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Nonprofit Strategies

Stop the scroll: The complete nonprofit social media guide

You don’t have to join every platform—we promise! We’ll show you how to create a nonprofit social media strategy that fits your mission, audience, and capacity.

Kylie Davis
August 29, 2023
October 13, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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Feeling overwhelmed by Instagram, TikTok, and whatever new trend is around the corner? Developing a social media strategy for nonprofits doesn’t mean having to spend hours on every single platform each week. 

We’ve compiled our top tips, tricks, and social media best practices for nonprofits so you can create a system that works for you—and make it your best fundraising tool yet.  

Why should I care about nonprofit social media?

We feel you—investing in your nonprofit’s social media can feel like a lot of work and might have you thinking: Is it really worth it?

The truth is organizations that really nail charity marketing see big results. From increased funding to better brand awareness, the pros of nonprofit social media marketing certainly outweigh the cons:

  • Build brand awareness 📢 Being active on social media helps you gain exposure, which will help increase the number of people interested in your organization’s mission and cause.
  • Serve up some sweet SEO 📱 By promoting your content on social media, you can increase engagement and drive more traffic to your website, which boosts page views. 
  • Inspire action ⚡ 55% of people who engage with nonprofits through social media end up taking some sort of action, like volunteering, donating, or attending an event. That means every new follower gives you approximately a one-in-two chance of doubling as a new volunteer, supporter, or advocate for your organization. 
  • Supercharge your fundraising 💸  Perhaps the most important “pro” of social media marketing for nonprofits is the chance to bring in more monetary gifts. In fact, 59% of people who interact with a nonprofit’s social media donate money (cha-ching!).
  • Sync up with stakeholders 🗣️ With multiple channels open for communication, partners, volunteers, and donors will feel more connected to your organization. Givebutter expert Linda Handley says it best:
Nonprofit social media strategies aren't just about promoting your mission—it's also about creating a connection with your followers and allowing them to learn more about what you're passionate about.

Have we convinced you that even a little bit of time spent on social media is worth it for your organization? Now let’s talk strategy.

Take these 6 steps to create your nonprofit social media strategy 

Now that we’ve covered exactly why social media is a pretty sweet tool, it’s time to create a strategy that will inspire new supporters, build your base, and of course, bring in some major donations.

Often, organizations will launch into social media planning thinking they have to do everything: create accounts on every platform, post every day, and respond to every comment. But frankly, that's just not realistic—particularly when you're a small, grassroots nonprofit. 

To pace yourself, follow this nonprofit social media strategy template, broken down into six handy steps: 

1. Accept that you can’t do it all 🤓

Before jumping headfirst into content creation and posting, take a look at your capacity to see what’s feasible as you start out. This might include considering things like:

  • Time and bandwidth: Who can take on the task of managing social media at our organization? How much time can they reasonably dedicate to this task within a given week?
  • Channels: Which 1–2 social media platforms might bring us the most traction? Facebook? Instagram? Tiktok? Twitter?
  • Ownership: Who will edit, approve, provide graphics, and ultimately post to our stories and feed? 
  • Rules: What social media policies and guidelines will we set for our organization? 
  • Tools: What are the best social media tools for nonprofits to help streamline and organize all of our content? (We’ve got plenty of ideas later on in this article!)

2. Do your research 📊

Social media for nonprofits should be—as the name entails—sociable. That’s why it’s important to understand which supporters you’re targeting, where they’re hanging out online, and what kinds of social media posts will be compelling for them. To find out this information, you could try out these activities: 

  • Competitive analysis: Follow other organizations within your sector, taking note of their most shared posts and those with the most engagement. Which kinds of visuals, media, hashtags, stories, and themes do they share with their target audience? 
  • Donor segmentation: Create custom filters to segment your supporters by giving amount, event attendance, or even how old they are to analyze how supporters are already engaging with your mission—and what more they might want to see.

3. Map out your content plan 💃

As a nonprofit organization, it's all too easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of fundraising. Your gut may tell you to constantly "make the ask," but this isn't the best way to cultivate a community online.

In her webinar “Social media success in 20 minutes or less,” nonprofit social media expert Julia Campbell says it best:

Julia Campbell's quotes

So, instead of hopping into fundraising asks, create 4–6 different "buckets" of content that you can pull from. That way, you can continue to connect with, educate, and solicit donations from your community without inundating them with the same message over and over. 

