21 Ways Non-Profits Can Leverage Social Media

social media how toLike their for-profit brethren, many non-profits understand that using social media can help them reach and engage their audience, create momentum and build community.

However, there’s uncertainty around how to create a sustainable social media campaign, although the tools are plentiful and often free.

Here are 21 ways non-profits can leverage social media:

#1: Use a blog to tell your story

Treat your blog like the digital printing press that it is. Use text, photos and videos to tell stories of the people you’ve helped, those who are still suffering and the impact you’re having on the community or the world.

United Way blog story

Engage your audience with storytelling on your blog.

#2: Make sure your stories are shareable

Use tools like the retweet button, Facebook like button, and Share This to allow your blog visitors to quickly share your story with their networks.

#3: Make it easy to subscribe to your stories

Make your RSS feed impossible to miss by putting it “above the fold” and highlighting it. Since RSS isn’t as widely adopted as it could be, make sure you use a third-party RSS feed provider with RSS to email options like Feedburner, Feedblitz or AWeber.

#4: Use video to tell your story

Videos of volunteers building a house or driving a school bus to collect school supply donations can be incredibly persuasive. Be sure to leverage YouTube’s Nonprofit Program that offers such benefits as call-to-action overlays, listing on the nonprofit channels and the ability to drive fundraising through a Google Checkout “Donate” button.


Donate links can be embedded right in your videos.

#5: Create a Facebook page for your non-profit

Organizations doing good works are infinitely more “likeable” than traditional businesses, so get involved with the half-billion–plus people currently using Facebook. Make your page more engaging by including a custom-designed, branded landing page that includes photos and video. Make sure your wall is set to show posts not just from your organization, but also from your fans so they’ll be more likely to engage you.

For more detailed information on tricking out your Facebook page, read How to Customize Your Facebook Page Using Static FBML.

#6: Get into the Facebook news feed

“The future of Facebook is the feed,” says social media consultant Jaica Kinsman. In other words, people may not visit your page every day, but they may see your news in their news feed. Getting people to like or comment on your Facebook content improves the chances that more people will see it in their feed, an algorithm referred to as “EdgeRank.” TechCrunch goes into more detail about Facebook’s EdgeRank here.

#7: Post photos or videos, and “tag” volunteers

You can take photos of fundraisers, blood drives and bean suppers (popular here in Maine!), post them to your Facebook page and tag volunteers to thank them for their help. This will draw attention to their good work and spread your message to their friends. Use this strategy judiciously. This can also work on Flickr, but it doesn’t have the same reach as Facebook.

Tagging volunteers shares their contribution with their friends.

#8: Create a Facebook Group for your cause

Facebook Groups have some advantages over Fan pages, such as the ability to send emails to members. Although there’s some chance you might be diluting your non-profit brand, you could create a group around your cause, whether that cause is to end poverty, feed the homeless or support women’s rights worldwide.

#9: Use Facebook ads to raise awareness

Goodwill Industries of Northern New England used targeted Facebook ads using gender, age and location filters to affordably promote new store openings. Calvin Gilbert, who runs much of Goodwill NNE’s social media, reported that they used Facebook exclusively to promote the opening of a store in South Portland. The ad campaign netted them 929 new fans, 2,776 clicks to the Facebook page, and created a record turnout at the grand opening.

#10: Use Facebook Events and LinkedIn Events to spread the word

Events are easy to share and get further promotion as people RSVP.

These powerful social networks allow you to promote your events for free and make it easy for people to share events with friends and colleagues.

#11: Use Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places to promote your events

Alex Steed, a consultant to non-profits, recommends creating events on popular location-based apps and having volunteers check in as they arrive. This is a good idea for conferences, but also for things like clearing trails, purpose-driven marches and volunteer beach cleaning events.

For more advice on promoting your event, check out 12 Ways to Promote Your Event with Social Media.

#12: Go local with Twitter’s advanced search

Since many non-profits do their best work close to home, it’s important to listen to local conversations. Use the Advanced Search at Twitter to find, listen to, and engage with nearby “tweeple.” At a meeting with a non-profit organization last year, one of the board members told a story where someone he was following on Twitter was sharing how he was being unfairly evicted from his apartment. The board member reached out to him and got him the information he needed to avoid eviction.

#13: Start conversations around hashtags

If your audience is active on Twitter, start a conversation around a hashtag to get people talking, whether it’s #climatechange, #endhunger or #beatcancer.

#14: Ask for the retweet

Metrics show that when you end a tweet with “please RT!” you’re more likely to get people to retweet your message. Since most non-profits are cause-based, a “please retweet” request seems less self-serving. Still, use judiciously.

