Non-profit organization's social media and email marketing guide
Today, it’s impossible to deny the importance of social media and email as part of your marketing strategy as 74 percent of online adults use social networking sites and 61 percent using email. For a non-profit organization (NPO) it is also one of the few marketing avenues that will not cost a lot of money. In fact, unless you pay into ads social media and email marketing is completely free. Even when you are paying into the available social ads, you are potentially getting 20 times the exposure through paid social amplification versus traditional ads. Of course there are many other benefits they offer your NPO such as:

  • Interaction – There’s no better outlet for you and your audience to connect with each other in real-time than social media. It is one of the many reasons it has become so popular among businesses and consumers alike. Both sides can get immediate feedback on any questions or concerns they pose. This level of personal interaction also helps build up relationships and connections much faster than traditional advertising.
  • Awareness – With over 1 billion websites online and counting, it can be difficult to let the public know what your NPO is doing. Social media is a great way to increase your visibility as you can reach billions of people worldwide. Facebook alone boasts over 1.35 billion users and even if you only reach a fraction of all users, you are building awareness faster than traditional methods. Email lists, on the other hand, might not necessarily reach a huge segment of the population, but they are the ones who are already interested in you NPO so are more willing to convert. In fact email marketing is still very useful as it boasts a 54 percent effective rate.
  • More Traffic – Most people generally only turn to a NPO’s site if they want to donate or take part in a specific cause. This means they are only thinking of your company periodically. With 70 percent of social media users checking their profiles daily and 66 percent checking their emails multiple times a day, a strong digital presence can keep people updated on recent news which can ultimately drive traffic to your site.

Of course, just a social media account and newsletter signup option doesn’t mean you will automatically attract a huge following. Nowadays, you are not only competing with other businesses, but your users’ family members and friends.

Tell a Story

Storytelling human emotion for non-profit organization marketing
As an NPO, your cause and story is what attracts people to your business. And yet NPO’s are notorious for not storytelling. Maybe it’s because they are uncomfortable talking about themselves or maybe they don’t like showing off the good work they’ve done. Either way, this inability to spin a great story about the good work they have done prevents many from attracting and retaining a larger audience on their social media sites. There are five common story types that NPO’s can use:

  • Values and Ethics – These illustrate the core concepts of your NPO and how your company has lived up to its values. When done well, it helps people identify with your organization.
  • Social Proof – Show how your business has impacted others through your work. Get influential people like politicians, local celebrities or CEOs that support your organization to speak about it.
  • Founder – More than anything, people want to know the person behind the organization. They want to understand why you started it, who it benefits and their experiences getting it off the ground. It’s an excellent way to humanize your company.
  • Improvement – Every business has infinite room for growth and improvement so it’s important you show that your company isn’t stagnant. Show how your NPO has changed over the years or illustrate how you hope to improve in the future.
  • Impact – These are by far the most important as potential investors and donors want to see exactly how your NPO has positively improved a certain cause. They don’t need to be fancy, but they do need to be sincere. Numbers and statistics are also a great way to show how much impact your business has made over the years.

“And yet NPO’s are notorious for not storytelling.”

Be Clear in Your Request

Simple, cleaned and to the point fundraising messages for non=profit organizations
As an NPO, your lifeline is based on the generosity of others so don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether for donations or to simply spread the word to others. The important part is to make it clear what exact action you want visitors to take. A clear call-to-action button that employs action-oriented language can potentially increase your click through rate by 211%. As well, you should notify your audience of your exact needs: do you need money, want people to attend an event, etc.? The more specific you are the better your chances of catching people’s eyes and getting them involved.

Cross Promote

Social Media Follow Buttons
Example of different styles of social media follow buttons.

If you’re on more than one social media channel you should promote your other profiles as well. Of course, if you’re sharing the exact same content across all of your profiles, there’s no reason for people to follow all of them so it’s important that they all offer something a little different. For example, your Facebook can focus more on the human interest side of your NPO while your Instagram could show more on your company culture. A good cross-promotion strategy should include a link to the account you’re promoting, a good value proposition and a dash of humor if it aligns with your brand image. You shouldn’t spam your profiles with cross-promotion updates daily, but an occasional nudge can help boost your numbers. You should, however, always add follow buttons in your email newsletters to remind your subscribers that you have a presence elsewhere online.

User Engagement

The new era of marketing focuses on interacting with your audience and forge real connections, not to just promote your business or cause. Of course, the bulk of your interaction will be on social media sites. An informal study reports that 48 percent of Twitter followers will unfollow a person if they self-promote too much. The days where businesses could simply talk at their audience are gone and it is increasingly becoming a consumer-driven world. Even in the world of NPO’s people do not want to be harassed by daily posts asking for donations. To create a stronger relationship you need to engage your audience. Some simple ideas include:

  • Responding to both positive and critical comments
  • Sharing/favoriting  updates from your followers or from people using your hashtag
  • Posting your appreciation to those that have donated to your cause
  • Asking your followers for feedback
  • Promote other organizations or individuals related to your cause

E-Newsletters Tips

Running a social media campaign and an email campaign might share many similar aspects, but you need to approach each one a little differently. While social media might be the more popular choice, email newsletters are still very effective. Unfortunately, many businesses still have not mastered the art of a good e-newsletter. The components of a successful e-newsletter include:

  • Catchy Subject Line – The average email users receives 70 messages a day. If your subject line doesn’t catch their eye your newsletter will be quickly deleted or, worse yet, marked as spam. The subject line should tell them exactly what the email contains and should also be short. A study shows that those between 6-10 words have a higher open rate.
  • Relevant News – Your readers don’t care about your last meeting minutes or your quarterly budget. What they really want to see is what your company has accomplished or strides you’ve taken towards a goal. Highlight some activities that you have completed thanks to the help of your supporters or, if you need more help, let show them what you intend to use their money for. Images and firsthand accounts can go a long way in increasing loyalty.
  • Images – A newsletter with images has a 42 percent higher click-through-rate than those that do not. Powerful and relevant images to accompany your text can give readers a good idea of what to expect from your article.
Woman reading newsletter on iPhone
Image by Sebastiaan ter Burg

Social Media Tips

Engaging in social media is a double-edged sword. The benefits of increased visibility and reach can backfire if you do not approach it carefully. Always double or triple check your posts and look up trending hashtags to make sure that they are align with your company’s message. Besides this you should also:

  • Not post too much – While each different platforms have a different standard, the most important thing to remember is to keep the amount of posts you make in check. People will unfollow if you post too much as they will start to see your updates as spam.
  • Not post too little – Conversely you shouldn’t let your social profiles become dormant. If you are on so many platforms that you cannot post at least once a day, it might be time to cut a couple out.
  • Check in on your competition – It’s always a good idea to see what others in your field are doing especially on social media. See where they are succeeding and failing and then implement that into your strategy.


Appreciate Your Supporters

More than anything else though, you should show your appreciation to your supporters across all of your channels. It shows them that you value their generosity, which goes a long way in building brand loyalty. The more loyal your supporters, the more likely they are to refer their friends and family to your company. And since 92 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations above all other forms of media, building brand trust and loyalty is the best way to increasing your reach.