Here are a few examples of the different kinds of content you may want to post: 

  • Individual stories: As a nonprofit, you can deeply change the lives of individuals, families, and entire communities. Invite people who have benefitted from your work to share their stories on your channels, creating a sincere connection with your audience.
  • Statistics and figures: Share recent news articles, industry reports, or other third-party research to help reinforce the "why" behind your organization. 
  • New initiatives: Keep your audience updated on all the work you're doing behind the scenes, and share different ways that they can join in the action. 

⭐ Pro tip: To determine which buckets will resonate most with your audience, consider developing marketing personas and then create one bucket for each persona. 

4. Set your cadence—and don’t be afraid to experiment 🏃

From here, work backward. Set an attainable goal with realistic timelines and deliverables attached. For example: 

“We will share one post from each of our three content buckets each week on our Instagram for two months, then reevaluate our progress.” 

Great social media strategy for nonprofits is all about creating a schedule and sticking to it. But it’s also important to remember that social media is a real-time conversation, too. You can experiment with your cadence—for example: 

  • During times of giving: Nearly one-third of all annual giving occurs in December, right after #GivingTuesday. You should ramp up your digital marketing strategy during these times and post at a higher frequency.
  • Surrounding a current event: Depending on your sector, it may be appropriate (and even expected) to comment appropriately and sensitively on periods of social unrest, natural disasters, or other topical subjects related to your nonprofit’s cause.

⭐ Pro tip: With social media, less really is more—not just the number of posts but also what’s in them. Aim for what Lynne Wester calls “snackable content” in her webinar on nonprofit trends for 2023. Too wordy, too long, or too complicated, and your audience will scroll away. 

5. Get creative with your mediums 📹

Rather than only simply sharing photos with tiny captions, experiment with creating infographics, short videos, or even virtual events. Here are some more engaging social media ideas for nonprofits to try out: 

  • Go live: Allow your audience to develop a sense of camaraderie with your organization by livestreaming your next event or sharing a live campaign update on Instagram, Facebook Live, Twitch, or another social streaming platform. 
  • Get personal: Create Instagram Stories, TikTok videos, or Snapchat snaps with videos from a community clean-up day, an interview with your executive team, or last month's 5K run/walk. You don’t need a production team to share your story—your smartphone will work just fine.
  • Repurpose content: One of the easiest ways to fill up your content calendar is by taking a piece of content, like an industry report, and transforming it into easy-to-digest chunks of visual content, like infographics or inspirational quotes. Then, you can make small adjustments and share them on your social media channels (not to mention on your website and in email marketing!).
  • Retweet: Don’t be afraid to share articles and resources from your community partners, lift up stories in the media that connect with your cause, and repost outside content that resonates with your audience. It can be as simple as taking a screenshot of a tweet and posting it on Instagram! Just remember to tag whoever wrote or shared the content first. 

6. Get everyone involved 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

Not all social media content should focus on making a donation appeal. Instead, a great social media strategy for nonprofits should include multiple ways for supporters to get involved. 

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Crowdfunding: With one-click social sharing, supporters can post any of your nonprofit's fundraising pages or donation forms right to their Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn (think birthday fundraisers and Giving Tuesday campaigns).
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising: P2P fundraising and social media go hand in hand. Encourage individual supporters to post on their social channels and appeal to their own online network.
  • Do a takeover: Create a partnership with another organization where you "swap" handles for a day, each amplifying your respective messages on the other's social media account.
  • Launch an influencer campaign: Work with local celebrities or influencers to help raise awareness for your good cause. 

5 nonprofits that are crushing it on social media 

Success in social media takes care and effort. For more inspiration, let's check out some real-world nonprofit social media channels in action—and what kinds of content they’re posting.

Susie Senior Dogs 🐕

This organization’s social media always pulls on the heartstrings. Personal stories (in this case, a dog’s story!)—especially when accompanied with photos—build connection, showcase your impact, and inspire more people to heed your call to action.

Susie Senior Dogs Insta post featuring a dog

charity:water 💧

This global nonprofit does a fabulous job of highlighting success, progress, and updates in a way that engages and inspires supporters to join in the action. Check out how they give a branded, personalized shout-out in this post:

Charity Water insta post featuring a tiny heroes initiative

Habitat for Humanity 🏡

Followers are never bored by HH’s content. Diverse and topical, their posts educate and create conversation, whether they’re sharing a statistic or a thought-provoking quote.

