Social Media for Nonprofits

Introduction

If you're a nonprofit, it's never been more important to use social media to promote your cause, stay connected with your community, and attract donors. But getting a bona fide social media presence up and running can seem like a daunting task. And even if you're already using Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, taking things to the next level might feel like wishful thinking amidst the million other things you've got going on at your organization.

But TechSoup is here to help.

We want you to feel ready to take on social media at your nonprofit because, ultimately, it can help you amplify your mission and do more good in this world. We've developed this handy guide that covers the basics of social media for nonprofits, how to use it for fundraising, and some tips and tricks to help you succeed.

Chapter Section 1

Using Social Media at Your Nonprofit

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made it exceedingly easy to get your account up and running. So for our purposes here, let's dive right into how you can increase social media engagement once you've set up your account. We'll also cover some common myths and misconceptions, addressing social media concerns at your organization, and measuring social media ROI.

Increasing Social Media Engagement

Here's the first thing you need to understand: What you and others see in your social media feed is governed by algorithms designed to serve up content that you will find relevant.

Back in 2018, Facebook made changes to its algorithm that place less priority on business pages — including those belonging to nonprofits. Some organizations reported taking a hit in activity on their posts, but there are a number of things nonprofits can do to increase their social media engagement.

  • Think about what sort of content your audience will find interesting, engaging, and shareable. Often we see nonprofits focus on posting "one-way" content that only serves their needs. Do some research on your Facebook audience. Find out who your followers are, and be sure you're creating and sharing content tailored to their interests. (The same goes for any other platform.)
  • Post more video content, including on Facebook Live (more on that later). Videos on Facebook get roughly 135 percent more organic reach than images. Even posts with simple videos shot on your smartphone and edited with easy-to-use software will make a bigger splash than those without them.
  • Sometimes you have to pay to play. We'll get into using Facebook Analytics and Insights to build ad campaigns later, but it's important to note that, in general, experimenting with ads on social media is a good idea.
  • Limit automating your posts across platforms. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are all good for different reasons, and you should be thinking about a specific strategy for each.

Busting Social Media Myths

Despite the fact that social media has been around for many years, there are still some common myths and misconceptions held about its use. Here are two of them.

Social media is free.

It's not. Even though platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are free to join, it takes an investment of either your time or a staff person's to use these tools effectively. Do not expect to get A+ results from a novice approach to social media. Also, as was said earlier, you will likely need to put at least some money into ads on social media. But in addition to ads, it's worth noting that for a post to have significant reach, you will likely need to pay for it to be "boosted." Unless you're posting highly unique and exciting content consistently, you're going to literally have to pay for anyone to see it outside of your most dedicated followers.

There's also the issue that you are ultimately allowing social media sites to gather data on your communities' engagement and behavior. In this way, social media should not be seen as "free" for those who are interacting with the content you are developing on these platforms.

My nephew is a millennial. He can do our social media.

It may be true that younger, digitally native generations may be more accustomed to using social media than their older counterparts. But social media should be an extension of your overall communications strategy. While the format is more casual, the messaging, tone, and branding should still align with how you want your organization to be perceived in the world. This means that it's important to identify or hire someone who has experience in using social media professionally.

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Addressing Social Media Concerns at Your Nonprofit

At this point, you've probably heard the story about the rogue American Red Cross employee using the official Twitter account to tweet about #gettingslizzerd. And while this is an extreme case, it represents one of many fears associated with using social media at some nonprofits.

Other common fears include

  • Protecting beneficiary, donor, and staff identities for fear of harm or legal consequences
  • Discouraging potential community members from a service if they feel that social media could somehow reveal their identity (for example, at a nonprofit that provides HIV patient services)
  • Becoming a target for online harassment (such as at nonprofits that serve the LGBTQ community)

And while these are valid issues, these and other concerns should not prevent an organization from using social media altogether. Let's go over a few suggestions on how to address social media concerns at your nonprofit.

Don't believe the skeptics.

Plain and simple. When used properly, social media can do wonders for your organization's cause.

Develop solid social media policies.

