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How to Make Social Media Work for Non-Profits

Every organization knows they need a Facebook presence, or a few social media pages. Why is that? Primarily it’s these two reasons:

  • It’s free*
  • Facebook has nearly 2 billion Monthly ACTIVE users[1], Twitter has 313 Million[2], Instagram has 700 million[3], and Snapchat has 160 Daily Active Users[4]. That’s a LOT of people

But, as everyone knows, if it’s free, there’s a catch.

Most of the major platforms use algorithms to show their non-commercial users what they deem as the most relevant content for those individuals. That usually means an emphasis on their friends’ postings first. So free, but curated. If you are a business, they want you to pay for “Sponsored Posts” or — better yet — advertise!

But what’s a non-profit to do? Non-profits and for-profits are similar in goals, gain business/funding and attract people and communities to their business. What’s not the same is available resources. Non-profits have far fewer, usually, and paying for online advertising usually isn’t a budget item.

So, what social media resources do you have, for free, as a non-profit?

Simple answer: CONTENT and TIMING.


Content is not easy. The whole goal of social media is to engage with other people. This means your posts should spark a conversation that both you and your audience can participate in. National non-profit groups that are exceptional at this include: The Humane Society, National Geographic, NPR, St. Jude’s, Ted Talks and plenty more (see a good list here: These non-profits regularly put up visually pleasing and thought-provoking posts that entice users to not only get users to like them, but comment on and share posts, or click through to the website where more content, including donation information, can be found.

Thankfully, topics can be relatively simple. People like your page, showing that they have an interest in your cause. But, no one wants to read press releases; they want stories. What makes this subject interesting? For an animal shelter, you see this happen all the time: “Meet Lulu the Pitbull, she may look mean, but she’s the best cuddle buddy ever and she loves wearing tutus!” Or you’ll see this with events based non-profits like alumni groups: “We went out had a lot of great networking opportunities, join us next time!”

The big key is finding a way to get your content to entice an action. The first example encouraged the reader to adopt Lulu the Pitbull; the second extended an open invite to a future activity.

Because content takes trial and error, keep a careful eye on analytics. Look at Impressions/Reach, Likes, Shares, Comments and Link Clicks (or Engagements) to see which posts are receiving the most attention. The best way to set standards is to only compare against yourself when starting out — don’t compare yourself to a bigger brand or you’ll get discouraged. Focus instead on finding more people relevant to your cause and then engaging with them.


To stay relevant, post frequently to stay in someone’s feed. That’s why it is important to make sure that not just one volunteer is attempting to handle all of your social media activity. Have a few volunteers, and pick different platforms to tackle that help you best promote your cause. An easy way to do this is to create content calendars that help you plan what kind of content to post, as well as when and where. You can make these in any type of calendar app or program.

The biggest thing with timing is to be RESPONSIVE. If someone makes a comment (as in a complaint, a question or a compliment), try to answer and address it within 24 hours. Show the user that you value them, and their engagement. If someone comments on something, that post is on their friends’ feeds, meaning that how you respond will be shown to more than just your fans. A brand that is responsive is more likely to be engaged with, both in a positive and growth-oriented way.

A brand that posts great content and keeps people engaged will receive a lot attention, and it also will keep social media costs under control by maximizing all the things it can do for “free!”