#15: Create a banner that stakeholders can add to their avatars

Twibbon

Let your followers carry your message forward with every tweet.

Whether adding a green tint to support democracy in Iraq, the yellow LIVESTRONG banners or ribbons of every color for every cause imaginable, people love to wear their causes on their sleeves or at least on their avatars. Services like Twibbon make it easy to jump into.

#16: Use Eventbrite to handle event registration and money collection

Although there are many event marketing tools out there, Eventbrite has one of the easiest-to-use interfaces out there, and has plenty of built-in social media sharing tools. They also offer a non-profit discount.

Eventbrite

Take advantage of Eventbrite’s non-profit discount and put the savings to good use!

#17: Find potential board members on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is full of successful entrepreneurs with non-profit board experience. Be sure to join local or cause-based LinkedIn Groups and start engaging with future board members now.

#18: Improve conversations and collaboration with a wiki

Many non-profits must overcome the challenge of an all-volunteer board whose members are spread out through the region or even throughout the country. Other non-profits struggle without a physical office space. By using a free or inexpensive wiki, board members can be kept up-to-date on changes and work collaboratively from remote spots.

#19: Put your presentations online with SlideShare

SlideShare

Your presentations can be viewed, shared and embedded through SlideShare.

If your organization puts on presentations to raise awareness and increase donations, make that work go further by posting your slides to SlideShare, the “YouTube of presentations.”

#20: Get more out of your photos with Flickr for Good

Flickr for Good

Get more out of Flickr for your non-profit with a free Pro account.

Flickr, the popular photo-sharing site, is donating 10,000 one-year Pro accounts to non-profits. You can learn more at their Flickr for Good page.

#21: Use Google Grants to drive traffic to your website, blog and other social media presences

Laura Quinn of Idealware recommends that non-profits apply for Google Grants, a program from Google that gives approved non-profits thousands of dollars of free sponsored ads in Google search results. She goes into more detail in How Non-Profits Can Promote Themselves Online.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’ve been using social media to promote your non-profit or cause, please share your success with the non-profit community in the comments box below.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Rich Brooks

Rich is president of flyte new media, podcasts at The Marketing Agents, and founded The Agents of Change conference. He helps small businesses succeed through search, social & mobile marketing. Other posts by »




More Info
  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    This is just plain ol’ great advice not only for non profits but for anyone. I see commercial blogs who miss an opportunity to social-share, slideshare, eventbrite, etc.

    Nice round up, thnx :-)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Dino, I think Rich did a great job on this post

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Thanks, Dino. What I often recommend non-profits do is re-imagine themselves as entrepreneurs with a mission. Too often we get caught in old ways of doing things because they always worked.

  • http://twitter.com/kniahynyckyj Roman Kniahynyckyj

    Rich this is awesome advice. Every item on here will bring value to both non-profits and for profits. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Thanks, Roman. I had a lot of good resources (including friends in the non-profit world) who made this post possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1168794993 Jennifer Iacovelli Barbour

    Great advice, Rich. Crossroads for Women has been able to reach a broader audience using a lot of these techniques. Many NPOs, especially in the mental health and addiction fields, have been cautious with social media because of the anonymity factor that goes along with treatment. But, it can be done. You can broaden your support base and gain donors in a very subtle, but powerful way.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Yes, depending on your mission some of the tools may be more difficult to use, or have a smaller impact. However, there are definitely tools out there for any non-profit to take advantage of.

  • http://www.emerkirrane.com Emer Kirrane

    This is great – I just finished an Analysis Exchange project (free site analysis for non-profits: http://www.analysis-exchange.com) and it was great to be able to share this.

  • http://barbaraling.com/ Barbara Ling

    Terrific advice for everyone, not just non-profits! It’s definitely a GEMALERT and should be on everyone’s must-read list (I like the LInkedIn idea too – that’s a new one!).

  • http://www.gamepricebreak.com/ Calvin Gilbert

    Very true. With non profits, social media strategies should never violate HIPAA guidelines or patient privacy.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonHartline Jason Hartline

    This is absolutely amazing advice. What I found most useful is that this information can be utilized across the spectrum of a great social media campaign that starts with a blog. Although some may be difficult to utilize, it definitely points in the right direction.

  • Jsable

    An FYI, my company Moontoast provides a software platform which, amongst many client applications, has been used to fundraise through auctions (or software can also support donations). As an example, NasH2O is raising funds for musical artists who suffered damages to their instruments during a huge flood that hit Nashville this past spring. The NasH2O community was able to rally support from many well known artists who donated to the auction and have posted supportive messages to engage their fans and followers in the program. You can see the site here – http://nash2o.moontoast.com/. While this type of program will not make sense for all NPOs I am sure that this can be a great program for many. Please let me know if I can answer any questions.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    It’s nice to hear that for profits can take advantage of a lot of the tips in here, too!

