Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Blog :: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

11signsMany nonprofits need social media training – they just don’t know it. There’s always room for improvement and unfortunately overconfidence in social media skills prevent many nonprofit staff from getting training that could significantly increase their social media ROI (Return on Investment). Social media best practices are constantly in flux as tool sets change and algorithms are modified. Unless you study Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Google+, etc. on a regular basis you may not realize that the best practices that worked six months ago have evolved and some simply don’t work anymore at all. Social media is time consuming and if you aren’t doing it right, you’re wasting your time.

I spend 50-60 hours a week studying nonprofits and social media and even with that level of absorption I still have regular “Aha!” moments where I realize I have been doing something wrong or misunderstood a functionality or tool set…

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5 ways to grow your Pinterest followers


Pinterest is a way for your nonprofit to reach people that you may not otherwise be in contact with. If you keep that in mind when creating your boards you will already be more successful than many nonprofits on Pinterest. This means that you shouldn’t use this medium simply for self promotion; Doing so won’t help you to reach new audiences.

1. Give people something to follow, make it unique, and make sure it’s related to your non-profit. What is your non-profit’s strongest area? Does your nonprofit run a successful after school program for teens? Create a board with teen appropriate after school activities.  Does your organization provide homes for animals?  Have a board full of interesting items or tips for improving a household pet’s well-being.

Take this even further and use Pinterest to increase traffic to your organization’s website. Create a place on your website for a blog or a resource center. Every time you update it, pin it. If it’s worth while information people will read and share it, and they may even explore your website.

2. Follow people with similar boards. When you follow other ‘pinners’ it calls attention to your Pinterest account. People frequently follow the boards of those that follow them, and pinners are much more likely to follow you if you offer something they are interested in. Have a goal to follow 15 new people who you have something in common with each week.

3. Pin regularly. Adding pins to your boards on a steady basis will help you gain more followers than sitting idle.  The more pins that you create from the web the better, rather that ‘re-pinning’.  When people re-pin something  that was originally pinned by you, your organization is shown as the original source of the pin.  With more pins floating out there on Pinterst, it is more likely that people will see your organization.

Also, don’t try to play catch-up and pin large amounts in one sitting, this is a sure-fire way to have people un-follow you.  If you are flooding someone’s Pinterest homepage they don’t get to see a variety of pins, it is the same thing that happens when people post too often on Facebook and lose followers.

4. Comment on content. If you see a great pin, make it known. There is a lot of junk out there on Pinterest, by helping others find the good stuff you are helping your organization. When you add informative comments to a pin, it lets others know you know what you’re talking about, helps them filter through the thousands of pins, and helps get your name out there.

The sooner you do this the better. Your comment can be seen by the followers of the pinner, but as more pins are added fewer people will see it.

5. Describe your pins accurately and make it entertaining. You need to give your followers more than just the title of the article you pinned. Let them know why you picked this pin to share and be creative while doing it.

Don’t forget to make a habit of rewriting a pin’s description and checking a pin’s link before you re-pin.  You are here to be a trusted source for information and not to simply copy what someone else has done.

You need to earn your followers’ respect and become a resource that they want to share.

So your nonprofit has a Facebook page, now what? Tips on what to post

The first thing you want to do is develop a plan. While creating that plan here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t link your Facebook feed to your twitter account.
    Aside from the fact that people who follow you on both platforms deserve to see different content, Twitter and Facebook have very different audiences.
  1. Post things other than news about your organization.
    Share links to recent studies that point out successes in your field, share a heartwarming news article, or wish people a safe and happy weekend; what you post doesn’t needto be just about you. Give your audience a reason to follow you on Facebook, provide them with something they can’t find anywhere else.
  1. Have a variety of posts
    It may be obvious that different people like different things, this applies to posts as well.  Try your hand at posting a funny photo, fill in the _____, poll or quiz, or a fun fact of the day. Be sure to keep track of your popular types of posts with facebook’s insights.
  1. Have a call to action in some of your posts.
    Words like tell us, share, and like not only help start interactions on your Facebook page, the increase the number of people who see your posts. And, don’t always ask people to “like this if…,” Try to keep calls to action to 20% or less of your posts, you don’t want to annoy your fans.
  1. Respond to comments on your posts.
    Let people know that you are listening by commenting on or hitting ‘like’ on replies to your posts. Also, you can make it personable by including your name and contact information. Pages who interact with their fans get more out of Facebook.
  1. Don’t forget to credit your donors.
    If you are hoping to use your Facebook page to raise funds, let your donors know how they are helping. This can be done tastefully!  When sharing news about your organization you can end your posts with statements like “We couldn’t have done it with out you!” or “Thanks to your donations, we were able to…”

Social Media for nonprofits: 5 questions to answer before you get started

The first step for a nonprofit using social media is to create a plan! Many organizations have no budget for social media and have limited time to spend; this is even more of a reason to make the most of your time and create a plan.  Here are 5 questions to ask before you begin:

1. What is the audience that your organization is trying to reach?

  • Try to be as specific as possible.  Sample: Current Donors

2. What social media platform is that audience using?

  • Make sure you go to where your customers are. Check to see if your audience is on facebook, don’t just assume.

TIP: to see if they are on facebook use your current mailing list:

  1. Export your email contacts to a .csv  file (note: if you have more than 500 contacts break the csv file down to batches of 500 in excel)
  2. Login to facebook and use the friend finder
  3. Select “Other Tools” then “Upload Contact File”.
  4. Find the section titled “Microsoft Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Apple Mail and others” and click on the “Choose File” in the section. Lastly, Navigate to the csv file you created and watch the results. At the top of the page it will tell you how many of your contacts are on facebook.

3. What would you like that audience to do?

  • Sample Goal 1: Like your facebook page
  • Sample Goal 2: Donate to your organization

4. What actions will you take to achieve the goal?

  • Sample 1: Invite current donors to like your facebook page in your next e-newsletter (be sure to give them a compelling reason why)
    or Add a facebook feed to your homepage.
  • Sample 2: Create an online donation campaign with a page on facebook, and post related content twice a week on facebook.

5. How will you track that action?

  • Sample 1: Track the number of new likes.
  • Sample 2: Total the amount of Money raised from that campaign.

Use the answers to these questions to develop a detailed plan for each goal. Include names and dates for each step of the plan. It is ok to start with small goals, just be sure to track your progress.