Social Media & Nonprofits

As the digital and online world has evolved over the last ten years, the internet and online fundraising have become an integral part of any nonprofits’ financial picture. And a key part of that online effort is social media.

But how should a nonprofit approach social media successfully? How can it benefit your organization?


The first thing to determine is what you want to accomplish with social media. Primarily fundraising? Community outreach? Encouraging volunteerism? It can be multiples of these, or other goals, but the important thing is to understand clearly what you want to accomplish and to prioritize the goals you choose.There should be primary, secondary, and tertiary goals.

Additionally, part of creating goals is knowing that, or if, you’ve achieved them. We will cover that later in this post.

Know Your Target

With social media, the wider the net you cast, the less effective that net is at bringing in contributions or revenue. Research the demographics and habits of the people or businesses you want to attract. This does not mean you go after only one narrow group of potential donors. Rather it means you identify and prioritize the type of donor that is most important, then the next, then the next, in a ranked list.

Have a Strategy

Before you can have an effective social media effort, you need to have a strategy. ‘Strategy’ in a social media context means what you post along with the methods and patterns of posting, with your choices meant to achieve specific results. A good strategy should flow from your goals, and from what has worked before in achieving them. What type of information is your target audience most interested in? What has elicited reactions and interactions before? What do people most want to discuss? Find out what your target audience cares about, and craft a strategy around that.

Ask your supporters what type of content they want to see. You can use email surveys to ask them, or simply ask via your social media accounts. Taking into account their input, and what you know has worked before, come up with types of content you can present over and over again — such as donor profiles, success stories, pledge drive results, etc.

The Major Networks

The three most important social media platform for non-profits are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Facebook — Debuting in 2004, Facebook is the most venerable and longest-lasting of social media platforms, and still the largest and most pervasive. Other platforms have risen and fallen (Snapchat, Vines, Digg, MySpace, etc) while Facebook has plodded on, with incremental, thoughtful design changes, while accruing 1.56 billion daily active users, as of March 31, 2019. Further, the Facebook demographic is exactly what nonprofits want: 88% of online users age 18-29 are on Facebook, with 84% of those between thirty and forty-nine years of age. There is little doubt that Facebook remains the most vital social media platform for nonprofits.
  • Twitter — Twitter began as an effort to imitate cell phone-based texting online. The idea was that groups of friends could keep tabs on what each other were doing based on their status updates, which where limited in length, and that limit enforced brevity. Twitter went online in 2006, and in just a few years became the most widely used platform for instant communication and disseminating news quickly. Twitter essentially consists of small posts that may include links to video, images, or other web sites. People then comment on the post or forwarded it themselves (i.e., ’re-tweeting’ it).
  • Instagram — Launched in 2010, Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking platform. There were image-sharing platforms before Instagram — PhotoBucket, Flickr, and for that matter, Google Photos — but none have have achieved the reach and popularity of Instagram. Instagram was the first widely used social media platform restricted to smartphone use only. On its release 2010 it was available for iPhones and iPads only, and a year later, an Android version was release. Because of its booming popularity, a limited web-based version was made available in 2012.

Types of Media to Share

What type of media will drive contributions and support for nonprofits? Well, there are some general rules:

  • Text and links, not images…but images — Content people enjoy and seek out is usually text-based or video. Simply Posting an image, no matter how compelling, even if there is text on it, will not encourage people to remain on your site. At the same time, plain text or links have no visual appeal. So prioritize text and links above images, but be sure to include a relevant image with every post. If you are a OneEach customer, you can subscribe to the OneEach Image Gallery to find images relevant to your nonprofit.
  • Video — As the internet has become faster, and true streaming HD video has become commonplace. If you have compelling video content, people will watch it. That would mean keep it under three minutes (unless it’s VERY good). If your non-profit is a national organization, often the national entity can supply you with compelling, well-made videos.

Types of Content- The 70 / 20 / 10 Rule

The ’70 / 20 /10’ rule is guideline for the types of content you post. It’s intent — and it works — is to establish your social media presence as a place donors or customers go for entertainment and information and not to be ‘sold to’. Nevertheless, while viewing your social media, they do absorb your messaging.

So, for a given social media network, your content should be:

  • 70% original or non-sourced content. This would include articles and blog posts on your web site, videos you have posted, or ‘Shout outs’ to donors. (A shout out being a short acknowledgement of the person or entity.) Basically any original content you create.
  • 20% other people’s content, including interesting articles and news stories related to your nonprofit’s purpose. You would find these links via news outlets related to your nonprofit’s purpose, or via google alerts and searches, or on other social media pages related to your nonprofit.
  • 10% self-promotional content. This can directly promote any events, campaigns, or pledge drives you are sponsoring, but employ a light touch here. Users are sensitive to being sold ‘at’, rather than being invited into a conversation.

Measuring Success

The number one metric for social media success is engagement. Engagement in this context is the activity, the interaction, that your content generates between your and your customers / donors, and between you and them. Engagement is you and your target audience in conversation.

Given the three major networks described above, and the performance of your site itself, there are four primary ways to measure engagement.

  • Your website — Google offers a free service called Google Analytics, that tracks almost every aspect of your site’s performance. When your site was being put together, your OneEach Project Manager would have suggested using it, so you may already have an account. If you don’t, just submit a request at and our support team can let you know what to do to get an account setup with Google. To understand more about Google Analytics, you can read our previous blog post.
  • Twitter — A quick way to measure engagement on Twitter is to divide the number of followers by the number of retweets for a given tweet. However, you’d be better served getting a Twitter analytics account at Through that account you can see the retweets, follows, replies, favorites, and click-throughs your tweets get. It’s an invaluable tool.
  • Facebook — Your ability to measure Facebook engagement depends on the type of Facebook account you have. Your nonprofit should have a Facebook business page, not a personal page.
  • Instagram — As with Facebook, you have to have an Instagram business account to see its analytics, which on Instagram are called ‘insights’. (You can convert your page to a business account if it isn’t one already; you can do this by going to your Account page, and then selecting ‘Switch to Business Profile’.)

The world of digital fundraising is complex and challenging, and social media is now an integral part of meeting those challenges.