How Nonprofits succeed on social media

May 7, 2018 - 9 minutes read

According to a recent survey, the average person has five social media accounts and spends over an hour browsing these networks every day. Social media may be a very competitive space but it is a fantastic platform for nonprofits to expand their reach. Through social media, nonprofits can tell their story, get people to volunteer, engage their supporters, and raise donations.

In this article, I will take you through 8 effective methods to increase your social media following, expand your reach, and succeed on social networks!

Divide your audience

Develop audience personas that categorize your ideal supporter base into volunteers, donors, and the people ready to share your message within their social network. Persona development helps you know your audience- who they are, where they are, and how to speak to them on a personal level. This will help you determine the right social channels for your cause and the posting schedule. With this information, you can create and promote content that aligns with the sentiments of your audience.

Use humor

Humor is key to grab the attention of your audience. It also projects an image that there are real people, with real personalities behind your content. Humour can boost your brand and create engagement if used incorrectly, it can cause people to unfollow you.

For example, Metro Trains Melbourne used humor to help prevent train injuries with their popular video ‘Dumb ways to die’.

10:10 is a charity that enables people to take action on climate change. In 2010, the organization released a short film called “No Pressure” a humorous fantasy about blowing up people (including children) who aren’t enthusiastic about reducing carbon emission. The film was removed from public circulation on the same day it was released due to negative press. This is an example of humor gone wrong.

Make use of videos

On an average, people watch at least one video every day. Videos are one of the most engaging pieces of content that you can post on social media. Videos also get more attention than a written article. Posting videos of volunteers participating in an event or attending a rally can be extremely persuasive as the viewers will be aware of what your organization does.

Example, The Robin Hood Foundation uses videos to tell the stories of their beneficiaries.

Use hashtags

Use chic hashtags to expand your reach and create awareness for your cause. Hashtags create a trend on a regular basis and you can spread your movement through its use. You can create hashtags like #DonateTuesdays to encourage donors to make a donation on a particular day. Here, you are using the momentum of an already popular hashtag to promote your cause.

For example, Just Be Inc. used #MeToo which provides empowerment through empathy to survivors of sexual assault, abuse, exploitation, and harassment. Millions of men and women responded, within days, with their own stories. This proves how important hashtags are to spring a movement.

Hashtags can be used to increase donations as well. Charity: water used #firstworldproblems to encourage the movement and to raise $42 million dollars.

Hold creative contests

Contests are a good way to increase your follower base and stimulate interest in a cause. People love winning and by hosting a contest you can keep people engaged. You can hold contests on your Facebook page or Instagram profile. It can be a like to win’ or ‘comment to win’ contest. Experiment with photo contests and caption contests to gauge which type of contests bring in more engagement.

Don’t give prizes unrelated to your organization; unrelated gifts will generate a lot of participation but not necessarily from the people who will become donors or volunteers. An ideal prize could be tickets for your event or a gala hosted by your organization. Don’t forget to thank the ones who didn’t win.

For example, Regence BlueCross BlueShield and Pro Photo Supply co-sponsored the Hearts in Nature photo contest to raise money and help the Dougy Center continue in their efforts to better the lives of grieving children.

Create a movement through Facebook profile pictures

The first thing people notice is your Facebook profile picture. It tells the viewer whether you’re boring, interesting, fun, artistic or smart. It stands as a statement in itself. Over the years, people have changed their profile pictures in support of several movements. Nonprofits can use this strategy to spread their influence and cause.

For example, The Human Rights Campaign launched their marriage equality campaign for which users changed their profile pictures to a pink or red equal sign to support same-sex marriage.

The HRC page shared a post asking Facebook users to support their cause. Within 24 hours, over 60,000 people shared their original post. The red sign was not just seen on Facebook, it migrated to Twitter and Instagram as well.


The best thing about selfies is that it generates content created by users. People love recognition for their good deeds. Donors can post selfies with the donation amount which acts as user-generated content. Using a hashtag along with selfies will make it easier to search for your posts.

For example, Made Man organization launched a campaign to support Career Gear. Career Gear is a nonprofit that supports low-income men.

As a part of the campaign, readers were asked to suit up and take a selfie with the hashtag #FormalFriday or #GentlemanUp. For every picture that they posted, $1 was donated to Career Gear to help men in need. The campaign raised thousands of dollars for the nonprofit in a day. It reached over 30 million users over social media. Other user-generated content includes the ALS ice bucket challenge which raised over $115 million dollars.

Use Snapchat

Average users spend 25 to 30 minutes daily on Snapchat, making it a great platform to spread your message. Snapchat stories can be used to promote your events and give details about it.

As Snapchat stories remain only for 24 hours, information will be up to the minute. You can use it to provide insider deets and ‘behind the scenes’ clips of an event. If your nonprofit works for animal safety you can send out a one-on-one snap of the rescued animals and volunteers working for your organization.

  • Geofilters, location-based filters, can be used to promote your event and it is a fun way through which users will know about your organization.
  • The Snapcash feature allows your followers to send money through Snapchat, which can be used as a powerful tool to raise online donations.
  • Snapcode can be used to grow your following, makes it easier for users to connect with your organization.

Nonprofits like Charity: water, Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace USA, LACMA and Ocean Conservancy are ruling Snapchat right now.

Social media is ever changing and it is important to keep up with the change. It provides access to donors, volunteers, and supporters. Your social media strategy will increase awareness, engagement and help raise money.

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