I’ve been a part of my community’s nonprofit sector for nearly a decade. One thing I’ve learned is that nonprofits operate very differently from one another. Some are very small grassroots organizations while others operate as businesses with marketing and advertising budgets. One thing that almost all the nonprofits in my mid-size town have in common is that there is never someone on the payroll who is 100% dedicated to social media. I’ve seen social media put on everyone’s plate from the Executive Director to the accounting department.
With social media constantly being added to another department’s never-ending list of to-dos, social media is continually put on the back burner. It’s an afterthought; something that everyone means to do more of but sometimes the rest of life just gets in the way. Hey, when it comes to managing my own social pages I can definitely say I’ve been guilty of this too.
Here’s the problem with that: The value of social media for nonprofits is HUGE.
Social media is a free tool (well, technically free, but more in a minute on why you should be budgeting for ads) and most of us are using it already anyway. My goal with this blog post is to make things easier for you. Help guide you out of the weeds and set a clear path towards the things you should focus on with your social media presence. There are a lot of fancy looking programs, channels and just plain gimmicks out there trying to convince you their product will make your social presence grow. Increase your donor engagement by 100%. Recruit 200 volunteers in a month. Knowing what’s legit and what to focus on can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when social media is such a small part of your job.
While operating my clients’ social media channels with small budgets, I’ve learned the tricks of the trade, scoured the web for methods that are affordable and mostly free that help make my clients happy and my life easier. I’ve rounded up the practices that I think every nonprofit should follow when it comes to social media.
Pick your channels and stick with them.
I’m going to say this right away in case you tune out soon. You don’t need to be on every channel. In fact, you likely shouldn’t be on every channel. You might think, shouldn’t my organization be everywhere it possibly can be? Before creating an account for the next latest and greatest social platform, answer these questions first:
- Is your prospective audience using that channel?
- Do they want to hear from you on that channel?
- Can you curate appropriate, engaging content for that channel?
- Or, will you post for the sake of posting and have your news go unnoticed?
Let me use an example so you get where I’m going.
Instagram. It’s been around for a while and considered an essential when it comes to documenting your personal social life. With that said, I don’t recommend it for every one of my clients. Instagram content relies heavily on imagery that will catch your audience’s attention as they are scrolling and multitasking. It’s ever-changing and adding new features, with the stories feature possibly more crucial than the feed for client engagement. So, when a client asks if they should be on Instagram or any other channel I ask these questions:
“What content do you want to produce and share? And more realistically, what content are you ABLE to produce and share?”
If you aren’t able to show photos of the work you’re doing due to client confidentiality, if you’re not a client facing agency or if you just don’t have the staff with the know-how to capture great photos, growing your Instagram page is going to be tough. I’m not saying it’s not possible but when you’re already operating at and giving 110% in other areas, it’s better to focus on other channels that make life easier. Plus, Instagram isn’t completely out of the question, more on that in a second.
So, channels are chosen. It’s time to curate content.
How often do I post on social media? Do I post every day?
The age-old question. And one where the answer changes over time. I’ve stuck with this saying for over a year now and it is how I recommend everyone live their social media life. Quality over quantity. Don’t post just to post. I have every intention to post every day for my clients and when planning out the month I try to fill in every day, but when a few days are left blank, I don’t stress about it.
It is so much better for your content to be useful, relevant and aesthetically pleasing than attempt to slap something together because it’s 5:08 pm and you haven’t posted anything that day.
Think about yourself and your habits when it comes to following organizations and businesses on social media. I bet we’ve all hit the unfollow/unlike/hide button more than once because an organization was too sales-pitchy or taking over your feed. We all like to hear from our favorite brands and local organizations but let’s be real, what really drives us to social media are memes, pet videos, and photos our friends and family share. I’m not saying post memes and funny videos on your organization’s page, but I am saying make sure when you do post it is high-quality, relevant and something your audience would find helpful and interesting.
Long story short: There are tons of blog articles telling you how often to post and when, but if you’re doing the posting yourself, I’d stick to the rule of once a day on all pages.
Now, although I’m suggesting just posting once a day, I’m by no means saying post and log off. Reply to comments, socialize on other companies’ and organizations’ posts, respond to your messages quickly. Post a story on Instagram if you’re doing something cool. It is important to look responsive and commenting and supporting others makes you look like a positive upbeat part of the community– something all nonprofits should strive for.
Tell your story
The annual report and appeal used to be a nonprofit’s big time to shine; when an organization sets aside a printing budget and invests in finding the best way to tell their story. These two pieces of collateral are HUGE and arguably the most important a nonprofit organization produces each year. Finding stories and figuring out how best to highlight your work and convince donors to give and support your agency is stressful and hard. Thankfully, things have changed and while these two pieces are still incredibly important (as a graphic designer nothing gets my heart pumping faster than thinking about an annual report layout), it’s not your only opportunity to share your stories.
Think of your social media as annual appeal and report practice. Tell stories.
Tell more stories on social media than your annual report and appeal will allow. The best thing you can do with your social media pages is to share testimonials, success stories and what’s working at your organization. Use images, preferably real photos when you can to help tell the story and always, ALWAYS, direct these posts to a donate button.
Donations aside, telling stories lets you share your story in an interesting way. It lets users connect with your organization. And if they are looking for services, sharing stories can reduce stigma and create a welcoming culture where anyone will feel comfortable asking for help.
When you share stories and heartwarming photos you are increasing your chances of that post being shared as this type of content is usually more engaging. This will ultimately increase your audience and more importantly your donor, volunteer and client base.
So, what else should you post on social media?
Posting photos from your agency and sharing stories are an awesome start to creating high-level content on your page. When you run out of stories and photos here are some other ideas to keep your page relevant and engaging:
- Staff Highlights: Post monthly highlighting the staff in your organization. These posts highlight the culture of your organization and often times friends of that staff member will engage in the content as well, increasing your reach.
- Organization Key Dates: Share information about upcoming workshops, program openings, enrollment deadlines, and fundraising events.
- Share Articles: Be a resource for your audience and share relevant information about the area you work in. Work with children? Share empowering youth development articles or tips parents can use at home.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Sometimes people are wanting to volunteer but don’t know where to look. Bring the opportunity to them.
- Statistics about your Organization: Remember all that data you collected for your annual report? That’s a social media campaign, my friend.
Spend Money to Get Money: The need for ads on social media
Okay, so we covered how to use social media and what to post. Now is the time when I have a real talk with you. Creating engaging content will create home runs for your agencies. But paying for ads will be a grand slam. I’m not saying you need to pay for everything you post, or even throw $100 at a post. I’m talking $20 or less when you know it’s a good post.
Here’s a checklist to determine when to boost a post or create an ad:
1. Are people already liking it?
Don’t pay for a post that isn’t engaging. It won’t do the job.
2. How important is the news?
I tend to budget more for content geared towards fundraising and memberships. When I say more, I am talking $20. For general awareness content, you can make a pretty big splash spending $5. These suggestions are assuming you’re a local community organization. The bigger your audience (state and national level) the bigger your budget.
Okay. So I’ve said it. Advertising is needed. Maybe awhile back you saw that commercial from Facebook about how they’re going back to their roots and showing you more of what you actually want to see, your friends and family. That doesn’t just mean they’re getting rid of “fake news”. It means you have to pay to play to move up in those algorithms. In my next post, I’ll cover more on paid advertising and social analytics – why you need them and how to use them.
Did this post inspire but overwhelm you at the same time?
I can help with that! From a content brainstorm to taking over all aspects of your social media presence, I’m here to help. Drop me a line and let’s get the ball rolling.