The Role of Social Media for Nonprofits

6 min read

While social media started as a way to stay connected with friends and professional networks, brands have become part of the social media equation in a big way. Today, many nonprofit organizations are creatively leveraging social media to further the conversations surrounding their missions, build brand advocacy and encourage their stakeholders to get involved. Take for instance UNICEF, which has a highly engaged community and over 7 million likes on both Facebook and Twitter!

Of course, not every organization can expect a Kardashian-level followership. But, every nonprofit can make a big impact in their own causes and communities with strategic social media practices. With social media, you can work to achieve key communications goals like raising awareness and furthering brand recognition, engaging stakeholders through storytelling, building relationships with clients and leveraging innovative fundraising opportunities.

Raise awareness and further brand recognition

Social media is the perfect place to join in on and advance important conversations surrounding your organization’s area of focus, and you can do this by thinking bigger than just one post at a time.

Social media is the perfect place to join in on and advance important conversations surrounding your organization’s area of focus, and you can do this by thinking bigger than just one post at a time. Click To Tweet

Large campaigns around a specific focus area can help you gain traction for both your organization and your overall mission. Over a period of time — two weeks, a month or maybe even a quarter — you can launch an awareness campaign for your mission or a specific program, using a specific hashtag and consistent language and imagery that get your audience’s attention and encourage them to join the conversation.

Formerly known as the place where you had to state your case in 160 characters or less, Twitter isn’t just for quick facts and quotes anymore. By taking advantage of the thread feature, many individuals and organizations have been able to thoroughly communicate and amplify complex social problems in a way that is digestible for readers. Threads are often used to unpack a statistic or headline that doesn’t tell the whole story on its own, helping the public understand the real issue at hand. If readers are moved by what you have to say, they can like or retweet the most impactful parts of the thread, or share the whole thing with their own followers. Leveraging hashtags in these threads as well can help your tweets and threads reach more people, furthering awareness for your cause and helping more people learn who you are as an organization.

Engage stakeholders through storytelling

Because social media is designed to facilitate connections between people, use those platforms to tell compelling stories that help your stakeholders build a personal connection to your organization.

If you’re not already using video to tell stories about your organization and its impact, now is a good time to start. According to recent research, 1200 percent more shares come from videos on social media than text and images combined, and Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video per day. So, short videos that tell personal stories about the people and communities you serve can help to boost engagement for your organization.

Another way to tell stories is through a method called “newsjacking,” in which you join the conversation surrounding a specific current event that is relevant to your mission. For example, you can share a news article that is related to the work your organization does, describe how your organization is working to prevent or create more stories like that one. Others can join the conversation by commenting on the article and talking about how that story makes them feel and how they want to get involved.

Build relationships and foster communications with clients and beneficiaries

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all offer your audience the option to easily engage with the content you post via comment or reply. So, a great way to engage with and build relationships with the people you serve is to post content that encourages them to join the conversation as well.

For example, if your organization works to fight a specific illness, works with people to help them find and keep jobs, or offers another service, encourage the people you work with to share their stories with you and others via social media. This allows you to shift the spotlight from your organization to your community in an empowering way, letting the people you serve talk about their own experiences in their own words. Plus, this also allows potential volunteers and donors who see your social media pages to get a glimpse of the work you do from the eyes of the people you serve every day.

Leverage innovative fundraising opportunities

While fundraising shouldn’t be your nonprofit’s only focus on social media, leveraging donation campaigns at key times during the year can be very effective. For example, if your organization’s focus area has a specific awareness month or is fundraising during an end-of-year campaign, focus your social media efforts on generating donations for your organization during those times.

Facebook makes it easy for individuals who are interested in raising money for your organization to create peer-to-peer fundraisers for their own birthdays, to memorialize or celebrate a loved one, or just because. These fundraisers are extremely important because donors are more likely to support a cause if it is personally promoted by someone they know, and social media provides an authentic place for your advocates to share your message.

Earlier this year, Instagram also started making it even easier for your supporters to generate donations for you, allowing users to add donation “stickers” to their Stories. When someone uses your nonprofit’s sticker, the full amount of every donation goes straight to your organization.

Don’t assume you’ll only be able to acquire small donations from social media fundraising campaigns. Social grassroots outreach has the potential to result in not just individual donors, but a greater network of peer-to-peer fundraisers, gateways to corporate partnerships and major foundation grants.

It’s important to note that organic social media alone will probably not get you all the way to your awareness, engagement and fundraising goals. To achieve results, you will likely need to both pay for social media advertising, and ensure your social media campaigns are working alongside complementary digital tactics like email and search.

Social media trends are always changing, so stay up to date with what your target audiences are doing. For example, if you’re looking for donors, Facebook is often the best place to try to reach them. If you’re looking for a younger generation of volunteers, Generation Z is far more likely to be using social media on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

Learn more about how some organizations have leveraged social media and other technology to expand their mission impact in our snapshot of four tech-savvy nonprofit marketing campaigns.

Leave a Comment