Make the Most of Your Nonprofit’s Social Media: The Get-Started Guide

Social media for nonprofits – sounds like too much work with no time in hand? The reality can be different though. Read on! Many nonprofit organizations rely on social media to share the word about their organization, find new supporters, fundraise, and keep everyone informed about upcoming events and milestones. Whether you’re a beginner or…

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Make the Most of Your Nonprofit’s Social Media: The Get-Started Guide

nonprofit's social media

Social media for nonprofits – sounds like too much work with no time in hand? The reality can be different though. Read on!

Many nonprofit organizations rely on social media to share the word about their organization, find new supporters, fundraise, and keep everyone informed about upcoming events and milestones. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional looking to take your nonprofit’s online strategy to the next level, this post is for you! In this post, you’ll learn:

  1. Why social media is so important for nonprofits
  2. The benefits of having a well-run social media plan
  3. 5 simple steps to get started with social media
  4. The top 7 fundraising and friend-raising social media ideas for nonprofits

Read on to make the most of your nonprofit’s social media in 2021 and beyond. 

1. Social Media for Nonprofits – Why is it so Important?

Social media marketing is a critical tool when it comes to fundraising and friend-raising for your nonprofit.

Many prospective donors and volunteers will seek out your nonprofit’s online accounts when they want to learn more about your organization. If your accounts don’t exist – or if they’re outdated – it can reflect poorly on your work. On the other hand, if your social media is engaging and consistent, it can show people that your nonprofit is organized and well-run.

As you’ll learn below, a thoughtful online social presence can also help grow your community, your volunteer recruitment, and your fundraising efforts. When it comes to your nonprofit’s digital presence, a little bit of consistent effort can yield big results!

2. Benefits of Having a Well-Run Social Media Plan

2.1 Grow Your Audience

Growing your audience might seem like a daunting task. But, you can organically grow your nonprofit’s community just by having an active social media presence and posting regularly!

Having an up-to-date social media presence makes it easy for your existing supporters and volunteers to “tag” your organization in relevant posts. And, when you post updates about your organization’s work, your supporters and stakeholders can share the posts with their connections. This can lead to new followers, volunteers, and donations.

2.2 Recruit Volunteers

Social media can be a valuable tool for recruiting volunteers. Whether you share a community cleanup project on Nextdoor or post your next volunteer orientation on Meetup, a robust online presence can help attract people with a heart for your organization’s work.

Another great way to recruit volunteers: use a site like Canva to create a simple graphic with brief information about volunteering. Share the graphic on your organization’s accounts and encourage your existing supporters to share!

2.3 Raise Funds

Social media can be a powerful fundraising tool for your nonprofit. Nonprofits Source reports that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits online end up taking some sort of action. And, 59% of those donate money; 53% volunteer; 52% donate clothing, food, or other personable items.

You can raise money directly through some accounts, such as setting up a Facebook fundraiser and Instagram donate button. Later in this post, you’ll learn some creative social media fundraising ideas for your nonprofit – including crowdfunding projects, contests, and more.

2.4 Promote Your Mission & Programs

Social media for nonprofits can provide a fascinating window into the day-to-day work of your organization. Consider using your organization’s accounts as a place to share unique behind-the-scenes content as well as the impact of your work.

For example, a food bank might post a video on social media of boxed lunches being packed up by volunteers. Or, a museum could give followers a peek into the private collections storage area with up-close photos of fascinating artifacts.

social media for nonprofits

Pro tip: Be sure to have volunteers and staff sign a waiver that allows you to take and publish their photos or video! Many organizations include a photography and video waiver as part of the employee/volunteer onboarding experience. Be especially mindful when sharing photos or videos of constituents that your organization is serving.

2.5 Build Community

In the marketing world, there’s an “80-20 rule” that states that 80% of your social media posts should aim to inform, entertain, and educate your audience – and only 20% should be actively promoting your organization.

While there’s no single percentage that’s right for every organization, the overarching idea is to inspire and motivate people, rather than solely asking for donations. Think about the pages you follow online. Chances are, you follow many for their entertaining content – whether that includes funny memes, inspiring photos, or educational resources. If a page constantly promotes itself without sharing anything of more substance, many people tend to tune out or unfollow.

Along the same lines, be sure to spend time responding to people who comment on your nonprofit’s posts! This helps create a two-way dialogue where your followers feel appreciated and heard.

3. 5 Simple Steps to Get Started with Social Media for Nonprofits

3.1 Decide Who’s Responsible

Set your social media goals by defining what you want to achieve through these accounts. This little social media strategy will help you decide on activities and how to divide responsibilities.

There’s an old saying that goes, “When it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.” Avoid ambiguity by assigning one social media manager to manage your online presence. Or, take turns managing these duties with clearly defined shifts.

