Nonprofit Social Media Strategy: 9 Winning Ideas for Your NPO

The 9 Signs of a Successful Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits

If you think social media marketing strategy for nonprofits is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, think again.

Ever hear the old advertising adage that folks need to see/hear something at least 7 times before they notice it? Our airspace is so congested these days I wouldn’t be surprised if folks today must be exposed to your nonprofit brand as many as 20 times before they take notice.

This means you need to avail yourself of multiple communication channels if you want a prospective donor to respond positively when your nonprofit fundraising appeal crosses their threshold. Even though the bulk of money is still raised offline, it’s no longer enough to simply be in the mail. Social media is the new nonprofit advertising. And a successful social media marketing strategy becomes the key to success.

And it’s not just because online giving is growing. Or because increasing numbers of supporters will first encounter you online.

Folks who are exposed to you through multiple points of contact give more and stay loyal longer.

Per fundraising expert Tina Cincotti, donors are more likely to give, and stick with you, if you connect to them through multiple points of contact. In fact, they give at least 20% more than those connected through only one channel.

You need the trifecta: (1) Mail, (2) Email, and (3) Social media.

Most nonprofits do mail and email well, or at least okay, but when it comes to social media the strategy becomes a bit haphazard.  And why is that a problem?

27% of donors worldwide cite social media as the communication tool that inspires them the most often to give. So today I’m going to talk about nine things you can do to organize your social media strategy and integrate it with your mail and email communications. Much of this is inspired by Heather Mansfields excellent work on Nonprofit Tech for Good.

9 Signs You Have a Winning Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

1. You put your nonprofit social media strategy in writing

You put your nonprofit social media strategy in writing

Only 32% of NGOs worldwide have this, based on data gleaned from the Global NGO Online Technology Report. Writing a social media strategy for nonprofits down helps you:

  • See where things must be integrated
  • Ask the right questions
  • Figure out what resources are needed
  • Determine how you might acquire needed resources
  • Persuade leadership of why the plan is needed

The best steps, in this order, are to get out of implementation mode and take a view from 30,000 feet:

  1. Conduct an online communications and fundraising audit (like a SWOT analysis). You can download a free template here.
  2. Create a strategic plan that plays on strengths and mitigates weaknesses
  3. Develop measurable objectives, assign responsibilities and include timelines
  4. Create a budget to support your plan, and get stakeholder buy-in
  5. Build systems to track and evaluate success

Further Reading: How to Create a Rock-Solid Social Media Marketing Strategy for 2024 in 9 Steps

2. You actively build both your social media and email lists

Email is your most important social tool.

Social media is your next most important tool.

Build both lists!

  • Build your email list with a prominently featured opt-ins on your home page and most viewed pages that offer an incentive to sign up.
  • Convert email subscribers by adding big, bold calls to follow in your emails. “Follow us on Twitter.” “Follow us on Facebook.” “Connect with us on Instagram.” Include calls to follow on your thank you landing pages and in your email thank you’s.
  • Convert social media followers to email subscribers. “Our next email update goes out tomorrow” with a screenshot of what they’ll get. Show them!

Mail raises more money than email. Email raises more money than social media.  27% of giving comes from email per online giving expert Heather Mansfield.  But giving via social media is becoming a close second.

You want to be everywhere today. Use the tool currently yielding the greatest return (mail), but also use the tools that are picking up steam every year (email and social media).

Merge the marketing tools for nonprofits. Run them together, so there’s synergy. Your goal? Enable your followers and subscribers to consistently see you telling stories of impact.

Further Reading: How to Grow Your Email List: 13 Best Practices to Follow

3. You integrate social media into online giving campaigns

You integrate social media into online giving campaigns

Folks increasingly say that social media acts as the final reminder that triggers their giving. Especially with Millennials, but also increasingly with GenX and Boomers.

  • Add a prominent call to follow on your Thank You landing page and follow-up email.Follow our progress on Pinterest.”  Make your message big and bold.
  • Encourage sharing of your campaign messages. Approximately one in three of donations to P2P campaigns come directly via social media sharing. Technology now empowers folks to take control and share what they’ve done.  Empower them!

4. Your organization consistently shares written content

Social media without a content marketing strategy sucks. And long content (1,200 – 1,500 words) outperforms posts that are briefer. Post at least twice a month, if you’re a small nonprofit. If you’re larger, aim for weekly blog posts. If you’re not blogging, read Blogs vs. E-Newsletters.

