10 Signs Your Small Nonprofit Excels at Social Media FacebookSmall (and medium-sized) nonprofits have a different experience on social media than large nonprofits. Small nonprofits have to work harder at growing their following and most often the work of social media management is added to an already full job description. On top of those challenges, Facebook reach has dropped to an abysmal 1%. Twitter requires a time investment that many small nonprofits simply do not have. Instagram’s new algorithm will require top-notch visual and video content which most small nonprofits will struggle to create and curate. LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, Google+, Vine, Tumblr? Yeah, right. Small nonprofits can barely invest the time it takes to manage a Facebook Page and Twitter Profile.

Social media is in a weird transition right now. Referral traffic, reach, and engagement is on the decline for those that do not have large followings and a social media advertising budget. New platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope don’t offer easy ways to link to back your nonprofit’s website, thus successfully fundraising on these new platforms is nearly impossible. Even more cumbersome is the trend to not only publish your stories on your blog and website, but to also have to publish them on Medium, Steller, as Facebook Notes, on LinkedIn Publisher, and soon directly into Google.com. All these new tools and trends are exciting, but impossible to effectively utilize if you don’t have a full-time new media manager.

All that said, don’t worry too much. As a result of this temporary decline in social media ROI, web and email campaigns are being rejuvenated and very soon digital payments within social networks will revitalize online fundraising. Once all the dust settles, your nonprofit will have a clearer sense of where the future of social media is headed and hopefully you’ll be re-inspired to post, tweet, share, and gram.

In the interim, now is a good time to step back and look at your social media campaigns with a fresh perspective. All nonprofit social media campaigns – even those of large, well-funded organizations – can be improved upon. Therefore, below are 10 tell-tale signs that your small nonprofit is on the right path and laying a good foundation for excelling at social media. Fret not if you are missing a few. Not even large, well-funded nonprofits are doing all ten.

1. Your nonprofit blogs or publishes a story on your website at least twice monthly.

We’ve all heard it. Storytelling is the buzzword of 2016 – and for good reason. You need to write stories about the positive impact your nonprofit is making so you have a good story to share with your followers on social media, in email, and in your print newsletter. However, just as important as the story itself, it how it is presented online. It should be published in a largish font, have plenty of visual content, and a clear call-to-action. Stray Rescue of St. Louis is a much-loved no-kill rescue that consistently writes and shares great rescue stories. The formatting could be improved, but like most small nonprofits the functionality of their website CMS is limited. You do the best with what you have.

Stray rescue3

2. Your e-newsletter has prominently featured calls-to-follow.

Ignoring the sad reality that many small nonprofits still send e-newsletters as attached PDFs (YIKES), your e-newsletter template in MailChimp or Constant Contact should be simple, modern in design, and include prominent calls-to-follow on social media. If not, then the basics of multichannel marketing likely have not been integrated into your online communications and fundraising plan.

follow children's alliance

3. Calls-to-follow are integrated into your online giving process.

All nonprofits – no matter their size – should donate to themselves every six months to experience the donation process for themselves. Online best practices evolve so quickly now that it’s likely that every six months you’ll have new insights that can be integrated into your online giving process. One obvious sign that your nonprofit is on the right track is that you have added calls-to-follow to your “Thank You” landing page and follow-up “Thank You” email. If you discover you haven’t, don’t feel bad. 90% of nonprofits miss this very obvious opportunity to convert their online donors into social media followers.

Oxfam America “Thank You” landing page


CARE “Thank You” email

CARE Thank You Email

4. Your nonprofit is active on at least two social networks and experimenting with a third.

Due to popularity and demographics, all small nonprofits should have a Facebook Page and be posting a minimum of twice weekly. Not all, but most small nonprofits should have a Twitter Profile and should be tweeting or retweeting a minimum of once a day. Your third social network should be one that is up-and-coming, expands your mobile skill set, and reaches a new target audience, such as Gen Z on Snapchat or Millennials on Instagram.

The Ottawa Food Bank has made a wise choice in their use of social networks by prioritizing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their Twitter following is 5X that of Facebook and 18X their following on Instagram and thus on Twitter is where the bulk of their effort is spent. Their Facebook Page seems to be experiencing less than 1% reach which makes posting daily futile. An algorithm is necessary to weed out boring content from the Facebook News Feed, but 1%? Come on Facebook, quit being so greedy for advertising dollars!

ottawa food bank

5. Your nonprofit does not automate Facebook posts to Twitter.

As tempted as you may be to save time, automation of Facebook posts to Twitter is not a best practice. Twitterers frown upon, and completely ignore, bots.

I posted

i posted 2

6. Your nonprofit regularly creates promotional graphics for events and fundraising campaigns.

Even large nonprofits do this poorly, so don’t feel bad if this isn’t a regular practice at your small nonprofit. That said, get better at it, and fast! Tools like Canva and Pablo make it super easy.


7. Your nonprofit has a visually compelling avatar that is used consistently on all social networks.

This is Social Media 101, but a best practice still not widely adopted by most small nonprofits. Your followers on social media will initially experience your online brand through your avatar, so make sure it is visually compelling, simple, in most cases without text, and that you use it consistently on all social networks, like the Pesticide Action Network.


8. Your nonprofit has claimed your LinkedIn Company Page and you post a minimum of twice monthly.

Odds are your nonprofit has a LinkedIn Page and it is featured on the LinkedIn Profiles of every person who has added your nonprofit as work or volunteer experience. Search, claim, set up, and then post a minimum of twice monthly to keep it current. LinkedIn Company Pages are overlooked by most nonprofits, but engagement is often higher than Facebook Pages.

Habitat for Humanity

9. Your nonprofit is ready for digital payments inside social networks.

Digital payments are coming to social networks (YouTube and Google launched them first). Get ready! A sure sign that your small nonprofit excels at social media is that you have already signed up for:

1. Google for Nonprofits

google for nonprofits

2. Twitter $Cashtags


3. Facebook Donations

facebook donations

For nonprofits outside the United States, you’ll have to wait a little longer for donations inside social networks. It’s not that Facebook, Twitter, and Google don’t want to offer you donation capability. It’s that there is no international database of legally verified nonprofits. In the United States we have nonprofit tax IDs and the GuideStar database. The lack of an international database that can be used to prevent fraud is the number one obstacle to raising funds online internationally. OnGood is working on such a database through validating nonprofits that use the .NGO and .ONG domains and BRIDGE numbers were recently launched to speed up the process of international validation.

10. Your nonprofit has a social media fundraising plan in writing.

The act of writing a comprehensive social media fundraising strategy is an essential first step in being successful on social media. To help you begin, Nonprofit Tech for Good has a three-step process for writing a strategic plan that can easily be revised on annual basis while at the same time is workable and moves your nonprofit forward.

fundraising budget social media

The 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report
2,780 NGOs • 133 Countries • 6 Continents

Report Cover JPG 99A collaborative research project by the Public Interest Registry and Nonprofit Tech for Good, the 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report is based upon the survey results of 2,780 NGOs from Africa, Asia, Australia & Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America. The research is unprecedented and provides valuable insight into the global NGO sector and its use of online technology.