Other staff and volunteers can contribute valuable ideas and share content for posting. But, clearly assigning one person to post online and manage comments and messages will help ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

To avoid burnout, you could manage your online accounts in rotating shifts. For example, one person might handle weekdays and another might monitor social media on weekends. Or, two staff members might take turns managing social media duties every other week. Be mindful that this type of arrangement requires seamless communication as well as alignment on what to post and how to respond to messages.

3.2 Claim Your Accounts

If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and claim your organization’s profiles on common social media platforms. A few popular platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube.

If your organization’s name is already claimed – or if your name is too long for a profile handle – you can brainstorm a creative workaround. For example, the Atlanta Community Food Bank uses its acronym @acfb as its Instagram handle. Another example is The Nature Conservancy, which goes by @nature_org on Instagram. If possible, aim to keep your name consistent across as many platforms as possible, including your website URL.

3.3 Set Up Your Basic Information

Once you’ve claimed your accounts, be sure to fill in your organization’s profile details. To start, set up your organization’s profile photos. Many nonprofits use their logo since this makes it easy to identify your organization. For Facebook and Instagram, you’ll want to enroll in Charitable Giving Tools to be able to accept donations.

Each platform will ask you to fill in different details about your nonprofit. For example, on Facebook, you can list your website, address, phone number, email, business hours, and a description of your work. You can also add upcoming events, photos, services, job postings, and more. On Instagram, you can add a brief bio, location, and weblink.

Pro tip: Follow like-minded organizations as well as your supporters and stakeholders on social media. For example, you can set up your nonprofit to follow your local chamber of commerce, your board members, corporate sponsors, vendors, and nonprofits doing similar work. For inspiration, check out Donorbox’s blog post on the top nonprofit influencers you should follow.

3.4 Research Your Audience

Before you begin posting online, be sure you’ve researched your audience. This will help you determine which nonprofit social media sites are most important for you, as well as what type of content might be most engaging for your audience.

Start by looking at your existing supporters. What demographics do they fall into? Are there noticeable patterns and trends among the people currently supporting your work? Are you seeking to diversify your audience?

From here, you can conduct audience research. Websites like Statista provide a wealth of data-based findings around social media usage and a myriad of other topics. The Pew Research Center also has a Social Media Fact Sheet with interesting findings of social media use by demographic.

3.5 Create a Content Calendar

A Content Calendar is a document that outlines your social media plan. The idea is to create a rough plan ahead of time, rather than always sitting down and wondering, “What should I post today?”

nonprofit social media strategy

To create a nonprofit social media content calendar, first, determine how much time you can devote each week. Then, use your audience research to decide which platforms and types of content are most important for your organization. From there, you can plan ahead and create a content calendar for the upcoming month or quarter. Try using a free tool like Google Calendar.

For example, you might decide you have three hours each week. Your research tells you that Instagram (IG) and TikTok are the most important platforms to engage your audience and that videos and interactive IG stories will be most effective. So, you spend an hour each week shooting and editing smartphone videos of your nonprofit in action. During the week, you spend another hour uploading three posts and responding to comments on each post. You spend your last hour commenting on other posts, sharing relevant content to your IG story, and finding new accounts to follow.

4. Top 7 Social Media Fundraising & Friend-Raising Ideas for Nonprofits

Now that you know why social media matters and you have a plan, let’s take your efforts to the next level! These fundraising and friend-raising ideas will help your nonprofit make the most of your social media platforms.

4.1 Encourage Birthday Fundraisers

Every day, more than 45 million people share “happy birthday” messages on Facebook. And, when it comes to gift-giving, a Mintel survey found that 50% of respondents prefer experiences over tangible gifts.

With fewer people wanting physical gift items, encouraging followers to create a Facebook birthday fundraiser can help them celebrate their birthday in a meaningful way. You can promote this opportunity on your social media channels, or share information in an e-newsletter or volunteer newsletter.

Followers can customize their Facebook fundraiser with a cover photo, donation goal, end date, and description. They can also invite their friends to support them. Plus, Facebook charges no fees, which means that all donations will go directly toward your nonprofit’s work.

4.2 Add a “Donate” Sticker to Your Instagram Story

In addition to setting up a “donate” button on your Instagram profile, you can also add a “donate” sticker to your nonprofit’s Instagram story. This allows you to raise money directly through your story post, at the exact moment when you’ve captured your audience’s attention.

social media ideas nonprofits

First, you’ll need to sign up for Facebook charitable giving tools. Then, you can link your Facebook and Instagram accounts. Finally, be sure your Instagram is set up as a business account. From there, when you’re posting an Instagram story, tap the Sticker icon. Then, select the option for a donation sticker. You can search for and find your organization if it has been approved. Finally, customize your sticker with your preferred fundraising message.

