When it comes to online fundraising, most nonprofits focus on four areas: their website, e-mail, social media, and online crowdfunding. Of these four, the least understood is how to correctly use social media for nonprofits.
In my experience, the reason why social media for nonprofits is so often misused is because it seems the easiest. Most fundraisers don’t know how to design websites, and many agonize over the right words to use when sending out e-mail appeals. But nearly everyone thinks they’re an expert in social media, because nearly everyone uses social networks to connect with friends and colleagues.
The truth is, social media help your nonprofit raise more money, but only if you use it the right way (and chances are, your nonprofit is not currently using it the right way). In this article, I’m going to teach you how to successfully use social media for nonprofits at your organization.
Rule #1: Convert Followers to Subscribers
The single biggest thing you can do on social media to help with fundraising is convert as many of your social media followers to e-mail subscribers as possible.
This means getting the people who follow your nonprofit on social networks to go over to your website and sign-up for your e-mail newsletter. You can learn more about how to do this by reading our article A Simple System for Turning Social Media Followers into Offline Donors.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true: the #1 goal of social media for nonprofits is getting your followers to give you their e-mail addresses. This is because, when compared to e-mail, social networks are a terrible place to ask for money. Your success rate for appeals will be an order of magnitude higher when you ask via e-mail. So, use social media to connect with new donors and communicate with your current supporters, but do your best to get everyone to sign-up for your e-mail list as well.
Rule #2: You Don’t Have to Be Everywhere
When it comes to social media for nonprofits, there’s a temptation to be on every single platform. As a fundraiser, your board members, executive directors, donors, and others will ask you if you’re on this platform or that platform… and tell you why you should be engaged on every new social media network that pops up.
Avoid the temptation! There’s a never-ending stream of new social networks, and at least one new social network each year that achieves popular status. If you try to be on every social media site, you’ll waste time that could be used on other effective fundraising tasks.
If you’re a smaller nonprofit, my advice is that you stick with 2-3 social media networks. If you’re a mid-sized nonprofit, you should focus on no more than 5 networks. Even the largest organizations are probably wasting their time if they try to be active on more than 6-7 different networks. The return on investment just isn’t there. Limit the number of social media sites you are on, and focus on doing a great job on those sites where you have a presence.
Rule #3: Minimize Your Time Commitment
There’s a notion at many nonprofits that to be successful on social media, you have to put a lot of time into each site. I can’t tell you how many organizations tell me they have someone that spends hours each day on social media liking tweets, commenting on posts, replying to people, posting new content, etc. This is the wrong way to go about it.
My basic rule of thumb when it comes to social media for nonprofits is that you only need to spend 10-15 minutes per day, per site in order to be successful. This means that if your nonprofit is active on 3 platforms, you only need to be working on social media for 30-45 minutes per day.
This is important because if you’re spending hours per day on social networks, you’re almost certainly wasting time doing things that don’t matter. Also, if you are spending too much time on social media, you’ll quickly start skipping days when you feel like you don’t have the time. Don’t make this mistake. Spend no more than 15 minutes per day, per site, and do so consistently.
Rule #4: Don’t Just Post… Engage!
When it comes to social media for nonprofits, don’t just talk at your followers… engage with them! Social media doesn’t need to be a one-way street – it can be a conversation between you and your supporters and friends.
The best way to get people engaged is to ask questions and spark discussions. When posting on social media, ask people to reply in the comments. Tell them you need advice. Take polls and surveys. Ask for suggestions on other people you should be following. Retweet / repost things your followers post. Start conversations.
If all you are doing is posting updates on your work, you’re not taking full advantage of the power of social media for your nonprofit.
Social Media for Nonprofits: Create a System
The best thing you can do if you want to be successful with social media for nonprofits is to create a system for your online activities. You can start by creating and sticking to a schedule where you post, engage, and seek out new followers every day (for no more than 15 minutes per site). Then, implement a plan for turning your social media followers into subscribers to your e-mail newsletter so that you can engage with them even more.
Social media for nonprofits can be a powerful medium, but only if you do it the right way. Use these four rules to set your nonprofit up for social media success.