Social media marketing planning for nonprofit organizations

You make appeals on Facebook, share photos on Instagram. You participate in a little back-and-forth about timely issues on Twitter and, sometimes, you post links to your latest press releases. On Facebook and Twitter. You’re rocking the social media!


Well, not exactly.

Social media is part of the fabric of life these days. Every business, it seems, has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog. Every business does not, however, use social media in the most strategic and effective ways. This is especially true for non-profit organizations where the upside of social media activity can be a boost in donations. Too often, there is no strategy behind the activity and social media becomes relegated to the post-when-we-remember-to category of marketing. But with almost 70% of U.S. adults using some type of social media in 2016, and the UNC School of Government reporting that one in five U.S. adults donated online in the past five years, non-profits can no long afford a willy-nilly approach to social media marketing.

You can elevate your social media activity with a little effort and the same strategic thinking that you put into creating your offline marketing plans and fundraising appeals. Today, let’s look at five simple steps to create a rocking social media strategy for your non-profit organization.

1. Create a solid social media plan

Do you want your Facebook posts to help you recruit new volunteers? Are you trying to attract younger donors through Instagram? Is issue-awareness your main social media goal? Whatever you want to achieve with your social networks, a solid plan is integral to your success. You should approach your social media plan just as you would other elements of your overall marketing plan: Tie your actions and activities to SMART goals for best results.

SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based

SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based – will give you the framework to stay on track, which is important in an area like social media where the next new thing can easily distract you from your goals. They will also allow you to analyze the efficacy of your activities and refine as necessary.

Importance of social media policy for nonprofit organizations

2. Bolster your plan with a policy

Who is going to respond to the trolls that leave nasty comments on your CEO’s Facebook Live video? Is everyone in the marketing department permitted to answer questions that follow Twitter posts? If you don’t know the answers to questions like those, then you need to create a social media policy. Identify who does what in your organization’s social media world, and, using your social media plan as a guideline, define the type and tone of content that will be posted, shared, and discussed.

3. Focus on content

According to Abila’s recent Donor Engagement Study, “Rich content, tuned to the interests of the donor, is essential for organizations to keep donors engaged. Hearing personal stories, getting updates on accomplishments, and being thanked make donors feel far more involved than the channel used to engage makes them feel.” Basically, don’t worry so much about whether your donors respond better to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Concern yourself with putting out quality content. If you’re just getting started with social media, pick one or two networks for your focus.

Then, put your efforts into consistently sharing quality written and visual content. Some of what you share can and should be material from others (re-posting relevant articles on Twitter or Facebook, sharing photos from your volunteers on Instagram, for example) but you also want to offer original content that conveys your organization’s mission and how prospective donors and volunteers can make a difference by getting involved with you.

Social media marketing service for Silicon Valley nonprofits, colorful rich content
Rich, colorful media helps improve engagement with your content.

If your organization doesn’t have the resources to create intriguing images for Instagram or develop persuasive personal stories for your blog, consider out-sourcing those tasks. Content developers that focus on social media can be a boon to non-profit organizations because their expertise will often lead to increased online visibility. Good content developers will write SEO posts that rank high in search results, and will make recommendations about the best hashtags to use when sharing your social media content.

4. Accept money easily

It isn’t enough to simply be active, sharing all of that rich content on social media. If your goal is to raise money, you need to be prepared to accept it.

Think on this: According to Blackbaud Institute’s Annual Giving Report, online giving grew almost 8 percent in 2016, with online donations making up 7.2 percent of all fundraising that year. People want to give when they are moved to do so. If you make a compelling case for donations on your blog, you want to capture potential donations right there and then. Give people an easy-to-find, easy-to-use way to donate to you from all of your social media accounts. Accept digital payments and be sure that all processes surrounding online donations are streamlined and user-friendly. Don’t turn-off potential donors because they couldn’t find the “donate now” button!

While you’re creating that easily navigable donation process, keep mobile donations in mind. The Blackbaud report shows that almost 17 percent of all donations in 2016 were made on a mobile device, and that number is likely to continue to increase.

5. Integrate, integrate, integrate

Lastly, let no social media account stand alone. And let no offline marketing channel operate in a 20th century vacuum. In other words, make sure all your marketing – social media, web site, email, direct mail, in-person meetings – operates in an integrated fashion. Use your social media accounts to build your email list. Use your email newsletters to drive traffic to your web site. Use your web site to convert prospects to donors or engage volunteers. Whenever possible, be sure to promote your presence by adding social network follow buttons on your web site and to e-mail newsletters, linking your social media accounts to each other, and highlighting those accounts in your print material. Make it easy for people to follow you and they’ll be more likely to do it.

By focusing on your plan first, identifying what you want from your social media activity, and then providing value through the content you share, you’ll find your social media accounts will start working for you.

Longtime donors and brand-new prospects alike will respond to your efforts and you’ll be able to announce, for real this time, that you are a truly rocking the social media world.