The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits

Jul 24, 2019 | Guides, Social Media

Zoe Allen

by Zoe Allen

Over 3 billion people worldwide use social media – find out how you can encourage them to become your donors.

Nonprofit social media

How can social media help my nonprofit?

Social media is a great tool to share real stories with real people and build connections with your supporters.

Social media platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – can be leveraged to spread the word about your nonprofit, and to directly increase your donations. It’s a key part of digital marketing, as each platform allows you to appeal to different groups and can be used to build a supportive community and drip-feed supporters information.

37% of consumers say that their main source of purchase inspiration is social media, showing just how effective social media advertising can be.

So why would this not work for nonprofits and donations too?

When starting out with social media marketing, its important to remember that it is split into two categories: organic and paid content. Organic content is using an account, posting content, and gaining followers in order to promote your nonprofit. It’s where you would post pictures of your recent projects or share blog posts and updates.

Paid content, on the other hand, are adverts on social media platforms. You can pay to have your content show up in people’s feeds, encouraging them to watch a video, engage with a post or click through to your website. As well as encouraging donations or website traffic, this extra exposure will also gain you new followers. 

Social Media Image for Nonprofit

What are the benefits of organic social media marketing?

Increased donations

Alongside exposure and reputation-building, social media can also be used to create fundraising campaigns that lead directly to donations.

One way is through a ‘challenge’ style campaign like Cancer Research’s #nomakeupselfie or ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge. Both asked supporters to complete a challenge – posting a selfie without makeup or tipping a bucket of iced water over their heads. The supporters then donated to the cause, and nominated friends to repeat the process. The #nomakeupselfie campaign raised £8 million in a week.

Of course, most campaigns won’t have this luck. But it does go to show that social media can be used directly to fund raise for nonprofits, rather than just increase exposure.

Supporters invest in you

However, this doesn’t mean we should disregard the power of organic social media to get your message heard and drive click-throughs to your website. Supporters are much more likely to donate to a cause that they feel like they know and that feels personal to them. Social media allows you to interact directly with followers and build a personal relationship with them. 

Both because of its interactive nature and its suitability to behind-the-scenes and more casual content, social media is a key tool in building brand personality as it makes supporters feel as if they are seeing the ‘real’ side of your organisation. This is a side which seems more approachable and more trustworthy. 

Personal engagement is one of the most important reasons to use social media. Social media has a power to make supporters empathise with your nonprofit, much more than a website can.

It’s cheap

Organic social media is one of the cheapest ways to drive engagement with your website – no advertising fees, only the time it takes to create the content. When most of your money needs to go into your cause, fundraising that is efficient and cheap is essential. What’s more, if you leverage user-generated content campaigns, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you access a huge amount of exposure for free. You don’t even have to create your own content!

To make it even cheaper, you can access some additional benefits for free on YouTube as a nonprofit, including tutorials on creating videos for nonprofits.

Ask and learn

Social media makes it easy to find out what your supporters want from you and what causes they care about the most. This might be through tracking engagement, or you might ask them directly with polls and surveys. You can even use these to let the public choose what projects you work on next or what events you should hold.

Social media marketing tablet

A quick guide to social media platforms

It might seem like there are new social media platforms appearing all the time, but there are really only a few key ones which can be leveraged for social media marketing, both organic and paid. You should also remember that you do not need to use all these platforms. Pick a few which seem right for your brand and are popular with your target demographic. Experiment with posting and engaging on these platforms, and track which are successful. You can repeat this process until you work out which give you the best return on investment or engage your supporters the most.

Below are the top 4 social media platforms (ranked by the number of global users), their audience, and what kind of content they are suited to.

1. Facebook

An oldie but a goodie. Facebook holds the global top spot, with over 2 billion users. You can find more about the age and gender demographics of Facebook users here – it’s a mixed audience, but males aged 25-34 are the largest group at 19%.

We recommend that you use Facebook to post short written posts (anywhere between 60 and 250 characters) and video content, as these have the best engagement rates on the platform. Facebook Live videos have great levels of engagement too. Keep the content light and informal – updates on your projects would work well.

Aim to post 2 – 5 times a week to keep people aware of your nonprofit but not overwhelm them. The best times to post are 12pm, 3pm and 7pm – all times when people are on breaks from work! These times have the best engagement rates on this platform.

2. YouTube

YouTube is close behind with 1.9 billion users. This platform is exclusively for video content, which is a great format for creating emotive stories about your projects. It’s great for reaching an audience aged 18-49.

For the best engagement rates, keep your videos between 5 and 20 minutes long, and pay attention to your titles to attract viewers. Keep them informative and concise – this works for both the videos and the titles!

To begin with, simply aim to fill up your account with content, in order to attract a follower base. Then you can go on to posting more consistently and regularly – 2 – 3 times a week, and avoiding uploading on Mondays and Tuesdays. A good tip is also to specify at the end of videos when they can next expect an upload and what it might be about.