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Jason, I find that the blog is the centerpiece of any good web marketing campaign. To increase online visibility you need to increase your search and your social optimization, and a blog does double duty.

  • http://www.olinhyde.com Olin Hyde

    Great advice that is difficult for most non-profits to follow. It takes consistent time and effort to reap the rewards of social media. The overwhelming majority of charities focus precious resources on achieving immediate results — development efforts go towards generating donation from individuals, etc. Adding social media responsibilities to an overburdened staff misses the point of social media — it can be sourced from the crowd of existing supporters.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Awesome post with great pointers for anyone using social media. The avatars can be quite powerful – I know when I see them come through my HootSuite stream, I always have to ask what they are for. Talk about building awareness!

  • http://elainefogel.net/ Elaine Fogel

    Great stuff here, Rich and Michael. Funny, I blogged about nonprofits and social media today, too. Although I agree with these tactics, organizations MUST develop a social media strategy first based on their strategic and marketing plans. Otherwise…
    Why Nonprofits are Wasting Time on Social Media
    http://elainefogel.net/2010/11/02/why-nonprofits-are-wasting-time-on-social-media/

  • http://KyleClouse.com/ Kyle Clouse

    Rich, their is a lot of good information here; and not just for non profits. Social Media is so powerful in building brand awareness and credibility.

    We are reaching a point where some will not do business with you unless you have a social presence because they don’t see you as credible.

    What about building apps. Would that be beneficial to non profits?

  • http://www.stilettomillionaires.co.uk Stiletto Millionaires

    This is a great article it is quick and to the point with the information contained. Every business needs to be aware of the value of using social media tools for business.

  • http://www.sincerelymarketing.com Judd Callender

    Signature Ads for NonprofitsArticle posted on Thursday, June, 10th, 2010 at 1:55 pm
    Using email signatures to promote a nonprofit or charity is brilliant.

    Assume that participants promote the ads on their personal email. Most people easily send 100 emails per month on their personal email, which is over 1,000 per year. If 1,000 people would promote a charity in their email, that would be 1,000,000 emails and 1,000,000 impressions of the ad promoting the nonprofit. Can you imagine what the charity would spend to get 1M impressions on Google AdWords? Its a terrific idea for nonprofits and has the potential to change the way they advertise.

    Advantages of this program would be: http://blog.sincerelymarketing.com/?p=22

  • http://crowdbooster.com/ Ricky Yean

    I think social media help make nonprofit causes come alive in different ways. Most nonprofits have stories that people can easily relate to and the content is much more likely to be shared. Nonprofits should find social media exciting not only because it’s “cheap” (it is, relatively), but because it’s a great way to tell stories while building an audience.

    Good job Rich for coming up with 21 ways nonprofits can tell stories using social media.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    That’s a great point, Olin, that a non-profit staff is often overburdened. However, while you can benefit from supporters contributing, you can’t expect them to do all the work for you. Social media is something that you need to take on AND give your staff–paid or volunteer–the resources and the time to get done.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Thanks for the link; I’ll have to check it out.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Kyle, apps are definitely hot, so there’s some benefit to getting something out there. But like anything else, they take time and money. If the app is the best way to spend limited resources, then absolutely. Just make sure that the app is helping your non-profit get its message across.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Storytelling is severely underrated as a tactic of getting people to take action. Social media–be it blogging, tweeting or Facebooking, (is that a verb yet?)–is a great platform to tell your story.

  • Umesh

    Thanks Michael, This is too good. I sincerely appreciate this article & your efforts. This one and the last one on “United breaks my guitar” articles made me more excited. First in the morning, I will be looking for your newsletter. Its worth it..- Umesh, Bengaluru (Formerly Bangalore), India

  • sherrina

    Awesome info! Thanks. I think we practice about 70% of the said tips but we definitely gonna focus on the 30% to fully utilize social media for good cause. Thumbs up!

    http://www.weheartall.org

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    That’s great! But don’t spread yourself too thin. Better to do 70% at 100% than 100% at 70%. #justsayin :)

  • Mohd Shahnawaz

    The problem is Facebook disabled landing page for non-profits (I am registered as non-profit) . There isn’t any options.

  • Vicki Corson

    Really great list Rich. One note: many non-profits have a policy/political component so it’s also very important to target the government audience that has any influence on the non-profit. Getting the message out to federal, state and local politicos is just as important as reaching the audience that will donate money to the cause.

