It’s 2021, and the debate raging over whether or not nonprofits should use social media still persists.
The proof is in the pudding. According to the 2020 Global Trends in Giving Report, 25% of donors say that social media is the communications tool that most inspires them to give.
While we will never get to 100% of our community and our donors using social media, why ignore this 25%?
This report also found that especially during COVID-19, the top three preferred methods of giving are:
- Online (80.5%)
- Bank/wire transfer (18.6%)
- Direct mail/post (14.4%)
Most notably (to me anyways!), 32% of COVID-19 donors have donated through Facebook Fundraising Tools. Of those, 88% said they are likely to do it again.
AND 10.7% have donated through Instagram Fundraising Tools. Of those, 93% said they are likely to do it again.
Another notable statistic: 54% of nonprofits have transitioned in-person programs online and 42% have developed completely new programs in response to need.
Social media, email, and other digital platforms are the way in which we now deliver not just fundraising messages, but actual programming.
In terms of our audience, it can’t be denied that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns changed how, why, and how much people go online.
But of course, the big question remains — how does all this posting, gramming, TikToking actually translate into action?
How to create nonprofit social media content that converts?
If you still aren’t convinced that your nonprofit can actually use social media to turn fans to donors, advocates, and active participants — then you may not understand the essential elements of social media content that converts.
There is no silver bullet, and there is no money spigot that can be turned on and left to pour donations into the bank account.
To determine if a nonprofit’s social media content is effective (as in, turns likes into action), I evaluate it on what I call the three Cs: Compelling, Consistent, Clear.
1. Is it compelling?
The definition of compelling is “evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.”
At least 80% of what we post to social media should strive to be as compelling as possible.
Quick question here: Do you get annoyed when someone calls you on the phone, and you are in the middle of doing something else?
Or when an ad comes on when you are watching something on Hulu, or listening on Spotify?
We do things ON OUR OWN time, on our own schedule
We do not like to be interrupted. That’s the problem with most nonprofit social media content — it’s designed to interrupt and to “cut through the clutter”.
The media landscape has completely changed.
We live in a world where people only watch TV when they want to and can consume entire seasons of their favorite shows in one night.
Yes, there is so much about the declining attention span, and sure, it’s a real thing.
BUT. And it’s a big but.
At the end of the day, it’s not really about whether someone has time for your content or not.
It’s about whether or not they find it interesting. Compelling. Worth their time.
To evoke interest and grab attention on social media, you need one or more of the following in your social media posts:
An eye-catching visual
Movement (i.e. video) to grab attention
Punchy headlines and language
A great story
Remember that each platform is different — while a two-minute video works well on YouTube it certainly wouldn’t on Instagram or TikTok!
2. Are you posting consistently?
Quality rules over quantity on social media — but consistency is the name of the game.
When creating content for each social media platform, think of each as a separate country, with a distinct language, culture, etiquette, and inhabitants.
Each platform has unique properties and strengths, that can augment what you are currently doing in marketing, or hinder you.
The good news is that you do NOT have to be everywhere at once — just the opposite!
In fact, you may decide that you want to focus your marketing efforts solely on one or two social platforms.
It’s entirely up to you where you focus your limited time and resources.
Make a list of the platforms that you use for your nonprofit marketing.
To conduct a quick audit of the platforms you currently use at your nonprofit, download my Nonprofit Social Media Audit template and keep it handy.
But how frequently should you post on each social media platform?
Organizations that bake social media into their work and spend targeted time building their communities are going to get better results than organizations that show up once per week and post something half-baked and mediocre (or worse).
To understand why this is, you need to understand how social media algorithms work.
For more on how to determine a manageable posting schedule, read: How to Set a Manageable Social Media Posting Schedule
For more on ways to create content specific to each platform, read: How to Effectively Tailor-Make Social Media Content for Different Platforms
3. Is your message clear?
Is your messaging all over the place?
Do you have a clear visual branding guide — do the posts look like they are all from the same organization?
Do the posts make sense? Are they clear and concise, succinct, free of jargon and insider speak?
Can I easily understand what you do and why you do it?
What is the story that you are telling?
And most importantly — what do you want me to do, now that you have my attention?
The best social media posts can be understood at a glance.
It takes mere seconds for a user to determine whether or not they want to watch the whole video or click over to your website for more information.
Too many nonprofit social media posts ask for too many things at once — a like, a comment, a share, a link click.
Pick ONE action you want people to take — even if it’s just a like! That’s engagement, and it’s nothing to sneeze at.
The more engagement you get, the more the algorithm sees you as a trusted resource — and the more people will see your post, thus getting more eyeballs on your message.
How are you showing up at these crucial times — when you don’t want a donation, when you don’t want a sign-up, when you don’t want a registration?
How we show up when we are just providing value, a great story, a beautiful photo — this defines our social media reputation and also ensures that when we DO ask for something, more of our audience will participate.
You’ve got this!
“Social media and technology are not agents of change. They are just tools. We, the connected people, are the agents of change.” Jean R Lanoue
The most important piece of advice I can give to a busy, stressed out nonprofit social media manager is not to beat yourself up if a few tweets go unanswered, a blog post is a day late, or a Facebook post has a formatting error. Things can be edited and cleaned up. Tomorrow is another day.
Social media and nonprofit marketing work is important — but the work of community building, raising awareness, and showcasing your impact is never fully done, and that’s ok.
The future cannot be automated. People are, and will continue to be, motivated by people and not technology. If you give people the information they need, they will take it and run with it on your behalf. Provide them with guidance, clear steps, compelling stories, helpful information — but let them take your message into their own hands. Give them empowerment and ownership of your vision.
In social media, it truly is a game of you get what you give. If you are just showing up to solicit, to push out a promotion, to post and leave — you will not get the results you seek nor the achievements that your cause deserves.
For nonprofit social media managers, the constant challenge is making it easier for your audience and customers to engage with you on their terms — when and where they want to. This is vital to understand — it’s not about us and where we want to interact; it’s not about what’s convenient for us. It’s all about our community and their preferences. Without them, we are nothing.
You can’t purchase an active online community. You can buy email lists, fans, followers — but not genuine participation and affinity.
Building your movement and mobilizing your community on social media requires skill, patience, and strategic effort, but should never be seen as a waste of time. You’ve got this.