Habitat for Humanity insta post regarding race-neutral policies

Girl Scouts of America 🍪

Girl Scouts of America’s content is right on target. Inspirational, brightly colored, yet simple and very sharable—it all adds up to drive maximum engagement. 

Girl Scouts insta post about kindness

Brooklyn Public Library 📚

From posting about important community resources to promoting events, BPL’s social media gives everyone a chance to jump in on the action no matter what they’re interested in. Plus, they’re not afraid to have a little fun. 

Brooklyn Public Library insta post featuring a kid wearing the Book Hugger tee

How to optimize paid social ads in 3 simple steps

Want to take things up a notch? Social media advertising might just be the answer.

Paid social ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms can be extremely effective in driving awareness for events, fundraising, and other important initiatives for nonprofits. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Set up tracking with pixels 👾

All major advertising platforms have pixels or tracking codes that can easily be added to your website to help track ads’ performance. These pixels let Facebook and other platforms track what happens on your website after a user has clicked on an ad (sign-ups, purchases, donations, etc.). Access the pixel setup guide from Facebook to get started.

⭐ Pro tip: Givebutter integrates with Facebook Meta Pixel, so you can track visitor activity and conversion rates from your Facebook ad campaigns right on your fundraising campaigns.

2. Choose your target 🎯

When it comes to paid social ads, you don’t want to waste your money targeting the wrong people.

There are two strategies to target folks at a high level to see your ads: Prospecting (targeting new people) and retargeting (targeting people who already know about your organization). Your campaign type will inform the audience you target:

  • Prospecting campaigns: Nonprofits should use a lookalike audience which is auto-generated by advertising platforms based on custom audiences. 
  • Retargeting campaigns: Organizations can either upload email addresses to Facebook as a custom audience or create a custom audience using the data the pixel is tracking on the advertiser’s website. 

⭐ Pro tip: If you’re using Facebook, make sure to create separate marketing campaigns and turn on Campaign Budget Optimizer (CBO), so Facebook can help spend your budget effectively.

3. Get creative with content 🎨

In order to get the most out of social media advertising for nonprofits, test multiple creative assets to understand which resonates and performs the best with each audience (in addition to ad placements and formats). In general, though, two types of content tend to work best:

  • Impact and education: This type of content focuses on the impact people will make by contributing to your nonprofit.
  • Social proof: Showing the support your nonprofit has already garnered can help drive more people to feel empowered to be involved.

The best social media tools for nonprofits

From designing creative assets to scheduling posts for publishing, every nonprofit needs a few tools up its sleeve. Thankfully, dozens of user-friendly platforms are within reach. These are our favorites: 

Canva 🎨

Canva for nonprofits is a no-brainer. Easy to use and free for nonprofits, this online design platform helps organizations all over the world create professional-looking graphics with pre-made templates—no graphic design knowledge is needed.

Buffer 🗓️

Buffer is a well-rounded and easy-to-use social media tool that offers publishing, engagement, analytics, and team tools. A simple way to create and schedule content, Buffer is a reasonably priced platform that can help streamline all of your social media fundraising campaigns. 

Later ⏰

This social media management software is best for organizations that need a visual content calendar and scheduler. For nonprofits on a budget, the free version of Later is a perfect fit.

Hootsuite 🦉

Social media management for nonprofits, Hootsuite has scheduling tools, integrations with other platforms, and post-curation features. Plus, you can manage multiple accounts without worrying about spending too much.

Sprout 🌱

Sprout Social offers post approvals and administering permission settings, which cater to digital agencies in addition to medium-sized organizations. User-friendly and collaborative, it’s a great option for new nonprofits or smaller operations.

Do more with your nonprofit social media with Givebutter

Nailing your nonprofit social media takes a little time, but it sure is worth it. To succeed, experiment with new content, try out paid social ads, and continue to conduct ongoing research when you can. 

Remember, social media is just one piece of the puzzle. Using Givebutter, nonprofits can create a robust marketing strategy that complements a stellar social media strategy with:

  • One-click social sharing optimized for all platforms
  • Mobile-friendly campaigns 
  • Social-style supporter feeds
  • Shareable P2P fundraisers 
  • Built-in nonprofit marketing and engagement tools like email, text-to-donate, text blasts, and a whole lot more

Create your free Givebutter account and get started today!

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