8 Tips for Nonprofits to Make the Most Out of Their Social Media Efforts

Guide & Case Studies

Image of a dark-skinned nonprofit volunteer from the neck down in a white t-shirt with "VOLUNTEER" written across the chest. The individual is holding a light blue phone with both hands. Above the phone are social network icons in Chart Room Creative's medium blue color. Social network icons shown are Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter (X), and LinkedIn.

There’s no way around it. As much as many of us would like to avoid social like the plague, or live in a constant state of digital detox, social media has become an ever-present vehicle for connection, escape, content, and search for the largest populations of online users.

Shift your paradigm and start thinking about social media as what has come to be an indispensable tool for nonprofits. To put it simply, social provides a vehicle to access supporters that can’t be accessed in any other way. And regular posting to social media channels can help nonprofits raise awareness for their organizations where website and SEO, word of mouth, and traditional advertising cannot. What’s more, is that outside of time, there is little expense to ramping up your social game unlike the myriad of other (important) ways to engage supporters such as events, email, search engine marketing, video, and other channels and media.

Whether you’re a small grassroots organization or a well-established nonprofit, harnessing the power of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), TikTok, and LinkedIn can help you amplify your mission and connect with a broader audience.


In this article, we share some crucial tips for how to get the most out of your social activity, and we provide some real-world case studies to hopefully inspire your nonprofit’s social game. Now without further ado, let’s dive into 8 tips for nonprofits to get the most out of their social media marketing efforts!

Tip #1: Use social for storytelling

One of the best uses of social is to tell compelling stories of impact. Storytelling is at the heart of effective social media engagement regardless of industry, but stories of impact and storytelling itself is the bread and butter of a successful nonprofit’s content strategy.  Leverage social to :

  • Share personal stories of those who benefit from your nonprofit
  • Highlight and provide stories of impact from the perspective of volunteers who support your organization
  • Dive into meaningful experiences from staff members about their experience with helping others.

Stories like these help your nonprofit make deeper emotional connections with your audience.

CASE STUDY: The ALS Association

The ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral on social media in 2014, raising millions of dollars. What drew people was not *just* the wincing of people being dowsed in buckets of icy water. ALS used their campaign to highlight personal stories of those affected by ALS, which in turn highlighted the urgency of finding a cure.  In the end, the gimmick of the ice-buckets might have helped the campaign go viral, but it was the personal stories of impact that led to the millions raised to support ALS’s cause of finding a cure.

Original Source Image from NBC News, Logo from ALS Association

Tip #2: Use social to drive brand awareness and brand consistency

You don’t have to be a Chart Room Creative staffer or seasoned veteran to know the importance of consistency when it comes to brand. Brand is not just your logo but rather your organization’s identity and how your supporters recognize you immediately at a glance or after a few words read due to consistent look, feel, and messaging.

Social is a high visibility channel with high chance of repeated audience impressions (views). Use social to drive a consistent visual and messaging style across all your social media profiles that likewise lines up with your online presence on your website and elsewhere. Making a concerted effort to create and drive a consistent brand presence across social helps reinforce your nonprofit’s identity and makes it easier for supporters to recognize and trust your content.

CASE STUDY: Water.org

Water has their social game on point when it comes to brand. It is one of the most well-known for its consistent branding, using clean visuals and its distinct blue color scheme across all platforms. This consistency has contributed to its strong online presence and quick, easy recognition by people who see its posts. That consistency helps Water’s core audience of existing and future supporters immediately recognize their post in the few seconds before a scroll-on might happen, helps them create a pause, and ultimately helps them increase engagement, trust, and relay of their message.

Original Source Image sampled from Instagram, Logo from Water.org

Tip #3: Use social to actually engage with your audience (not just broadcast to them)

Broadcasting your message is fine, but one of the most valuable aspects of social is the ability to go beyond bull-horning your message to actually engage your audience. Use social to respond to comments, thank donors, request stories from your audience, and ask for input. Engaged supporters are a thousand-times more likely to become long-term advocates. And long-term advocates are part of the matrix that is crucial to the life-blood of a nonprofit.

CASE STUDY: The American Red Cross

The Red Cross knows the value of audience engagement. It frequently responds to comments on its social media posts, addresses questions, and thanks donors publicly. As you can imagine, the rewards of this engagement effort are a greater sense of community and trust amongst its supporters and donors.

Original Source Image sampled from Facebook, Logo from Redcross.org

Tip #4: Use social to highlight your visual content, photos, and graphics

Bar none, visual content performs exponentially better on social channels than text.  Fact: No matter the messaging alignment to your brand, or the compelling essence of your story, it won’t be viewed or engaged with as much as visual content. This is the reason whole social networks dedicated solely to sharing visual media have risen in popularity over the last year. From short media streamers on TikTok and SnapChat to static image sharers on Instagram and elsewhere, those who know the value of visual engagement leverage social to highlight visual content.  Even originally static text content networks like Facebook, Twitter (X) and LinkedIn have shifted and reconfigured their platforms to optimize for visual-first members on their platforms.

Be sure to use eye-catching visuals to convey your message, whether it’s showcasing your impact or promoting an upcoming event.

