A Nonprofit Guide to Social Media Outreach

A Nonprofit Guide to Social Media Outreach

Nonprofit organizations are the core of every community by assisting those within it and working towards a common good. However, they cannot exist without the consistent and generous support from donors. Word of mouth can only spread so far, and especially for small or new nonprofits, reaching out to people and persuading them to donate could seem like an impossible task. This is where social media steps in.

Social media is the cornerstone of generations new and old, bringing family, friends, and strangers together to share the hottest topics and trends. With the ability to go from a simple photo among friends to a worldwide viral sensation, social media has the ability to bring attention to your nonprofit fast, if implemented correctly. Now that we are in a national isolation period, most activities are canceled, and social media is booming more than ever, this is the perfect time to begin building your social media outreach or grow it even farther. Take a look at some ways nonprofits have built up their brand and how you can grow in this struggling time.

Find Your Audience

First and foremost, you have to know your audience inside and out to figure out the best way to market to them. See what type of audience you do have when it comes to donations and social media and if it aligns with your goal target market. If it does not, then you may have to rethink your mission, message, look, or outreach strategy.

Something important to remember is how versatile social media is. It is a great platform to spread the word, get people to participate in your cause, and increase fundraising. That’s why it is important to not only create content for the audience that is most attracted to your cause, but also to your donors. These two audiences could be very different so brainstorm ways to appeal both parties, whether that is by regularly rotating your content to target one specific target at a time, or finding a way to please multiple audiences with one general theme.

Take Girls Inc. for instance; they are a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering and inspiring girls and young women. Even though their mission is to help young girls, Girls Inc.’s social media has content that entertains a wide range of audiences; anything from pop culture references and shoutouts, to family events and inspirational quotes from history. Today, they have thousands of followers on the major social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Establishing who is listening and who you want listening will help you create the most effective marketing strategy and even overall business strategy.

Tell a Story

Once you have established your target audience, begin telling your story and what your nonprofit is all about. Don’t just explain how your nonprofit is making an impact; show it. Social media is all about images and videos nowadays. In fact, pictures and videos earn the highest engagement on social media platforms, with the latter being most preferred. Use these to show off what your company is all about and open up an opportunity for people to feel like they are with your organization rather than just in support of it.

Some creative ways that nonprofits do this is by posting videos and stories from their events, make memes that relate to their nonprofit, highlight employees that work within the organization, and share any media you are putting out there (e.g. articles). Storytelling will help establish your brand and helps donors and supporters put a face to the organization.

There are many unique ways that nonprofits can tell their own story while also standing out. DoSomething, a nonprofit that focuses on inspiring young individuals to become the leaders of social change, successfully reaches their teen target market through the means of popular culture and memes on social media. The content relates to the organization and/or teen lives in general and features attention-grabbing attributes such as bold colors and celebrity appearances.

Another common approach is by blasting short campaigns that can bring the community together. An Italian nonprofit called COORDOWN launched an incredibly successful campaign called “#DearFutureMom” for World Down Syndrome Day back in 2014. The campaign featured a video of people with Down Syndrome giving advice to future parents; it was shared across social media platforms to encourage other people to make their own videos. The video shortly went viral, getting over 8 million views, and brought parents and people in the community together to celebrate parenthood and Down Syndrome awareness.

By putting a face and personality to your organization, that establishes a reality that puts donors’ minds at ease. Being able to actually see what organizations do with their money helps people feel more secure and happy to donate, which in turn may raise donations.

Come Up with Creative Content

All social media platforms offer incredibly creative ways to show off your nonprofit and reach out to all sorts of different people. Instagram is known for its story capabilities and popularity; daily active Instagram stories users increased from 150 million in 2017 to 500 million worldwide in 2019 (Oberlo). Instagram stories have a plethora of interactive tools to make them creative and engaging, ranging from gifs and colorful pens to music and geotagging capabilities. Facebook is also popular for its stories feature, but it also has many great features within status creation, such as polls and photo editing.

If you are thinking about making a simple text post, stop right there! Because people are more likely to skip past text posts, turn your text into a work of art. There are plenty of applications out there that are simple and free to use to create vibrant posts to make your text stand out, such as Canva, Spark Post, and Momento.