  • http://www.aaroneden.com/ Aaron Eden

    Wow, I never knew about Google Grants. Thanks for sharing these valuable tips, especially for non profits struggling to make ends meet out there in their passion to do something good for the society, et al.

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Wow, I hadn’t heard that. I know of a lot of non-profits using Facebook…I wonder if they registered as something else. Has anyone else run into this issue?

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    With so many politicians realizing the power of social media (especially after Obama’s win 2 years ago), social media is one more tool with which to reach them. Great point, though!

  • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks therichbrooks

    Yeah, kuddos to Laura Quinn of Ideaware for that one…I saw her speak at a presentation about non-profits which is where I learned that tip.

  • Therese

    As a former fundraiser and event planner for two large public health non-profits, these were excellent tips. I also wanted to point out that Eventbrite is just ONE of many great event tools out there and there are a ton of online fundraising software out there as well. I worked with the Kintera platforms which is really great and a lot of the fundraising walk events use this software. I don’t work for Kintera but just sharing my experience with the software.

    Another area I’d like to point out with non-profits (and any company, for that matter) is make sure you have a viable rep. from your organization who is posting your updates and handling your social media campaigns. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the branding broth and non-profits can’t afford to have their reps tainted (especially right now during these tough times trying to raise money) If non-profit fundraisers aren’t on board with social media marketing, they are losing out big time. I know some small non-profits who refuse to get on board with Facebook, etc. and it shows by their lack of funds raised.

    As an online marketing consultant and copywriter, I can’t stress enough the importance of building relationships with social media. That’s what non-profits and fundraising are all about – building relationships and spreading the word about your mission/cause. YES, tell your story and your volunteers’ stories and share via video. Video is huge – even before social media caught on when I was a fundraiser we used video all the time from our events to share with potential donors and volunteers. Wow – they were always blown away and had tears in their eyes!

    Great article, Rich!

  • http://charliethemarketer.com/who-am-i/ CharlieSeymourJr

    Terrific list – thanks for focusing on nonprofits.

    I used to run pro theaters and I still serve on several church boards and am around a community theater where my family has been involved for FIVE generations. As a social media pro, it stresses me to see the opportunities that nonprofits squander. They are filled with people who use Social Media in their “civilian” lives but once they enter the hallowed halls, it seems they get SM stupidity.

    “Be sure you capture their email addresses when they’re at the box office. They are IN your theater – they know how to get there – they have expressed the biggest buying message just by walking through your doors.” But no… they don’t follow the advice.

    Facebook gets TONS of photos that friends of the theater take… but almost none of them make it to the theater’s own website. And when they DO get photos for their website, they get buried rather than LEADING the way toward excitement.

    But THIS one church (not mine) gets the award in my mind. The minister said from the pulpit that he wanted everyone with a phone to tweet about his sermon… WHILE he was delivering it. Now THAT sounds great. Hey, if Jesus had to stand on the side of the Mount to deliver his talks and today’s ministers can use cell phones directed to Twitter… wow, now THAT is the new power of Social Media.

    And hey… if any of my free video resources can help you, please head over to my website.

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    http://CreateYourOwnLegendNow.com

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    i honestly enjoyed reading every single point , i couldn’t stop , there was something that i like anytime i read a point , many of that was new to me and people have been talking about it but not mentioning the whole combination , loved the way you take care even with details such as posting photos or videos, and tagging cause that finely make a difference , thank You for sharing this:)))

  • Iei Foreveryone

    awesome

  • http://twitter.com/JCALL98 Judd Callender

    Charlie, about email addresses. Sincerely Marketing’s signature ads capture email addresses, and get thousands of free impressions too.

  • http://charliethemarketer.com/who-am-i/ CharlieSeymourJr

    Thank, Judd. Maybe I was a bit confusing: I mean when someone steps up to their box office, this theater still doesn’t get an email address. To me, I don’t care which system they use, but just be sure to GET the email address.

    Their efforts are weak. I devised a give-away program (like a raffle) where all they requested was a name and email address on the entry form… but they even shied away from that.

    Perhaps you’ll understand why I don’t do much with their marketing any more! lol

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    http://CreateYourOwnLegendNow.com

  • http://crowdbooster.com/ Ricky Yean

    “Facebook” is definitely a verb. You can Facebook me.

    Awesome, thanks Rich!

  • keenanwellar

    I’d go further and say that many non-profits that claim “no time for social media” often do have communications and marketing staff that are engaged in time-consuming activites that aren’t even subject to evaluation for outcomes. It is often the case that time set aside for other forms of communication and marketing would be used more effectively if partially redirected to social media which offers many easy tools for outcome measurement.