3. Instagram

Instagram allows you to post visual content (images and videos), so it’s a great place to showcase great photos of your projects, events or the people you help. Over 70% of Instagram users are under 35, so your content should be targeted towards younger supporters. This means keeping the content short and snappy.

With Instagram, its important to establish a regular brand for your account, so that your profile appears neat and aesthetic when viewed as a whole. Pick a colour palette and a filter to use on your photos, as well as regularising your caption format.

Instagram is very much about playing to the algorithm – the process that decides if your posts will be prioritised on a person’s feed. To perform well, consistency is key. We recommend posting once a day, although not seven days a week. Read on to learn how to make posting regularly much easier with a bulk scheduling tool.

Read our guide to Instagram for nonprofits to learn more about this great platform.

4. Twitter

Twitter has over 300 million active users and is used for short-form content, known as ‘microblogging’. It’s also a powerful platform for sharing images, videos and links alongside short comments.

Overall, it has quite a diverse audience of users from every age group, but its most often used by 25 to 34 year olds. Like Instagram, this audience of young users is best engaged with short, snappy content. 

Twitter is great for linking all your platforms together, so include links to other platforms in your profile bio. There’s not a set posting time suggested for Twitter, as its best just to use it as often as needed in order to respond to supporters or share important information. Use it for sharing meaningful updates and announcements before posting more information on other platforms.

Need more details? Read our guide to social media platforms and posting for more details – it’s for businesses, but the information is very useful for nonprofits, too.

Bulk scheduling

You don’t need to be always online in order to keep your social media posts frequent and regular. You can schedule organic content to post automatically at pre-determined times using a bulk scheduling tool like Hootsuite. This also makes it easier to prepare content well in advance, and not scramble to find it again nearer the time – it will already be prepared and ready to go. Simply create your images, captions and posts, and watch them appear on your timeline (and don’t forget to track their engagement!).

Iphone Nonprofit Social Media

What features should a nonprofit social media account include?

Emotive images

Imagery is one of the most effective ways you can get your message across. We all know that it is the heart-wrenching sight of those in need that drives empathy – and donations.

Social media is no exception. In fact, visual content usually outperforms text-only content in terms of engagement on most platforms. Using good-quality, unique imagery that accurately represents your cause as the basis of your posts is essential to drive good engagement levels.


Like images, videos also have higher engagement than text on social media platforms. They are great for providing detailed information on what your nonprofit is doing, such as with videos of your nonprofit’s work in progress or its results. Take a look at YouTube Social Impact, a branch of Google for Nonprofits, to see how they can help drive engagement for your videos, but don’t forget to share on other networks too.

Facts and figures

Social media is a great place to share up to date facts and figures, but make this accessible by showing how this translates into real-world results too. Say you’ve raised £10,000 – you could tweet that you’ve raised enough to purchase land to plant 1,000 new trees. Facts and figures also work great as short-form content, either on Twitter or Instagram.

Project updates

Because it’s easy to update regularly on social media, it’s the perfect place to share updates on your work. You could even start a regular feature of what you did this week, encouraging supporters to follow your profiles for the expected update.

Real people – your staff and volunteers

Social media is all about a personal connection, so using your real-life staff and volunteers as part of your social media image works well. Introduce your hard-working staff and volunteers, and make their work personal and human. This will drive empathy and connection in your supporters.

Events advertising and coverage

Your social media profiles should be integrated with any physical fundraising events you are running. Creating and sharing events pages on Facebook is a great way to allow supporters to keep up-to-date with event information. Followers will also share events they support or are going to on their own profiles, equating to free exposure for both your organisation and your event. You can regularly share updates on the events, perhaps running a post a day to count down to larger events. 

Social media is also great for sharing what happened at events for those who didn’t attend – it might make them want to come next time! You could use Facebook or Instagram to livestream key parts of the event to your social media profiles, making supporters feel like they are really there. This is also great for more exclusive events or events for your causes and projects rather than your supporters, as it allows your supporters to still stay involved. You can also share pictures after the event, to keep a running visual record of your nonprofit’s events to build anticipation for future ones. 

Social Media Nonprofit Instagram

Both shared and original content

We’ve discussed posting unique content that really represents your nonprofit, but it is also important to remember that social media is an interactive community. You can follow, share and respond to posts from other organisations, or from your followers. Tagging and interacting with others can help you get noticed by their follower base too, driving your own engagement. Just keep the content relevant to your cause.

Interesting articles and blog posts

Visual content does work well on social media, but don’t forget to share interesting articles from both your nonprofit and other organisations for your followers to read. Promoting your blog on social media is a key way to generate traffic.

Encouragement to engage

One of the main ways successful social media accounts generate likes and comments is by asking their followers to like and comment! Ask your followers a question in response to a post, or to vote on or discuss a topic, or tag a friend.

Not only does more engagement mean your post will perform better in algorithms and be seen by more people, it also makes your posts more interesting to your followers. Whilst driving engagement might not seem to directly increase your donations, it can increase your outreach and get your nonprofit’s post seen by more people.