CASE STUDY: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

The World Wildlife fund may be too easy an example, but with those amazing wildlife photos, how could we not share it. The WWF leverages Instagram (in particular), as well as Facebook, Twitter and others to showcase stunning wildlife photos and videos. The goal is not lost on viewers, and the visual tactic helps multiple the raised awareness about endangered species and conservation efforts. And paired with brand consistency (when you see a WWF post, you immediately know it’s a WWF post), the World Wildlife Fund is crushing it on social with their visual content game.

Original Source Image sampled from Instagram, Logo from WorldWildlife.org

Tip #5: Use social to go live and behind-the-scenes

Event strategy is a necessary component of nonprofits of all sizes. It provides a captive audience for a nonprofit to share stories of impact, raise awareness for their cause, and engage donors and supporters in real-time. What about all those individuals who can’t make the event? Don’t write them off. Use social live streaming with Facebook Lives, LinkedIn Live, TikTok live, Snap Chat and Instagram Live Stories to provide real-time snippets of video from the event or behind-the-scenes glimpses of your nonprofit’s work. Aside from capturing new “virtual attendees”, you can foster increased engagement and transparency through this tactic. Museum and art nonprofits should especially note and consider this tactic.

CASE STUDY: The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian institute regularly hosts Facebook live events to give viewers a chance to interact with experts, explore collections, and learn about ongoing research. From behind-the-scenes glimpses into artifact restoration to talks with anthropologists, historians, and archaeologists, a brick-and-mortar nonprofit that depends so much on foot-traffic has leveraged virtual engagement through social to extend the Smithsonian experience far beyond its immediate geography.

Original Source Images sampled from Instagram and Facebook, Logo from SI.edu

TIP #6: Use social to create discovery through strategic use of #hashtags

Social has now become a new venue for research and search traffic. Long gone are the days when ranking in Google is the end of the search strategy efforts for organizations. With the volume of content online, the increasingly limited attention span of users, and the prevalence of serotonin-inducing social content, many off-hours users now do their searching as much (or at times more) through social networks that they are already viewing than backing out to Google something. Enter hashtags. Previously a more esoteric search method for master users and early adopters in social, hashtags are now commonplace among even the least active of social accounts. Why? Use of relevant hashtags extend the reach of your posts. Research hashtags to tag posts and open up to new users that don’t already follow your content. Create a unique campaign hashtag for events or fundraisers to encourage user-generated content and participation from event attendees who support your organization. This multiplies your social effort, and gives your attendees and supporters a low-effort way to amplify your message and act as a virtual street-team for you.

CASE STUDY: #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday has become a global movement. Countless nonprofits (you do this as well, correct?) use the #GivingTuesday hashtag as a key content strategy point to promote charitable giving and encourage supporters to share their contributions. See our post on #GivingTuesday for ways you should prepare and take advantage of it.

Tip #7: Use social to collaborate and partner with influencers

Influencer marketing has become a major topic for the marketing industry over the past few years with agencies popping up that solely dedicate themselves to the niche strategy. But influencer marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or require exhaustive placating of online divas. Local influencers from government officials to micro-influencers who leverage their content game to rack up followers can be a great opportunity to collaborate and partner to extend your message. Find notable supporters who share your values and audience. It’ll require a little bit of leg-work, but cross-promotion can introduce your nonprofit to new supporters and the support from the influencer can be a persuasive microphone to garner fundraising and general support for your organization.

CASE STUDY: UNICEF & Lionel Messi

One example of a large nonprofit leveraging a macro-influencer relationship is the influencer collab between UNICEF and soccer (or football, depending on where you live) superstar, Lionel Messi. The support and cross-promotion from Messi for UNICEF has proven to be very successful in amplifying the UNICEF cause and raising awareness and fund for the children’s rights organization worldwide.

Image from Unicef.org

Tip #8. Use social tools to adjust your content strategy

Aside from the platforms as vehicles for storytelling, they come with a host of tracking and analytics information that tell you everything from level of engagement to number of impressions or eyeballs who saw your message. This information isn’t just a “good-to-know, noted,” and then forget it. It provides a valuable data point to test and tweak your content. Use social media analytics that are embedded in the platform tools to measure the impact of your campaigns. Using them can help you identify what works, what doesn’t, and then you can adjust your content approach and strategy accordingly.

CASE STUDY: The American Heart Association

Big and small organizations can use the social analytics tools to adjust their content game and see big results. One example is the American Heart Association. The nonprofit saw a 1,000 percent increase in engagement by analyzing their social media data and adjusting their content strategy to align with audience interests.

Logo from Heart.org

WRAP-UP

Yes, social media is dynamic and ever-evolving. That can make it an exhausting place to market your nonprofit and may make you feel like you are in a constant game of catch-up trying to stay with the trends. And yes, this does mean that it’s vital that nonprofits stay current with trends and best practices for social. But, given some thought, a proactive approach to social, a little bit of strategy, and the tips above, you can leverage social media as an essential tool for your nonprofit to increase engagement and drive awareness with your target current (and would-be) supporters.  By crafting compelling stories, maintaining consistent branding, engaging with your audience, and leveraging the unique features of each platform, your nonprofit can effectively use social media to engage supporters and raise awareness for your cause. Try to leverage these tips and draw inspiration from these case studies. But remember that every nonprofit is unique, so tailor your strategy to your organization’s goals and mission.

Need a little jump start on your social game, or maybe a deeper dive to help you make the most of your social media efforts? We can help there. Contact us to set up a discovery call and learn more about the ways we can help you make the most of content and social.