top of page

Making Social Media Work For You

By now you should know there are a few rules for social media.

  • Don't talk about politics on LinkedIn.

  • Don't talk about your Ex on Instagram.

  • Don't talk about anything on Tik Tok if you are over the age of 30...Period!

Nonprofits need to follow one big rule about using social media, especially Facebook: Have a plan!

Last week, I wrote a kind of a downer of a blog, Is Facebook Your Frenemy, about the challenges nonprofits face on Facebook. It cited the dismal statistic that less than 4% of your followers will actually see your posts, the increasing push toward paid ads, and the reality that, when you boost your fundraising post, you are simply paying Facebook to use personal data from your donors and use it so other nonprofits can target their own ads towards your supporters. Despite that grim picture, nonprofits still need to be on social media:

  • Increasingly donors weigh posts on social media to guide their decisions.

  • Board members tend to expect nonprofits have have a page.

  • It can help raise awareness and connect with new supporters.

  • It can be one tool for raising money under the right circumstances.

What Does Success Look Like For A Nonprofit On Facebook?

Understand the landscape The traffic on Facebook is overwhelming. More than 1.6 billion people go on Facebook every day and 4 million posts are liked every minute, according to industry statistics. To keep users from being overwhelmed, Facebook limits that number of posts that will appear on a user's feed to about 1,500 a day. it is based on complex algorithms that can change on a moment by moment basis. So you are competing with an infinite amount of posts using an ever-changing set of rules.

Remember, it's a conversation Someone once said that you don't force your way into Facebook; you let people invite your into their world. You can't just barge into a conversation when you first meet people at a party. It is better to let someone introduce you first. In the same way, you shouldn't expect to jump onto social media and suddenly go viral. Instead focus on connecting with your supporters and producing content that they will want to comment on and share. Chances are a post that one of your board members shares will reach more people than your nonprofit page can.

Focus on content From cave paintings to stone tablets to morse code to virtual reality, content has always been king. You can't control the million-and-one variables of social media, but you can control what you post. Here are some guidelines:

  • Keep it real Know your message and tell it authentically. Before you can share your message, take the time to make sure everyone in your organization understands it. Post content that reflects your brand and culture.

  • It's a haiku, not War and Peace The consensus is that a successful Facebook post should have about 40-50 characters. For example, this sentence has 40 characters. To have impact, boil your message down to its essence. Let pictures to tell the story as much as possible.

  • Your posts are like min-billboards Imagine you are cruising down the highway. You spot a billboard, you pass it and it's gone. That how your followers are seeing your posts. The average user looks at a Facebook post for 1.7 seconds, maybe 3 seconds if it is a video. Billboards have people's attention for less than five seconds. In both cases, you can really only convey one point and you want to provoke an immediate emotion or other connection.

Focus on your strategy Know why you are on social media and what you want to accomplish.

  • Don't expect it to bring in big bucks As covered in the last post, most nonprofits are disappointed by fundraising results and the ones that are successful approach do it through paid ads.

  • Attract - Engage - Delight Hubspot recommends a three step approach. First, attract people with content that educates, informs, or entertains; then engage them with content that provides insight and solutions; and then delight them with content that connects them to your cause.

  • Use it to build "touches" Touches are the term salespeople use for the number of times potential customers need to hear about a product before they buy it. Generally they say it takes about eight touches to make one sale. Think about all the ways you can "touch" a potential donor - webpage, events, meetings, calls, etc. - and use social media as one part of that overall strategy.

  • Use it to drive people to your website. Links to blog posts, videos or other content can help introduce people to your website where they can learn about your cause.

  • Use it to build an email list Email is still the most effective way to reach donors. There are a number of tactics for using social media to acquire new supporters for your email campaigns.

  • Use it to reach your served population If you work with youths and want them to sign up for your program, consider asking some of them to help post on Tik Tok. Just understand that it is very tough for many nonprofits to communicate with their served populations and their donor base with the same approach.

Focus on your audience You need to know as much about the people who will see your posts as possible.

  • You are only interesting if they are interested. So what interests them? Show them that stuff. The other day I saw a post recognizing a CEO's work anniversary. Is that important to donors? I wondered if they would be more interested in how their gifts are being used.

  • What is their personality? This goes back to your strategy. If you want to use social media to attract new donors in their 40's, you need to know what that demographic is interested in and what kind of posts they engage with.

  • Age is a number The largest demographic group for Facebook is still 18-29-year-olds and 65+ is still the smallest group, but that is changing. Senior citizens are the fastest growing group and young users are moving away from it. Look at the demographics of your target donors and work to attract that demographic.

Guerilla Video The last point is that you should be finding ways to work video into your posts. Video is more popular with users and with Facebook's algorithms. Shooting, editing and posting video can seem daunting, but it shouldn't. Back in the day someone described low-budget, independent movies as "guerilla filmmaking." You can make great, impactful short videos with a cell phone and free editing software, in other words, guerilla video. A 20-second clip with a volunteer talking about what it meant to hand out food at your event is incredibly compelling on social media if it captures the emotion and the hope that drives your mission.

That's it in a nutshell. Don't spend a lot of money on expertise or ads unless you can justify the return on the investment. You are not measuring your success by how many posts you place or how may likes they got. Above all, understand that you are not friending Facebook; You are using it as a tool to make people aware of your mission.

If you need help developing your strategy or your content, contact me at


bottom of page