  • http://twitter.com/Organic_PR Sheri Wallace

    I manage social media for a non-profit and we’ve had good success with Twitter parties and Facebook chats. We are very careful to stay issue-based and not go into the product selling and prize frenzy that you see for most of the other uses of both these channels. We’ve built a loyal audience and the brands that share information via these channels have had fabulous results. Great way to partner with your sponsors without selling out.

  • LeadthePack

    Basing all your social media messages on your mission is the key rule to live by for non profits. No “did you see last night’s game?!?” status on Facebook – unless it’s related to your cause somehow.

  • ECOcentricBags.com

    Great post, Rich!
    I could see all these points working for any organization really, not only non-profits. We run online store selling Eco Bags, and recently started implementing some social media strategies, but really struggling engaging our audience, and making 2-way conversation. So we will defenetely use good techniques described above!

  • bethkanter

    Nice list of tactics for nonprofits. There’s been a meme going around on nonprofit/social media blogs inspired by a presentation 50 social media tactics for nonprofits … so here’s 100 more to consider http://www.bethkanter.org/50smt/

    Also, here’s a little bit more depth for nonprofits to use slideshare
    http://www.bethkanter.org/nine-ways-networked-nonprofits-use-slideshare/

    and flickr
    http://bethkanter.wikispaces.com/flickr

    and Facebook
    http://www.bethkanter.org/facebook-netnon

    and Twitter
    http://www.bethkanter.org/bwe2010/

  • C. Jackson

    This article is hard to print or save. You should add a “print this” option with all the sharing links.

    Some great info, but I have to say I disagree about using EventBrite. There are other services that charge *nothing* to the organization. We use MyCommunityTickets.com, and they charge a service fee for credit card transactions to the purchaser, but we receive the full ticket price with no additional fees. The setup may not be as easy, but that makes a big difference.

    I am very interested in learning more about YouTube’s Nonprofit Program. We use YouTube quite a bit, but I didn’t realize they had tools specifically for nonprofits.

  • Pingback: Notes on analytics and assessment for online social media « Alchemical Thoughts()

  • Pingback: 21 Ways Non-Profits Can Leverage Social Media | Information Outloud()

  • http://www.fundly.com Derek

    Rich, this article was a phenomenal summary of social media strategies. Thank you for posting it! I think by now, all non-profits realize that they need to have some form of social media coverage, but most don’t know where to start. This article gives them several viable starting points.

    I’d like to suggest one other important way that non-profits can use social media – fundraising! Everything a non-profit does can be done online, including raising money, which is one of the most important and time-consuming activities non-profits engage in.

    The company I work for, Fundly, has a tool that uses social media to fundraise. There’s an app on Facebook, you can import contacts from your email contact list, etc. It’s really a phenomenal way for non-profits to use social media to solve one of their biggest problems.

    Here’s a link to one of our blog posts that explains it in more detail: http://bit.ly/gIOMTY

  • http://www.fundly.com Derek

    Fundly (http://www.fundly.com), has a Facebook app that lets you reach out to all your friends and raise money, then post that on Twitter. You can import your email contact list to expand your network. It’s really a phenomenal way of using social media to solve one of the biggest problems non-profits face.

  • Pingback: Easy, Economical, and Effective Advertising – Facebook Ads | One of a Kind in a Full House()

  • Pingback: Social Media for Non-Profits: Quick Guides | Further to Fly()

  • Pingback: Smart Tech Actuarial Consultants » Why is Social Media So Popular? (Part 2)()

  • http://www.facebook.com/caryn.colgan Caryn Colgan

    Amazingly helpful. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Blank…()

  • Pingback: 21 Ways Your Church Can Leverage Social Media | Steve Fogg: Clear & Simple()

  • Pingback: Best Ideas for 21 Ways Non-Profits Can Leverage Social Media « Kelli Burns()

  • Pingback: Drive Non-Profit Donations in Facebook | ShopTab Facebook App Blog()

  • Pingback: Social Media & Non Profits | D.Young()

  • Pingback: Why Social Media Is Your Company’s Road Map to the Future | Creative Concepts()

  • Pingback: Promote Your Non-Profit Organization (Without Breaking The Bank) | Marketing Mojo for Small Business()









Pinterest
Join our Social Media Marketing Networking Club
Get Your FREE Copy of the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report
Wondering how your peers are using social media? Get this free report (50 pages, 80+ charts) and never miss another great article from Social Media Examiner.
Check out the Social Media Marketing Podcast!