Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits: 10 Potential Objectives for Using Social Media

Nonprofit Social Media Strategy: 10 Specific Ways You Should be Leveraging Social Media

I have had many chances over my career as a social media strategy consultant to both speak to and work with many nonprofit organizations. While nonprofits should already understand the potential for using social media, my sense is that many of their efforts seemed to be centered around Facebook (and more and more Instagram) for the objective of merely gaining awareness for their organization in the community. 

While utilizing Facebook or Instagram to help in raising awareness for a nonprofit and its cause is a necessity to any social media plan for nonprofits, there are many other things that social media can be used for. Similarly, there are also many other social media channels outside of Facebook and Instagram that can be as, or even more, effective in meeting the organization’s mission, depending on the objective you are currently targeting. What is important here in creating a social media presence is to first think about the potential objectives that social media can be used for.

Since charities still rely on “income” to operate and have bills to pay like the rest of us, I wanted everyone in the audience to think of their organization like a business. In this way, if a social media presence were to be of use to us, it had to either increase revenue or decrease expenses.

I also wanted to try to get participants to think outside of the box based on my own experiences in social media consulting. I will be honest and upfront with you: I am no expert on nonprofits nor do I have extensive experience working at a nonprofit (although I have been on the Marketing Committee of my local United Way of Orange County). Nevertheless, I hope that I can provide enough ideas to get you thinking, and hopefully make you see that there is value in engaging outside of  the “norms of social media” for many reasons.

Using Social Media to Increase Fundraising

There are many things a not for profit organization can be using social media for to help increase fundraising and donations, including but not limited to:

1) Finding Grants

Finding Grants

I would consider this the B2B side of charities. If there is one place where grant-providing organizations and companies, and the Board members and decision makers that govern them, could be found, it would more than likely be LinkedIn. This can be an ideal first step in garnering attention toward your organization’s story and goals. 

2) High Income/Target Demographic Individual Outreach

The high income demographic is undoubtedly on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn’s advanced people search gives you an opportunity to pinpoint people in a way that other social media accounts can’t to facilitate growth. Of course, there are a variety of ways to find relevant people on Twitter, as well. I’m not suggesting that you spam these people in any way, but if they are active participants in these communities, there are ways of indirectly getting to know and networking with them, and inviting new donations to your organizations.

3) Public Fundraising

Public Fundraising

There is no doubt that the general public is on the most popular social media sites run by one Mr. Zuckerberg. However, Twitter is also important for social media content because 1) it is a place to get found because of all of the Twitter searches that are going on and 2) your content is open for all to find.

Your experience might differ, but I believe Twitter users are more religious about the ReTweet to their followers than other social media users seem to be about the “Share” function. Furthermore, Twitter does have a tradition of clicking links that they see, which might work to your advantage.

4) Subscriber Retention

Fans of your organization should want to be following you wherever you are, and this means you should be following them wherever they are! Facebook and Instagram Pages are no brainers, but I do suggest you also become active on Twitter as well as even consider creating a Facebook or LinkedIn Group to foster greater community. 

What about your subscribers that aren’t in these communities? They still want want to know the great things you are doing for the community or your cause, so why not share stories through videos on YouTube or a blog and visual content on your website, which you can then add in to your email newsletter for new and existing email subscribers? Including all of these social media campaign efforts and tools in your marketing approach can dramatically improve your organization’s reach. 

5) Event Promotion

Event Promotion

Social media can be utilized effectively for upcoming event promotion in a number of ways, but the most important thing is to register your event across all of the platforms where your target demographic might be, most notably Facebook Events and the revamped LinkedIn Events. If you are limiting your event promotion to one site, you might be missing out: When a local nonprofit that I helped start, ConnectOC, launched an event for not-for-profit organizations using social media, we had almost as many RSVPs on our LinkedIn Event as we did elsewhere. 

Tagging businesses partnering with your not-for-profit organization can also be useful, as it encourages shares and takes advantage of existing business’ success.