Especially during this time of great change, uncertainty, and an inability to go out in the world and market your nonprofit, it is important to stay relevant and serve your mission virtually. Depending on what your nonprofit is and what kind of services it offers, you may be able to provide those services online. Tutorials, webinars, articles, and even silly content to spread positivity are just a few great ways to do this on social media.

The Guide Dog Foundation is a great example of coming up with creative content to increase fundraising. Being a nonprofit that provides guide and service dogs to people with special needs, they rely on donations to train and take care of their dogs. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and needing to place their dogs in foster care, money is urgently needed to help provide food, shelter, and around the clock care for their program dogs. To help push that, they do profiles of their service dogs on social media, describing the dog’s story and the impact it is making on someone’s life. Getting personal with followers and showing them this richly sentimental part of the organization is a widely used marketing strategy for nonprofits that could be of great success to you.

A social media app that has recently risen among the ranks is TikTok, a young platform that is entirely focused on video content and features similar features to Instagram and Facebook stories. The app originated in China in 2017 and has risen in popularity amongst several countries around the world. In the United States alone, there are 26.5 million active users on the app a month. TikTok has especially garnered the attention of teens and young adults, with about 50% of TikTok’s global audience being under age 34, so this is a go-to for nonprofits reaching for a young audience. Nonprofits have begun to jump onto the TikTok bandwagon because of its great potential to grow. TikTok is only a few years old, yet it already has an active following that is only growing.

Caenhill Countryside Centre, a charity in the United Kingdom that teaches children about farming and animals, uses the app everyday to create their own “rush hour” videos that features animals running out of their barn to the outside every morning. This simple concept has brought the nonprofit thousands of views and likes all around the world.

Girls Who Code is another nonprofit that has embraced TikTok and its access to their target market of teenagers. They created a video campaign, asking users to great videos of themselves writing an issue they are passionate about on their hand. For every video made for the organization, TikTok donated $1 towards the organization. The videos began the hashtag #RaiseYourHand, which brought in 21.1 million views on the platform.

Return the Favor

Getting a social media following is not a one-way transaction. You have to put in the effort back and engage with people to gain traction and see results. Follow sponsors, supporters, and local nonprofits to help each other out and spread the word. Online engagement is the new networking. Take a look at some notable hashtags that relate to your organization and like/comment on any posts that are relevant, impactful, and of interest to the organization. You could even share their post on your story or feed (with their permission, of course) if it is a post that will further promote your brand and improve networking relations.

Utilize Performance Tools

When it comes to increasing social media outreach, performance tools are your best friend. These valuable features offer personalized insight into how your page is performing, as well as information about any ads that you may be running. When an Instagram or Facebook page is set to be a professional profile, it offers the user free access to information about how their social media is doing to better improve content. Some information includes how many follows and likes you are getting in a particular amount of time, how many impressions you are getting, and much more.

If you like the idea of using performance tools, Google Analytics is a great source. It can be used for social media, apps, and your website, making it a valuable asset to growing an audience online. By linking your nonprofit website to it, you can see how many people view your site, how they interact with it, and what kind of audience you are getting. This is also an excellent source for figuring out who your audience is. You can even set up your Google Analytics goal to be “receiving a donation” by linking your closing page that appears after someone makes a donation. This will give you an added advantage to see if your marketing efforts are actually creating results.


By putting a stronger focus on marketing your nonprofit and developing a strategy that best fits your needs, you could increase donorship rates and awareness of your organization. If you are new to the digital marketing world, figuring out your audience is the first step to success. What type of audience are you aiming to help with your nonprofit, and what kind of audience tends to donate to a cause like yours?

Then, develop content that is engaging, interesting, but still emphasizes the message and mission of your nonprofit. Tell your organization’s story, get personal with your followers, and feel free to experiment. Consider engaging with donors, followers, and other local nonprofits to spread out and network. And if you want to push your strategy even further, utilize performance tools like Google Analytics. You would be able to make sure your strategy is actually working, if any changes need to be made, and if your donorship rates are actually going up.

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