5 Starters for a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

Video transcript:

Welcome to The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas! I’m Julia McDowell, marketing and advertising strategist with Five Ones. Thanks for watching my video series dedicated to nonprofit marketing and fundraising. Today’s topic is Five Starters for a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy.

According to Techjury’s most recent data, people spend an average of nearly two-and-a-half hours a day on social media. (All you have to do is look at your own screen time app to confirm this.) So, you know that social is a key component to raising your organization’s profile and engaging new and existing supporters. Social is a competitive place to be, but you wouldn’t work for a nonprofit if you weren’t up for a challenge!

So, let’s get social. Here are my Five Starters for a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy.


Here are three tips to drill down on them:

  • Identify what you want your social media activity to achieve. Are you going to use social to spread news or fundraise? Do you hope to educate people about your nonprofit’s mission or recruit event volunteers?
  • After you know what you want to accomplish, establish one or more Key Performance Indicators – AKA KPIs – to measure your progress.  If awareness is your goal, you might use the number of post-views as a data point. Conversions, like event registrations or donations made online, could be a measurement of engagement.
  • Whatever KPIs you choose, make them SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound.

Target Audience

Who are you writing for? Gut-check your knowledge of your nonprofit’s audience, or audiences, by doing a few things:

  • Refer back to your goals. The audience for increasing awareness of your nonprofit may be different than the one for increasing donations.
  • Survey your members, beneficiaries, donors, or volunteers to find out which social media platforms they engage with.
  • Create user personas. If you decide to engage on multiple social platforms, you’ll have personas for each to guide your messaging. Even if you’re only going to be active on one social channel, personas can help you create different posts on the same subject.  

Platform Selection

By now, you will have taken two steps toward picking one or more social media platforms by: A) defining your goals and B) determining which social media your target audience uses most. On to C) compare your social goals and target audience with each platform’s strengths and audience demographics. For example, if you are all about updating your target of younger-than-average adults with late-breaking news and advocacy alerts, Twitter could be your prime platform. As you compare different social media options, consider that some offer features solely for nonprofits. One is Facebook; If your nonprofit qualifies to be a member of their “Social Good” community, you’ll have access to tools and functions specific to charitable giving, crisis response, supporting health initiatives, and more.

Social Media Specialist

Make your social media presence a priority by assigning responsibility for it to a social media specialist. There are a of couple ways to go on this:

  • You may be fortunate enough to have a social media specialist or designated content creator onboard or have the budget to hire one. If so, hashtag Awesome!
  • Content creation, scheduling, and responding could be shared among staff in a department or across several departments, like Marketing, Communications, and Member Engagement. Just make sure to designate a lead.
  • Like going back to school in September 2020, you could consider a hybrid model. Have your internal specialist collaborate with an external partner to create a content calendar and execute all social tasks.

Content Calendar

Unless you thrive on panic and Red Bull—or have DaVinci-like inspiration 24/7/365—I strongly suggest you create a content calendar, sometimes called an editorial calendar. It will keep you organized as you plan and create content in batches. It can also be a designated parking lot for ideas that hit you one day but would be better used weeks or months in the future.  Whether you use a free online template (I love Airtable) or pay for sophisticated functionality, consider these topline suggestions:

  • Map out your content quarterly. Include at least the basics for each post—the overall topic, its date, the social platform, and links or locations of the copy and visuals (if they exist) or the name of the person who will create or source them (if they don’t).
  • Mix it up. Some of your social media content can have a limited shelf-life and some may be evergreen. It can be organic and paid (or sponsored). Repurpose existing content when appropriate—a listicle from your nonprofit’s blog could become a series of Tweets; a beneficiary’s photo and testimonial in an annual report could be perfect for Instagram. You could build regular content around day-of-the-week hashtags—think hashtag Wellness Wednesday if your mission is health-related, or hashtag Thankful Thursday to recognize specific volunteers, donors, or staff. You get the idea.
  • Allow for the unexpected. A nailed-down content calendar doesn’t mean that one-offs are verboten. It’s the opposite: planning and scheduling most of your content gives you the mental space to take advantage of spontaneous social media opportunities! And posting about breaking news or events relevant to your nonprofit can make your organization more relatable and thus spur engagement.

I hope you’ve “Liked” The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas: Five Starters for a Nonprofit Social Media Strategy. Thanks for being here! Please leave questions, comments, or topic suggestions below; message me on LinkedIn; or email me at julia@fiveones.com.