6) General Public Outreach

This is the one part of a social media strategy where I see a need for organizations to start creating shareable content and videos to tell their stories. This can also be done on YouTube. Either way, it gives charities a way to get found on the Internet where we aren’t spending 25% of our online time on social media. This includes Google and the other search engines, including the 2nd largest of them all: YouTube, where video series can act as a way to build trust and get the organization’s name and intent out there. 

Plus, this becomes more subject matter that you can now share in your other social media channels, whether that means sharing infographics, examples of your charity’s work, or even comments that have been made about your organization. To optimize this goal, make sure you create social media posts and blog articles regularly: whether you commit to posting two times per week, or one per month, consistency is key in maintaining social media followers, supporting engagement through comments and shares, and continuing to drive interest in your organization. 

7) Collaboration with Other Nonprofits

Collaboration with Other Nonprofits

I consider this similar to Strategic Alliances in a business sense. Similar to Finding Grants, this is another B2B aspect that charities can use not only LinkedIn for but also Twitter in addition to Facebook and Instagram, because of the ability to easily communicate with friends and others who are active on the platform. Reach out to other organizations in your area that are aligned with your cause in another part of the country or world and see what you can learn from each other or potentially collaborate on. 

Matching types of content with another organization can help widen your reach substantially both in terms of marketing and donors. 

8) Advertising

I normally don’t recommend advertising as part of a social media post strategy for nonprofits, but the ability to micro-target certain demographics on Facebook, Instagram and related sites to promote your page and increase public awareness is something that should be considered, if you are struggling to widen your audience and improve your image reach. If you do go down the road of paid advertising, be sure to set aside money and follow a tried-and-true approach and include calls to action in your advertising materials. 

Before engaging any type of advertising packages or materials, be sure to check in with your site’s metrics and assign a certain number of hours per week to dedicate to developing social media tools with your social media team to improve any existing metrics and reach as many potential donors as possible. 

Using Social Media to Decrease Expenses

9) Find Interns & Volunteers

Find Interns & Volunteers

This is a no brainer, and is hopefully a tactic a lot of nonprofits are already doing. But did you know that there is a healthy population of professionals in transition that are considering volunteering as part of their job search? While this may be a short-term approach, it can give your organization a potentially huge boost by utilizing the skills and experience of a potential mentor and maybe even future board or staff member for your organization–not to mention the widened reach of their personal Instagram accounts and other social media channels. 

Where should you reach out? LinkedIn, of course! With younger interns & potential volunteers, Instagram might be the better option. Either way, don’t forget about the little blue bird! And remember: these “temporary” professional volunteers may turn out to be your Board member or loyal supporters in the future!

To make the most of interns and volunteers, be sure to update social media scheduling regularly, and have a content calendar your social media management team can refer back to on a regular basis. This will make sure all of your social media profiles are kept consistent, and your social media marketers are all on the same team, working toward the same goal.

10) Social Recruiting

Recruiting can cost a lot of money, which begs the question: Why not use social media to outreach directly to your target future employees via Instagram or another, similar site? If they are not fit for the job, they may Pay It Forward and help spread the news for you, inviting more supporters to your cause. Once again, the site that attracts the most jobseekers is LinkedIn, but don’t forget about Twitter, as it can amass quite a few followers and get a good conversation about your brand started.

One data point concerning recruiting via social media: It was through LinkedIn that the United Way of Orange County found and contacted me!

There is no one single definitive social media strategy for not-for-profit organizations because of these various potential objectives, but I wanted to point out that if you are only looking to utilize Facebook or Google in a narrow way, your organization really is missing out on the enormous potential that social media and online content can bring to your organization, including more fringe social channels, such as Pinterest. 

Social media engagement can play a huge role in widening the scope of your social platform, so social media goals and social media policies should center around widening your reach and developing content that encourages social media sharing and impacts your audience. 