Calls to action

If you want your followers to actually become supporters, donors and volunteers, you need to ask them. Use calls to action to ask the people who see your posts to click through to your website or to donate to your cause. This will also help your social media profile remain integrated with your website and with your digital strategy goals.

Clear, regular links to your website

As well as your calls to action, you should make it easy for supporters on your social media profile to click through to your website or your donation system. Don’t ask followers to simply look you up. Make it easy to find your site, with links and a informative profile, particularly if you have a Facebook page for your nonprofit.

Laptop Nonprofit Social

How does paid social media advertising work?

Once you have set up your social media profiles, you should consider using paid social media advertising. Look at which platforms your analytics data is showing good engagement rates on, and focus on these.

This means your posts or adverts will show up in people’s social media feeds, even if they do not follow your accounts. It can be a great way to get your name out there and use social media to direct people straight to your website to donate, rather than just gaining likes and follows.

What are ‘boosted’ and ‘sponsored’ posts?

Each platform’s advertising feature works slightly differently.

On Facebook, you can differentiate between adverts and ‘boosted’ or ‘sponsored’ posts. Sponsored posts aim to show your posts to more people, making it perform better in Facebook’s algorithm and therefore driving more engagement on the post.

This might lead to more people clicking on your profile, but it doesn’t include a call to action button linking to your website. Facebook ads, however, will have a linked button that could say ‘Visit our website’ or ‘Donate now’ to encourage actual donations and click-throughs rather than just engagement with a post. This is more expensive, however.

Other sites, like Instagram, allow you to boost a post but choose either to link this through to your Instagram profile (to drive more engagement) or your website (to drive more conversions).

What does it cost?

The cost of advertising will of course vary depending on your chosen platform, the complexity of your ad, and how many people you want to reach.

There are several different ways you can be charged for social media advertising:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) or Cost-per-click (CPC) – you pay a cost every time someone clicks on your ad
  • Cost-per-view (CPV) – for videos, you pay every time the video is watched
  • Cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) – you pay for every thousand impressions (views of an ad)
  • Cost-per-action (CPA) – you pay every time a specified action, like downloading an app or filling out a form, is completed. Similar to PPC.
  • Cost-per-like/follow – on some platforms, you can also pay every time you get a like on a certain post or gain a new follower through an ad

CPC and CPM are the most common forms of social media advertising cost. With CPC, as you do not pay unless your ad is actually successful, this can become a very cost-effective way to advertise your nonprofit. For each advertising campaign, you’ll need to think of your goals and look into the cost for each specific platform before calculating the total cost.

What makes a good social media ad?

A good social media advert for a nonprofit must be clear and direct. Make sure that you make it clear that you are a nonprofit, but also do not be afraid to make your ads visually appealing, eye-catching and exciting.

They are likely to be amongst lots of imagery and videos on someone’s social media profile, so they must compete with this. Remember to use calls to action to lead to donations, but also link back to your profile, if possible, to drive follows that allow you to drip-feed your new supporters information and convert them into regular donors or volunteers.

Most importantly, social media ads will be integrated with the other areas of digital marketing and work towards your digital marketing strategy and SMART goals.

Who sees my ads?

One of the biggest advantages of social media ads is the ability to specifically target your ads to certain people. You can select certain attributes of your ideal supporter who will be most likely to support your cause. Facebook, for example, allows you to pick from a large number of attributes such as:

  • County and city location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education
  • Hobbies
  • Liked pages or events

As above, targeted ads are really valuable because they allow you to direct your advertising spend toward people who are already more likely to support your cause. For the same amount of money, you are likely to generate more traffic and donations and connect with people who are actually interested in your cause. If you have a smaller, more targeted audience, it also makes it easier to create ads that appeal to them, instead of having to cater to a larger variety of people and make your ads less effective for some groups. 

However, there are some downsides to targeted advertising. A large amount of targeted ads can get annoying, as most social media users will become aware that you are trying to target them particularly. It can also seem overly intrusive, giving a kind of big-brother-is-always-watching feel. You need to be careful that your ads are nudging, but not so overwhelming that it puts potential supporters off your nonprofit out of annoyance. 

Between the complexity of choosing a perfect target audience and the need to balance this with not overdoing it and annoying your supporters, targeted advertising can get confusing. That’s why we recommend discussing this with us – we’ve got lots of experience! You can book a free call now discuss your social media marketing options.

Strategy Social Media Nonprofit

Twenti’s here to help.

Each nonprofit’s social media strategy and advertising campaigns will be unique to both their brand identity and their marketing goals. This means that even with all this information, social media marketing can still be pretty complicated.

What’s more, social media marketing is only one working part of the digital marketing machine. Social media might not be right for a central marketing platform for your nonprofit. Google ads or email marketing might be more effective, or at the very least these need to work well alongside your social media goals too.

That’s why we recommend that you work with us to develop your social media marketing – and general digital marketing – strategies. We can advise you on what digital marketing platforms may work best for your nonprofit, guide you through trialling them, and analyse which are most successful. Click the banner below to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options. 

Build relationships with your supporters and attract new donors through social media. 

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