Identify what information must be confidential and the reasons why and provide real-life examples of what a confidentiality breach looks like. Be clear about privacy guidelines. All of these should be in line with the specific community you serve. (There are different concerns surrounding a kids' after-school program versus an environmental nonprofit in terms of confidentiality and audience.)

Provide comprehensive training opportunities.

Training should include topics on communication, appropriate posting, fundraising guidelines, and location sharing.

Encourage positive sharing and behavior online.

Determine whether or not you'll push for people to post and comment on your page and have a policy on what makes a post inappropriate. Decide whether or not you'll allow people to tag themselves and others in pictures. All of these considerations should mirror policies in your own HR department.

Measuring Social Media ROI

A key component to any social media strategy is the ability to measure your return on investment (ROI). Like anything you do at your nonprofit, you need to make sure that the time, money, and effort that you put into social media is worth it. And every social media strategy should have at least three things: an annual social media calendar, at least one defined target audience, and a set of goals that can be measured by quantitative metrics (such as views and followers).

Here are some of the most common ways to measure social media ROI at your nonprofit.

Engagement

This metric includes likes, shares, comments, and retweets, and can be found in the admin console of your social media account.

Reach

This metric refers to how many views a post received, even if the user took no action.

Referral Traffic to Your Website

This metric explains the sources of visitors to your website, like social or organic search, and may be found in the admin console of your website or a service like Google Analytics.

Email Subscribers

This metric is measured by the number of newsletter signups you've received via your social platforms.

You should also consider using Facebook Analytics and Insights to help determine your ROI. These tools can tell you much about the types of people that interact with your site and the content they find engaging. Once armed with this knowledge, you'll also be able to make better decisions about how to target any Facebook ad campaigns.

Chapter Section 2

Fundraising with Social Media

Social media can be a great tool for fundraising if used properly. A recent study from Nonprofits Source found that 18 percent of donors worldwide have donated money to charities using Facebook fundraising tools. And of those, 88 percent said they plan to use these tools to give again in the future.

But creating a winning campaign takes careful planning and execution. In this section, we'll go over some tips for creating a fundraising campaign and take a closer look at some tools available directly within the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Seven Social Media Fundraising Tips Every Nonprofit Should Know

Let's say you're really hoping to raise some funds around the holidays for a big project you've got in the works for the new year, and you're planning a social media fundraising campaign to do so. First, these conversations should be happening several months in advance in order to get a solid plan in place. But before you do anything, take a look at these seven tips to make your campaign successful.

1. Create a campaign plan.

This should include

  • A title (Holiday Helping Hands, for example)
  • Identifying a campaign team
  • A common hashtag to use across your platforms (like #holidayhelpinghands)
  • The length of your campaign
  • A content plan and schedule
  • A landing page on your website
  • A plan for tracking success

2. Research which platforms are right for your audience.

Some studies show that younger audiences prefer Instagram or YouTube over Facebook.

3. Reach out to influencers.

If you believe your cause might be of interest to a social media influencer with thousands or even millions of followers, strategically reaching out to them to support your campaign could have huge results. Ask other followers to contact an influencer too for additional impact.

4. Identify your fundraising tools.

Facebook and Instagram have tools directly within the platform, and TechSoup offers a variety of fundraising software that can help you get the job done. Either way, be sure you have a designated place you are sending people to donate.

5. Customize your messages for each platform you use.

This ties into tip 2, but no matter what age group your audience is, posts on Instagram and posts on Facebook should not be approached identically. Don't cut and paste!

6. Use video to show your impact.

People want to know that their donation can make a difference, and videos are great ways to share the great work your nonprofit does.

7. Share your progress.

Get people excited when you hit milestones. Thank your donors for supporting your campaign.

The Top 10 Nonprofit Instagram Accounts: What to Learn from Them

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Using Donation Tools Within Facebook and Instagram

There are a number of ways to use Facebook and Instagram to drive donations. For example, Facebook allows users to set up birthday fundraisers in which friends can donate to their preferred cause. But you can't rely on supporters' birthdays alone to drum up donations for your cause, so each platform has different tools that allow people to donate to your organization. In each case, you will receive 100 percent of the funds, since Facebook and Instagram don't charge a fee for this service.

