If someone asked you to name five nonprofit organizations on the spot, what would be your answer? While some might think first of their favorite local charity, chances are that organizations like the American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Habitat Humanity would be common responses. And for good reason, since they are among the largest nonprofit agencies in the United States, and have the capacity to market themselves in a way more closely associated with for-profit companies.
But what do you do if you’re the Executive Director of a smaller nonprofit without the budget for a full-time marketing team that can work to make your organization instantly recognizable to millions of Americans? In many cases, you turn to social media because it provides a cost-effective way to reach your audience.
However, not all social media pages are created equal, and in many cases, doing a poor job on social media is worse than not communicating at all. In our experience, the most successful nonprofit organizations are those that do the following:
Start by asking yourself what vital purpose your organization serves. If your mission is to provide musical instruments to low-income children, then those children should be the focus of your page. Feature stories and images that highlight the opportunities made possible to those children through music. People visiting your page expect to see this, not a meme you found on Google Images.
An example we love: Mercy Housing Lakefront
While many potential donors will be moved to action by feeling a personal connection to the organization, they also want to know you make an impact. Your funders likely already expect you to demonstrate that impact, so the goal should be to quantify and communicate that impact in a way that gets your audience’s attention.
An example we love: CARE
Social media platforms provide an opportunity to nurture two-way relationships with your constituencies, and over time, transform those relationships into support. By being responsive to comments and questions, you begin to build trust between your organization and its audiences.
An example we love: The Cara Program
Your “voice” on social media says a lot about the type of organization you are. An organization’s personality is what makes helps it rise above the competition. There is no prescription for this, because it’s solely dependent upon who you are, and who you hope to attract. The nonprofits who recognize this are the ones that have success building their following.
An example we love: Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
Everyone hopes for their “viral” moment like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but in reality, successful social media programs are the result of persistence in implementing your strategy. Nonprofit organizations that understand this, and follow the tips above, have a competitive edge when it comes to converting followers to donors, volunteers and advocates.