internet.
6) Integration with other communication channels
Social media is just one of the many communication channels you may use. So you need to think of how you will integrate it with your other marketing channels—email, blog, website, etc.
All your communication tools should provide a consistent communication experience for the donors. For example, someone may learn about you on Facebook, go to your website to know more about you, and then opt in to your email list to receive more information about you. The experience across all these channels needs to be progressive and consistent.
5 best practices for creating social media posts
You can’t know the exact formula for creating viral posts. But there are a few factors you can use to ensure that each post has a chance of being a success. Here they are:
1. Add visuals
Over a billion stories are posted daily across Facebook apps and 867 million tweets are sent daily. So you aren’t only fighting for attention with other nonprofits—there are also cat videos, influencers, etc. Therefore, scroll-stopping images and videos are key. These are better at attracting attention than text-only posts.
Research has shown that Facebook posts with images get 2.3x more engagement than those without. This statistic remains true across other social networks.
If you can do video, that’s even better. Studies have proven that posts with video see more engagement. For example, tweets with a video have 10x more engagement.
2. Make sure you have something worth saying
If you are just posting to cross off a task on your to-do list, people will soon learn that your posts offer no value. And they will start to skip them. The algorithms will notice that and may limit your ability to reach more people.
Now this doesn’t mean you should only post when you have world-stopping breaking news. You can share stories about what you have been up to, any fundraising campaigns you are running, or share images of your team in action. Analyze the kind of content your followers are engaging with and you will have an idea of what to post.
3. Engage with your followers
Social media is a communication medium that thrives on back-and-forth interaction. Therefore, after you post online, keep checking throughout the day and engage with the responses. If there are questions, answer them. Acknowledging the people who are interacting with your brand will help build a bond and inspire more engagement. And remember, more engagement is how you will get the social media’s algorithms to promote your posts.
4. Use the tools offered to nonprofits
As you are creating your social media accounts, register as a nonprofit. This will give you access to features only available to nonprofits—you can add a donate button on your profile, host fundraisers, and do so much more.
5. Encourage your followers to share your content
Want one of the best and easiest ways to reach new donors? Ask the people who are engaging with your content to share your posts with their friends. It’s easy. And only takes a few seconds. You will be amazed how this simple trick can make your social media account explode with new followers.
What to post and when: Content that attracts engagement
The type of content to post will depend on the type of platform you are using. However, don’t make the mistake of going for quantity over quality. The more thought you put into creating engaging posts, the more success you will see.
Here are just some of the things you can post:
- New fundraising campaigns
- Go behind the scenes—show your team, your office, etc.
- FAQs, answering the questions your followers keep asking
- Announcements—job postings, change of office, etc
- Upcoming events
- Thank your donors
- Show off your volunteers
- Share testimonials of people who’ve benefited from your cause
As for when to post and how many times to post, this depends on the platform, the type of content, and the target audience. If you don’t post often, people will forget you. And if you post too often, they will label you as spam. Hence, posting frequency is something that you may need to experiment with to find the right balance.
There are some basic guidelines to help you get started with major social channels. These guidelines aren’t too overwhelming for most nonprofits and at the same time, won’t keep your posts too far apart to effect a drop in engagement:
- Facebook: Since this is a low-volume, high-value platform, it’s best to keep your posts to a minimum. The recommendation is three to seven times a week.
- Twitter: Because it’s ideal for quick updates and it’s fast-paced, you can post between one to three times a day.
- Instagram: This is a lot like Facebook, so you should be good posting three to seven times per week.
- LinkedIn: You can adopt a schedule of three to five posts per week.
Analytics and tracking: Measuring effectiveness
Remember, you aren’t on social media just because everyone is doing it. So, you need to be sure if your strategy is even working instead of just flying blind. This is where analytics and tracking come into play.
Analyze how many comments, likes, retweets, views, and shares you are getting. Observe if your followers are growing. Assess the type of content that seems to be getting the most engagement and the times you seem to get the most engagement. Track all of this information on a periodic basis until you have enough to make a solid decision. Learn what’s working and do more of it.
Nonprofits you can learn from
What they do: Grant wishes to children diagnosed with critical illnesses, giving each child hope and the strength to fight harder against the illness
Learnings from their social media strategy:
- They share individual stories showcasing the impact they are making in the lives of children across America
- They make it easy for people to donate on social media or their website
- Partners with businesses to drive up donations (if a customer buys from any of those businesses, it is mandated to donate a specific amount to Make-A-Wish America)
- Regularly thanks donors on social media
The Humane Society of the United States
What they do: Promote animal welfare and help end animal-related cruelties
Learnings from their social media strategy:
- They are active on several platforms, and on each one of those platforms, they customize the content to suit the platform
- They usually reply to or like the comments people write on their posts
- They share posts that offer value, not asking for donations all the time
- They thank their donors and supporters from time to time
- Share news of what they have been up to with their followers
What they do: They campaign to end poverty and preventable diseases
Learnings from their social media strategy:
- Are active on the most popular social media channels
- They bring in experts to talk about global issues, diseases, economic problems, etc., helping create authoritative content for their social media networks
- They encourage their followers to share their content, helping to spread the message
- Ask their followers to help them not just by donations, but even by signing petitions and more
You should not dismiss social media in your marketing efforts—it’s a gateway to new donors. And it offers a free platform for communicating with current stakeholders. So if you haven’t been posting consistently, or if you were yet to create a social media account, you should get started right now.
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