For each platform, you'll need to sign up for Charitable Giving Tools to get started. However, it should be noted that in any of these cases, it's not easy to capture the email of your donors, and this can prove problematic for tracking efforts.

Facebook

There are two main tools you can use to fundraise on Facebook.

1. Donation Buttons

These can be placed either in your page header or directly within specific posts. They are directly available through the admin view.

2. Facebook Fundraisers

These are easy to make, and they even get their own landing page on the platform. Just click Fundraisers on the left of your feed and use the fundraiser tool to set the specifics of your campaign.

Instagram

Instagram offers you the ability to place a donation sticker within your stories.

The Instagram donation sticker is just like any other sticker you normally use on the platform (location, time, or @mention). Donors can give anywhere from $5 to $2,500.

Chapter Section 3

Social Media Tips and Tricks

Optimizing the use of social media at your nonprofit takes practice. Some organizations have entire dedicated teams to run their presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — and let's not forget about LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, and all the rest. There's always something new to learn, and trends and best practices are constantly evolving.

In this section, we'll show you how to broadcast a Facebook Live event and review some helpful Instagram tips for your nonprofit.

How to Broadcast a Facebook Live Event in Five Easy Steps

It's no secret that video content is more engaging than posts with just picture and text. But did you know that a person will watch a Facebook Live video three times longer than they will once that same content is no longer live? Facebook Live is a great way to tell your nonprofit's story in a compelling
way. It can be interactive — viewers can ask questions directly in the comments — and it brings a personal touch to your cause.

Broadcasting a Facebook Live event is easy. Just follow these five easy steps.

1. Gather your equipment.

You can broadcast using a smartphone, tablet, webcam, or your computer's built-in camera. If you want a higher production value, basic lighting setups can be relatively inexpensive.

2. Alert your followers.

Facebook and Instagram have tools directly within the platform, and TechSoup offers a variety of fundraising software that can help you get the job done. Either way, be sure you have a designated place you are sending people to donate.

3. Set up your shot.

If possible, use a tripod. Also be mindful of lighting, items in the background, and noise pollution.

4. Test your Wi-Fi connection.

You need a strong connection to broadcast a video without interruption. However, you can also use a data plan, provided you're on at least a 4G network.

5. Go live!

Go to your nonprofit's Facebook page and click Publish. Next, select Live video, write a description of your broadcast, and click Start Live Video. When you're done, click Finish, then Share.

It's that simple. Take some time to brainstorm some cool ideas for a broadcast, such as a live Q&A with your founder, a behind-the-scenes look at a food drive, or anything else you think your community will find interesting.

Easy Instagram Tips for Nonprofits

With hundreds of millions of daily active users, it's important that your nonprofit's Instagram account stands out in the crowd. But you know your organization better than anyone, so who better to tell its story than you? Here are a few tips to help make your posts shine.

Select great pictures.

This may sound redundant for an image-forward platform, but be sure to take extra care in choosing pictures that really tell a story. You can also use tools such as Adobe Spark to create great images with informational text.

Create compelling captions.

than on Twitter, so, when appropriate, use captions to write longer, more comprehensive posts to accompany your images. Also, utilizing hashtags (like #holidayhelpinghands) can help aggregate your content while making it more discoverable to the public.

Use video.

Instagram allows users to share up to 10 videos 60 seconds long in a single post using the gallery feature.

Use Instagram Stories.

Instagram stories allow you to upload either live or prerecorded content. Place a donation sticker on your story and bring your next fundraising campaign to life!

Conclusion

Using social media offers myriad benefits to your nonprofit. And while there's a lot to learn in order to get it right, it's an extremely effective tool for raising awareness about your cause, driving donations, connecting with your community, and telling your organization's story.

We hope this guide has provided you with useful information, and if you'd like to dive deeper into the topic of social media, don't forget the Social Media Marketing for Nonprofits learning track on TechSoup Courses. Also, be sure to check out the TechSoup blog for all sorts of great content made just for nonprofits like you.