4.3 Host a Donation-Optional Live Virtual Event

Your nonprofit can use various platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube to “go live” and stream a video in real-time. You can use this as a creative fundraising opportunity by hosting a donation-optional virtual live event. Similar to a telethon, your organization can present a casual or structured live performance or video while asking viewers to contribute as they watch.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas for a virtual live event:

  • Social services organization: conduct a Q&A with a caseworker or program manager, allowing followers to get curious about your organization’s work and learn more
  • Museum or cultural institution: host a curator chat or gallery tour
  • Theatre: stream a live glimpse of performance, or a behind-the-scenes look at a dress rehearsal or script read-through
  • University: stream a live lecture or lesson that will resonate with your digital community
  • Church: stream your weekly service and offer a “text-to-give” virtual collections plate. Your fundraising software should have this option.

4.4 Start a Social Media Challenge

social media ideas nonprofits

The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge became a viral video sensation, helping the ALS Association increase its annual funding for research around the world by 187%. Since then, many nonprofits have tried to replicate this fundraising model and create their own video-based social media challenges.

While not every video challenge will gain that much traction, a challenge can help engage your community and raise funds for your cause. Pick a challenge that fits your organization’s mission. Share the rules or guidelines with your supporters. The general idea is that people should complete the challenge, make a donation, and then post their video or photo. They can also challenge friends to get in on the fun by tagging them! Create a special challenge hashtag so everyone can see the community’s posts.

A few ideas and examples: an environmental organization might encourage followers to share a video of themselves planting a tree and donate $5 to the cause. Or, an art museum might create a “get out of your comfort zone” challenge. The museum could ask people to tackle an artistic challenge that scares them just a little bit – for example, painting with watercolors when you’ve never used them before, or sitting down to draw something even though you haven’t since elementary school. Then, supporters can donate an amount that feels just slightly beyond their comfort level.

Encourage your key staff and board members to get in on the challenge early to build momentum and excitement.

4.5 Spotlight Your Current Supporters

Many supporters welcome the chance to be recognized for their contributions. Your nonprofit can use social media as a way to steward and thank your current supporters. This can help boost retention rates, resulting in more donations.

Remember to tag the appropriate organization or individuals, to alert them to your post. Many people will share the post with their friends and followers, resulting in even more visibility for your organization!

A few ways to thank your supporters on social media include:

  • Post a photo or video from a recent corporate volunteer day along with a thank-you caption
  • Create a graphic listing all your major donors for the year (or quarter, or month) and thank them for their support
  • Feature a “volunteer of the month” and share their photo and a little bit about them

4.6 Create & Share a Crowdfunding Campaign

A crowdfunding campaign is a fundraising project that allows many people to come together and combine small online donations into a big collective impact. Many crowdfunding campaigns include a goal thermometer to track progress toward the campaign goal, as well as a donor wall to display who’s already donated. You can post your crowdfunding campaign online, and share updates along the way! You can also use social media to thank your crowdfunding project supporters after they donate.

Crowdfunding is easy with an online fundraising platform like Donorbox. You can set up a branded crowdfunding campaign page in less than 15 minutes with no start-up fee, no monthly fee, and no contract. Here’s a great example from Seeds Wilderness Therapy.

nonprofit's social media

Pro tip: The best crowdfunding campaigns have a compelling story and images/videos that motivate people to give. Talk about your mission and if possible, pick out an inspirational story of change that you could bring about because of past donations and campaigns.

4.7 Partner with a Brand or Influencer

Leverage your nonprofit’s existing connections to get some social media coverage. For example, ask your corporate supporters whether they would be willing to share a post about your nonprofit’s work. It’s a win-win: they get the feel-good credit for helping their community, while your nonprofit gains valuable visibility.

Your nonprofit can also connect with so-called “influencers” in your community. This doesn’t have to be a high-fashion model or fitness guru. Instead, look to your local civic leaders, thought leaders in your industry, and your existing donor base. Reach out to see who might consider sharing the word online about your nonprofit’s services and mission.


To conclude, social media for nonprofits can be a valuable and even crucial tool to grow and promote your mission. From building community to recruiting volunteers and donations, it can help you achieve a variety of organizational goals.

Creating a social media plan and sticking to it can take some time and commitment, but many organizations find that the effort is well worth it.

Once your nonprofit’s social media is up and running, you’ll want an easy, on-brand donation form to link posts to. Set up your donation form in just 15 minutes – with no set-up fees, no monthly fees, and no contract! Sign up with Donorbox.

Get more tips and resources on nonprofit management in our blog.

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Heather is a writer, business owner, and nonprofit professional. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with more than a decade of experience leading fundraising efforts and creating communication materials for arts, education, and social services nonprofits.

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