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Javan Van Gronigen 12 min read

Social Media for Nonprofits: How to Build a Community Online

If you’re one of the 97% of nonprofits that use social media regularly to engage supporters and market your cause, you understand this channel’s power to make an impact on your mission. And if you aren’t leveraging social media yet—there’s no better time to start than right now, and it’s easy to get your accounts up and running.

However, sustaining a successful social media account requires careful planning. As you post content, keep these essential tips in mind:

  1. Craft a Compelling Digital Narrative
  2. Leverage Multi-media Elements
  3. Engage Beyond the Post

Let’s explore how to add social media to your online marketing and donor engagement toolkits.

Craft a Compelling Digital Narrative

Nonprofit storytelling must convey human emotion to be effective, which can be difficult to convey over a screen. That said, you can still infuse emotion into your social media posts and win support for your cause by:


  • Featuring real beneficiaries. Social media users are more likely to empathize with a real person than they will an organization. Tell your beneficiaries’ stories on social media to resonate with viewers. For example, an animal shelter could post about a cat’s rehabilitation journey and culminate its story with its adoption into a forever home. Just remember to get your beneficiaries’ permission and tell them exactly what the posts would entail before sharing their journey.


  • Highlighting impact metrics. Build trust and credibility with your social media audience by proving that your nonprofit makes a real difference. Leverage and contextualize data from your annual report and other resources to emphasize how your actions made a tangible impact. Continuing with the animal shelter example, you could say that a $10 monthly donation can provide 100 cats with food for a year.


  • Crafting content to complement your funnel position. In the digital marketing world, the funnel refers to the journey potential supporters take from first learning about your cause to converting. The most common funnel structure is awareness, consideration, and conversion. You can create narrative content that corresponds with different funnel positions. For example, an animal shelter’s funnel content could be a general story about the importance of adoption at the top, a specific adoption story from your shelter in the middle, and a call-to-action at the bottom. You can visualize the funnel with this example from Fifty & Fifty

Picture of a marketing funnel - Awareness > Consideration > Conversion

By telling your story with digital marketing best practices in mind and featuring the real people behind your organization, you can add a unique human touch to your social media posts.

Leverage Multimedia Elements

Making your posts pop is key to grabbing (and keeping) your audience’s attention. On social media, adding multi-media to your posts, such as photos, videos, and graphics, is more likely to capture engagement than a big block of text. You can take your visual elements on social media to the next level by:


  • Committing to high-quality content production. Post media that is professional, aesthetically pleasing, and relevant to your cause. You don’t need to invest in a camera to do so—you can use your smart device, as long as you ensure the content is high-quality. For instance, you might focus on improving a video’s lighting or audio quality while recording or research how to preserve a photo’s sharpness when posting it.


  • Using attractive, custom-branded graphic elements. If you’re creating your graphic elements, ensure you use consistent brand components so you establish an identity online. For example, use the same color scheme, fonts, and graphics on all of your posts so your feed is aesthetically pleasing and uniform. 


  • Leveraging interactive features. Social media stands out as one of the most dynamic communication channels, which can complement multimedia elements well. You can boost contact with your followers by posting polls, stories, quizzes, and more. Then, keep the communication going by responding to followers in the comments section or direct messages. 


If you aren’t a graphic designer or video producer, don’t worry—there are many low-cost graphic design tools and apps you can use to create your branded elements and multimedia content. 

Harness the Power of Micro-Influencers

The most visible social media users, known as influencers, are valuable collaborators who can share information about your cause to their sizable audiences. While influencers with millions of followers can be difficult to forge a partnership with, those with smaller followings can be more attainable. Micro-influencers, social media users with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, can help you gain social media traction, especially if they’re related to your cause or the nonprofit sector. 

Here are some tips for adding micro-influencer partnerships to your nonprofit marketing plan

  • Gauge your existing connections to micro-influencers. Pitching a partnership with a micro-influencer who’s already connected to your nonprofit can help you save time building a relationship with them. Between your nonprofit’s staff, supporters, and board members, you likely have some ties to micro-influencers that you can leverage.


  • Craft a personalized pitch. Each influencer has a unique audience, so each pitch should be unique. Acknowledge how your collaboration can help them achieve their goals, whether that’s gaining followers or establishing their credibility in the space. Also, customize your partnership to the influencer’s niche. For instance, if you’re pitching to a micro-influencer known for being a panelist, offer hosting a webinar as part of the collaboration. 


  • Offer creative freedom. Your micro-influencer partner has cultivated an audience around their style of content. To make your collaboration feel genuine, allow them to take the reins creatively. For instance, if the micro-influencer is known for producing short-form video content, you could suggest an idea for a video while they produce it in their style. 


As long as you treat micro-influencers like partners, you can improve supporter relationships while forging a mutually beneficial business collaboration. 

Wrapping Up

Like any other outreach strategy, your approach to social media should change with your nonprofit and improve over time. Ensure you monitor important  key performance indicators (KPIs) and industry trends so you can fine-tune your social media strategy. Also, remember to interact with your followers, as two-way communication can help you create a thriving community online that translates into real-life commitment to your mission.


Javan Van Gronigen

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.