Strategy-Driven Social Media for Nonprofits

Nonprofit social media campaigns are an important part of any marketing strategy. Research shows Americans spend more time on social media than any other major internet activity, including email. And an impressive 81% of Americans have a profile on a social networking site. Simply put, social media is a huge part of our lives and the importance of utilizing it is ever increasing.

There are many reasons why nonprofits should incorporate social media into their strategies. Believe it or not, 43% of millennials are most inspired to give by social media compared with any other channel. In addition, more than half of social media users say they would “take the time to learn more about a charity if they see a friend post about it.”

With the right social media strategy, you can…

  • Increase brand/campaign awareness
  • Generate prospects
  • Expand your audience
  • Increase website traffic and search ranking
  • Grow loyalty and delight donors
  • Produce audience insights
  • Boost donations
  • Increase community participation
  • Cross-promote with other organizations

For nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike, social media success begins with a comprehensive strategy. From when you post and how to engage with audiences, to converting followers into donors, all aspects are equally important and must be included in your strategy.

How to Create a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

To help you get started, here’s a simple, practical approach to developing a social media plan for your nonprofit.

1. Establish Goals and Objectives
Goals are overarching and all-encompassing. Common goals are to increase reach or site traffic, generate leads, expand signups and conversions, and raise donations.

Objectives are specific and measurable steps you take to achieve a strategy. Use the following template to set S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) social media objectives. Let’s say your goal is to increase traffic to your website from social media. Your S.M.A.R.T. objective might look something like this: “Increase website traffic from social media by 20%, from 100,000 visitors to 120,000 visitors by July 15th, 2018.”

It’s important to use specific, realistic numbers to define your goal. Making it time-specific will help your team map out the necessary objectives to reach that goal by the target date.

2. Audit and Benchmark
Next, assess your current social media offerings and ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What is your current activity and with whom are you connecting?
  2. How much time do you have to dedicate to social media?
  3. What is your brand’s voice, tone and style?
  4. Are your current metrics and goals achievable and, if so, how?
  5. What are we trying to achieve through social media?
3. Choose Your Channels

Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are all wonderful for storytelling, while Twitter is ideal for conversations. Start by finding out which platforms are preferred by your target audience. It’s important to meet your audience where they are and focus on the platforms where you can achieve the most engagement.

The only way to see which platforms are best for your company and audience is to experiment. Post consistently, track performance, monitor keywords, and listen to your audience so you can make informed adjustments to your tactics along the way.

4. Define Your Tactics
Strategies define how you’re going to do something, while tactics are the action items — what you’ll do to reach your goal, meet the objective and fulfill the strategy. Here’s an example:

Goal: Involve more individuals under age 45 in our organization

Strategy: Use social media to reach more individuals with our message

Objective: Grow our social networks by 20% in the under 45 age demographic


  1. Showcase our current donors and volunteers in the target demographic
  2. Use images and testimonials
  3. Adjust the tone and messaging to speak to connect with the under 45 audience
  4. Ask our community to like and share our content
5. Create a Content Plan

Steven Shattuck at HubSpot explained that nonprofit social media messaging should focus on the “three A’s”:

  1. Appreciation: Recognize your donors, supporters, volunteers and employees
  2. Advocacy: Engage with and share the content of others
  3. Appeals: Solicit donations or help

Use these “three A’s” to map out your content plan. An effective content plan details the pieces of content you will promote and on which channels. Each piece of content should be relevant to your audience and communicate your mission and values.

Additionally, each piece of content should be tied to a goal within one of the “three A’s.” If your goal is to increase awareness, your objective could be to increase shares of your volunteer or donor appreciation posts on Facebook by a certain percentage.

Remember that you can use the same core content across each platform by simply adapting its format and tone. For instance, you might post a paragraph excerpt of a blog post on Facebook, link to the post on Twitter, and share a powerful image and caption on Instagram that directs users to read more on the blog.

6. Implement, Analyze and Adjust
A goal is just a dream if you don’t have a deadline. Create a realistic timeline, analyze successes and failures and adjust your tactics in pursuit of your goal.

As you move forward with your strategy, make sure each activity supports an overarching goal of your organization. Track how much time and money is invested in social media so that you can calculate the return on investment.

For example, if your goal is to increase donations, you would want to find out the lifetime value (LTV) of a donor and measure that against the cost of the social media activity required to convert a follower into a donor. Measure the cost of social media in terms of dollars spent boosting posts and the number of hours per week spent managing social media.

7. Collaborate and Create Communities
It’s not enough to have a great social media strategy and set about implementing it — you also need to collaborate with others, including two important groups: social media partners and social media advocates.

Social media partners are staff or select volunteers who post as your organization, primarily on a set schedule. These people are usually on-site and can post about events and activities.

Social media advocatesare individuals who frequently like and share posts as themselves and occasionally post to your organization’s social pages. They also share your stories to their own pages and encourage others to engage.

There are many other straightforward ways to build your online community:

  • Discuss and share ideas
  • Post polls and other interactive content
  • Listen — learn about your audience
  • Engage and ask questions — be part of the conversation
  • Build relationships with other organizations
  • Promote events and seasonal activities
  • Share resident and staff profiles

If your results aren’t exactly where you’d like them to be, fear not. Just remember the words of digital media entrepreneur Jay Baer: “Realize that the social media success equation isn’t big moves on the chessboard, it’s little moves made every day that eventually add up to a major shift.”

Every nonprofit is different and your social media strategies should be as well. If you have questions about the best strategy for your organization, let us know in the comment section below or send us a message.

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