DOs & DON’Ts of Social Media for Nonprofits

 In Digital Marketing, Social Media, Top Tips

It’s often difficult for nonprofits to utilize social mediabecause they’re doing so much good in their communities, it’s hard to find the time for marketing! However, we think digital is a great way to get people talking about the work nonprofits are doing, and we’ve seen organizations do great things online to raise money, get volunteers, or just let people know who they are. To make things easier for our friends and readers at nonprofits, here are our top DOs and DON’Ts of using social media:

DO tell stories. Emotional appeals are consistently more effective in terms of mobilizing people and getting them to engage than logical arguments and facts. Telling stories about your work, your staff and volunteers, and how you help your community, will engage your viewers and readers and invite them into whatever you’re doing, and leave them with a lasting impression. So whether you’re trying to mobilize people to act, engage volunteers, or just build a community, telling stories is one of the best ways to reach and engage people.

A great example of digital storytelling, though not a nonprofit, is Humans of New York. HONY’s popularity across the world shows that people are interested in the stories of the everydayespecially when they can relate or have an emotional reaction.

DO find your own voice. If you haven’t been on social media before for your brand, it’s not a bad idea to look at what others in your field are doing to interact and engage with their followers. However, it’s also important to find your own voice, even if it’s not what social media users will expect. Don’t try to be something you’re notbe authentic with your online community.

DO find your current supporters online. Even if you’ve never used social media for your organization before, it’s easy to find your current supporters online. Here are a few ways you can easily find your core community and build from there:

  • Advertise to your current contacts. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, make it very easy to upload your current contact list and find them on social. That way, you’ll not only be able to communicate with your existing community in a different way, but you also won’t waste your budget on people who don’t know or don’t care about your organization.
  • Showcase your new account to your current contacts in whatever way you usually communicate with them. If you got a new Facebook page, include it in your monthly email newsletter. If you want to tell your current Twitter followers that you’re now on Instagram, announce it and link to it. This is an easy, organic, and (most importantly) free way to find your community on a new platform.

DO showcase your work. Your online community, friends, and fans, want to know what you’re doing! Sharing the good work you do is one of the best ways to grow a community that will donate, volunteer, and tell others about your organization. So don’t be afraid to post about your work and brag a little. If you’re doing good work, people will want to be a part of it. Check out UNICEF’s Facebook Page for a great example of a nonprofit showcasing its good work.

DON’T be afraid to ask for things. Your online community cares about what you do. They share your values and care about the same causes that mobilize you. So when you need donations, volunteers, or even shares on a post to get the word out, don’t be afraid to ask. If you combine good stories, highlights of your work, and well-timed asks, you could see great results with little or no money spent. Here’s a great example from the World Wildlife Fund on Facebook:

DON’T try to be everywhere. Social media is a great opportunity, at no cost, to share about your organization and gain fans, donations, and volunteers. But that doesn’t mean you should try to use every platform available. Your organization also needs to look legitimate, which means you should make sure you really know how a platform workstechnically and sociallybefore you decide to start a presence. A bad, intermittent, or poorly kept up social media account can be detrimental to your imageand can even be worse than no presence at all.

DON’T feel like you need to follow trends. When it comes to online trends, we’ve all seen brands get it right, and brands that get it very, very wrong. Trend-following isn’t necessarily something you need to avoid at all costs, but it’s better to err on the side of caution than to jump in blindly. Social media trends come and go so quickly that it’s difficult to participate well and in a timely manner, and if you’re trying too hard to look like you’re appealing to social media users, it’ll show. 


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As CMG’s Crafter of Strategic Communication, Amy Libka combines strategy and creativity to help clients communicate as effectively as possible. She is passionate about clear, effective communication, and enjoys crafting messages that help individuals and groups achieve their goals. She specializes in creating content and managing digital advertising campaigns for a diverse group of clients.

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