Tell success stories. Your donors’ victories!

  • Photo essays showing impact.
  • Campaign updates.
  • And don’t forget to share useful tips and advice. How-to’s. Recommended reading. Top 10 lists.
  • News folks can use.

Make sure everything has a call to action, as well as social sharing information.

Further Reading: 7 Types of Social Media Content to Create to WOW Your Fans

5. You consistently create/share visual content

You consistently create/share visual content

Text is not enough in a social media strategy for nonprofits. When you integrate visuals and text you get a bigger bang for your communications buck. Especially on social media, visual content gets clicked on and shared more frequently than text alone.

  • Create specific social media graphics for year-end campaigns… giving day campaigns… breaking news (you can use free tools like Canva to help)
  • Use quotes (you can make them pretty using free services like Quozio and com)
  • Incorporate compelling statistics

Use these across multiple channels.

You’ll soon be able to tap on graphics and use a digital wallet (tap! Tap!), so creating these compelling visuals will become more and more important.  They enable you to capitalize on your emotional appeal, and the power of striking while the iron is hot.

Further Reading: 15 Killer Visual Marketing Strategies for 2024

6. Your organization has a visually compelling avatar

This is like a logo and serves as your visual representation online.

The best ones are not your logo, because it likely wasn’t designed with social media in mind. Simply cropping a logo, resulting in unreadable text, will not create brand recognition for your cause. It can be some variation of your logo, however.

The best avatars are:

  • Square
  • Colorful
  • Simple
  • Well-designed
  • Light on text

For examples of good avatars, check out:

  • ACLU – Just the visual face of Lady Liberty from their logo
  • Nature Conservancy — Just the visual stylistic green earth from their logo
  • Goodwill International – Just the visual from their logo; includes the name in a square
  • Save the Children – Variation on their logo with visual plus name of organization, arranged in a stacked square format

Use your avatar on every single online network to build a synergistic, identifiable brand across the social web.

7. You’re active on at least two social networks

You’re active on at least two social networks

This is probably the maximum for a small nonprofit. But try experimenting with a third one that can help you grow outside of your normal market (perhaps you want to appeal to a younger audience, or a more global audience).

It’s not sustainable to be on many at once, unless you have tons of staff and resources.

Plus your audience is paring down the number they use.

Facebook is most used.

Twitter and Instagram are next. But look at your audience and where they are.

Could be LinkedIn (professionals). Or leveraging Pinterest trends (woman; rural; suburban).

If you’re in multiple countries, other platforms will show up. WhatsApp. Line. Snapchat.

You can google the demographics of each platform and see how they match yours.

You can also survey your audience to find out which platforms they use.

8. You don’t ignore your LinkedIn page

LinkedIn can be a terrific resource for nonprofits, but is often overlooked in most social media strategy for nonprofits.

Make sure you optimize your profile by filling everything out, updating it regularly (this alerts your followers to check you out) and even publishing articles on LinkedIn to establish yourself as a thought leader and create engagement.

Engagement on LinkedIn (click throughs) is higher than Facebook or Twitter.

Further Reading: How to Create a Killer Company Page on LinkedIn in 12 Easy Steps

9. You’re an early adopter of digital payments

According to Heather Mansfield, this is an area where “the fittest will survive and those that cannot compete will be weeded out.

Check out 5 Digital Payment Systems That Could Transform Online Fundraising.  It’s happening first in the U.S., and will transform online and mobile fundraising.

Watch for:

  • Facebook Messenger Payments and fundraising tools.
  • Twitter pay.
  • Apple Pay (already available to those nonprofits that use Blackbaud’s Merchant Services).
  • PayPal Express Checkout (available to all nonprofits that use PayPal. Donors must activate PayPal One Touch to use).
  • Android Pay (which could eventually extend to other Google products).

Do you have any winning social media strategy for nonprofits ideas to share? Please do!

Author Bio

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is an expert on Social Media and Nonprofits. Claire was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and brings 30 years frontline development experience to her work as principal of Clairification. A sought-after coach, Claire teaches the CFRE Fundraising Certification Course and frequently presents for The Foundation Center and 4GOOD. Claire writes this monthly column on Nonprofit Social Media plus regular columns for Nonprofit Pro and Guidestar. Clairification was named “Best Fundraising Blog of 2013” by FundRaising Success Magazine.

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One comment

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