Looking for more nonprofit social media strategy advice? Check out these posts on this blog:

How is your nonprofit organization utilizing social media? Any other objectives to add to the above list or advice on social media efforts for similar organizations?

Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

Nonprofit Social Media Strategy FAQs

Which social media is best for nonprofits?

Here are the best social media networks for nonprofits:

1. Facebook
2. YouTube.
3. Pinterest
4. LinkedIn
5. Twitter
6. Instagram

What should nonprofits post on social media?

Nonprofits should post the following on social media:

1. Fundraisings
2. Promotion of Events
3. Work collaborations with other nonprofits
4. Finding volunteers and interns
5. Testimonials

How often should non profits post on social media?

There is no specific rule as to how often should nonprofits post on social media, but ideally would be between 3-5 posts on 1-2 platforms weekly.

What is social media marketing for NGOs?

Social media marketing for NGOs plays a big role in providing opportunities for nonprofits to showcase their work and their goals to a bigger audience. In this way, they can potentially get more assistance and support, connect with the target audience and beneficiaries, and recruit interested people in their line of work.

What social media do nonprofits use?

According to the survey conducted by Missionbox, out of 9,000 small and medium-sized nonprofits in the US and Canada showed that Facebook is the primary social network they are using. Twitter comes up next on the list, followed by Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Nonprofit social media strategy is not just about Facebook. Here are 10 different ways nonprofits should be utilizing social media.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

Articles: 275


  1. Neal – great ideas and compelling arguments for using social media. I hope to incorporate some of these strategies soon. Thanks!

  2. Great points, Howard.

    Neal – I think this is a really informative and useful article, thanks. After interning at a small nonprofit last year, I became very interested in how social media can be utilized within this sector. I actually decided to do my master’s thesis on what nonprofits are communication via social media, specifically Twitter. Some of my results were mentioned in an article at the Nonprofit Times in addition to opinions and ideas on social media from nonprofit execs. Check it out if you are interested

  3. Recognize volunteers. Showing your top volunteers and the work they do, on your blog, on twitter, tagging them on Facebook in pictures showing their good works, can be a powerful thank you method. It can also encourage others to join in.

  4. For one thing neal congrats on the new offer and position with United Way of Orange County. Also, this was some very informative information that you offered right here. Especially with using LinkedIn to build a following and building more connections as well. When thinking about it, it would make a lot more sense to use LinkedIn to build that following and not just focus on Facebook. I see a lot of people just only using Facebook now and really limiting themselves to only one social media source instead of leveraging the other platforms that are available to them.

    • Hey Justice, thanks ;-) And I agree with you 100% on using multiple platforms. I would also urge people to not only use Facebook and LinkedIn but Twitter as well!

      • Yes Twitter is also another platform that a lot of people forget to use as well. I truly noticed the power of Twitter during the VMA when various artists would become a trending topic within .2 seconds and that is one viral and important tool to have for your business.

        • Twitter is huge…can’t wait to finish my book on the subject and hopefully enlighten a new generation of Twitter users!

  5. Neal, your points are on target and insightful. In this day and age I’m happy to see you address the “Decrease Expenses” section. At times, non-profits may hold back on efforts to not dilute funds, but understanding the social media avenue to spread awareness and recruit volunteers …volunteers who probably would not have been reached without the non-profits’ use of social media. I’m assisting a non-profit in its infancy stage embark on a huge fund raising campaign, and this article is on point…with perfect timing! Thanks, Neal!

    • Thanks Reggie…glad to hear that you are also helping out with nonprofits. I challenge anyone who “gets” social media to help out a local nonprofit and help spread the wealth…for all!

    • I spoke on this article mainly about a channel strategy. You have brought up a great question regarding engagement strategy. I think anyone could be the face of the organization, and it doesn’t even have to be one person. It really depends on the size of the organization, their personnel, and their objectives for using social media. Sorry that there is no easy answer for this, but I don’t think it makes a big difference who from the organization is engaging with the public. I think the what, where, and how are more important!

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