By Kelsey Boudin
President and Founder, Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
Nonprofit social media is a key cog in the communications wheel advancing your organization’s mission. You don’t need to be told social media is essential these days for so many purposes:
- Building awareness
- Promoting programs
- Leading dialog
- Calling to action
- Appealing to donors
- Celebrating impact
Your nonprofit marketing strategy has some heavy lifting to do, accomplishing all that and more. Your social media presence carries much of that load. But if you’re a small nonprofit, you likely don’t have the time, staff, resources and expertise to do ALL THE THINGS – from writing organic posts and scheduling ads to designing eye-catching graphics and recording/editing video.
No worries! Many of our wonderful clients are small organizations that previously struggled with digital media marketing. By understanding how nonprofit social media marketing works – and some resources at your disposal – you can build a strategy that works.
How Can Your Small Nonprofit Social Media Work With Limited Resources?
If you’re reading this, you’re definitely not alone. How’s this for an eye-popping statistic? Less than half of nonprofits actually have a digital marketing strategy.
So, yeah. Many small nonprofits naturally struggle to make a big impact on social media due to limited resources and know-how. Fortunately, there are easy steps to LEVERAGE social media.
1. Leverage Your Nonprofit Status
Notice I said “leverage” there? It’s not enough just to USE social media. In addition to crafting your message and promoting it the right way, you must LEVERAGE your nonprofit status.
What does that mean? Use the many tools and resources at your disposal as a nonprofit organization to enjoy:
- Free/reduced software memberships/subscriptions
- Free/reduced digital advertising
- Ample social media training opportunities
Nonprofits can access special features and resources on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Pinterest. These offer tools allowing nonprofits to add “donate” buttons and run fundraisers, receive technical support, and gain production resources. To access these benefits, nonprofits must enroll as a charitable organization. Here are some platform-specific links:
Facebook & Instagram
- Apply for Meta’s Charitable Giving Tools.
- Enroll for Facebook Payments as a charitable organization and register to accept donations from personal fundraisers.
Other social media platforms offer free training and support to help nonprofits use them effectively. (More on those later.)
2. Define Your Audience For the RIGHT Content Experience
Here’s where it can get tricky for nonprofits. Who’s your target audience? Many nonprofits mistakenly believe it’s the people and systems they serve. My good friend and colleague, Jimmy LaRose of ReImagining Philanthropy, says it’s the donors, grantors and philanthropists who provide funding – the “oxygen,” as Jimmy puts it – to serve in the first place.
From a marketing perspective, I argue that it should be a good mix of both. Your social media presence must be appealing to the good people who benefit from AND who back your mission financially.
Good news: even with a smartphone you can shoot video, take pictures and write content around your mission in action. Be a storyteller. Highlight stories of individuals whose lives have benefited from your initiative. Those will also serve as inspiration to give money, time and support to your cause.
3. Choose the Right Social Media Platforms
Next step: meet your target audience(s) “where they live” in the digital realm. Choose the social media platforms that best convey the message behind your nonprofit cause to the people who need to see and hear it most. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn and such are popular to their demographics for very specific reasons.
With so many platforms available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and try to be on all of them at once. However, this can lead to content burnout and disengagement. Instead, research platforms where your target audience(s) and focus your efforts.
Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms for nonprofits, but they may not be the best fit for every organization. For example, if your nonprofit message is very visual and trendy, Instagram and even TikTok might be a better option. LinkedIn is great for reaching professional audiences – your likely donor base.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
4. Utilize Free Training & Resources
Nonprofits can take advantage of the many free resources available on social media platforms. There are A LOT out there!
Facebook & Instagram
- Free online courses offered by Meta Blueprint, including its Nonprofit & NGO training program.
- Meta Social Impact to learn about new tools and nonprofit social media learning opportunities.
- Twitter’s Flight School for classes on the platform’s ad fundamentals and video marketing capabilities.
- Campaigning on Twitter Handbook, a guide for nonprofits and public-service professionals.
- Twitter Nonprofits to research training opportunities, review case studies and keep up with industry trends.
- Get Started with LinkedIn course.
- LinkedIn’s Better Together nonprofit webinars and fireside chats.
- Chat directly with a LinkedIn nonprofit consultant.
- YouTube Creator Academy courses.
- TikTok For Good account management and analytics resources, including promoted hashtags.
- Pinterest Academy courses for platform-specific nonprofit social media best practices.
- A free course to use the Hootsuite social media scheduling platform.
- Apply for the HootGiving nonprofit social media discount.
5. Create a Content Calendar
Consistency is key on social media. Create a content calendar to plan your posts. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. An Excel spreadsheet will do. For small nonprofit with limited time and resources, planning and schedule posts allows you to:
- Strategize relevant and timely campaigns.
- Compile a volume of posts.
- Organize across platforms.
Include a mix of content types: blog posts, infographics, videos, etc. to keep it informative and entertaining. Highlight upcoming events, fundraising campaigns, societal issues and third-party wisdom related to your cause. But your content calendar doesn’t need to be concrete. Be flexible and ready to adjust based on what is working and what isn’t.
Set aside an hour at the beginning of each month to plan and automate posts. Set it and move on to your other nonprofit management responsibilities.
6. Engage Your Audience
Social media is a two-way conversation. While you’re seeking to be heard, also make an effort to listen and respond. An engaging dialog is appealing to nonprofit service recipients and stakeholders alike. By building relationships with your followers, you can create a loyal community that will help spread your message and support your cause.
Respond to comments and messages promptly and personalize your responses. Use social media to ask for feedback, run polls, and conduct surveys to gather insights.
Use social media analytics to track your followers’ engagement and preferences. Tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics highlight posts with the greatest engagement, what times of day your followers are most active, and which topics are most popular to supercharge your nonprofit social media marketing and outreach.
7. Collaborate with Other Nonprofits & Influencers
Collaboration makes the world go ’round. Increasingly, nonprofits must work alongside other organizations that serve distinct roles in the continuum of services for greater impact. Grant funders and donors prefer to see you’re not “going it alone.” The same principle applies to your social media marketing.
Partner with other nonprofits to host events or create content together. Reach out to influencers in your industry who have large followings and ask them to share your content. Aim for big boosts in credibility, exposure and awareness for your cause. Tap into their audiences and can gain exposure to new followers interested in your cause. One social media influencer alone could net hundreds, thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of new followers.
Just as importantly, collaboration naturally spreads the workload across more people – a godsend to small nonprofits.
Are You Ready to Supercharge Your Nonprofit Social Media Marketing?
Even small nonprofits can make a BIG splash on social media. It’s a powerful tool to connect directly with target audiences, showcase your mission impact and gather an army of support.
If you need help building a nonprofit social media marketing strategy that works, we’re always here to help!