Whenever we have the chance to chat with folks about social media stats and marketing strategies, we are amazed at the many unique ways you all go about charting a path to social media success.

Every industry and niche—every social profile, even—is unique.

Non-profits are a great example of a segment of social media with its own unique elements and expectations. The non-profit structure—donation-backed, humanitarian-focused, member-based—presents an opportunity for some really neat ways of putting social media to good use, and I’ve done my best to collect a number of stats, tips, and strategies here in this post.

Do you run a non-profit? Do you help your non-profit share to social media? I’d love to learn from your experience also.

Social Media for Non-Profits

Survey Says … How Non-Profits Share to Social Media

1. The pinnacle of engagement

What is the absolute best form of engagement your community could give you or your business?

A mention on social media?

A 1:1 email conversation with you?

A share of something you’ve written on your blog?

Nearly half of non-profits (47%) find that the pinnacle of engagement is a donation.

This data comes from a survey performed by the Case Foundation, which goes on to highlight the connection between this pinnacle of engagement and its effect on how non-profits view their different marketing channels, including social media:

Nonprofits overwhelmingly (88%) said their most important communication tools were email and their websites, even though fully 97% of them are on Facebook. This may have to do with the fact that in their mind, the pinnacle of engagement is a donation (47%). Clearly, simply getting folks to retweet or comment (18% each) is helpful only to the extent it culminates in financial support, which still typically happens through a donate page.

Best marketing channels for non-profits

How does social media fit into a marketing strategy when a non-profit’s focus is quite donation driven? (I’ll hope to offer some answers below.)

2. The case for social media—it’s growing, fast!

Though email and websites still rule as non-profit marketing channels, social media is catching up. In Social Media Benchmark Study’s 2015 report, they found the following:

  • Email list sizes grew 11% in the past year
  • Facebook and Twitter followers grew 42% and 37%, respectively

For non-profits, social media is growing 3x faster than email.

In terms of total numbers, email still dwarfs social. For every 1,000 email subscribers, non-profits have on average 285 Facebook fans and 112 Twitter followers.

But the gap is closing.

Here are some benchmark numbers of where non-profits stand in terms of social media followers, broken down by segment.

Average Facebook followers non-profits 2014

Average Twitter followers for non profits 2014

(The Small, Medium, Large distinctions in the charts above are based on a non-profit’s total number of email subscribers. Small non-profits are those with 100,000 or fewer subscribers. Medium is 100,000 to 500,000. Large is 500,000 and up.)

3. Many non-profits are short on social media staff

Social Media Benchmark Study’s 2012 results claimed that nonprofits only allocated 1/4 of one full-time person to social media marketing. Case Foundation’s 2014 study (two years later) found that the number had increased, if only slightly: Half of survey respondents had one full-time or part-time person doing social media. For the remaining half, one quarter used a social media team, the other quarter is ad-libbing it.

The same Case Foundation report found lack of staffing to be the biggest challenge for non-profits.

With this being the case, it becomes all the more important to share to social media as efficiently as possible, saving as much time as possible.

4. The preferred social networks for non-profits

Most every non-profit is on Facebook. Quite a few are on Twitter, and many do LinkedIn and YouTube, too.

In a HubSpot survey of small-to-medium non-profits in the U.S., here’s the breakdown of the top 10 social networks used by non-profits:

  1. Facebook (98%)
  2. Twitter (~70%)
  3. LinkedIn (~55%)
  4. YouTube (~45%)
  5. Pinterest (~25%)
  6. Instagram (~15%)
  7. Google+ (~15%)
  8. Flickr (~10%)
  9. Tumblr (~5%)
  10. SlideShare ( state > city). To access this report, log in at Followerwonk and choose an Analyze report, with your @username and “analyze their followers.”17. Discover the connections of your teamTap into the networking aspect of social networking, on LinkedIn in particular, by looking at the connections of those in your organization.

    18. Use closed groups on LinkedIn or Facebook

    Chat internally with your team on LinkedIn or Facebook to help share resources or ideas. Also great for connecting with a team of volunteers or a board of advisors.

    19. Reserve your name in all social media platforms.

    KnowEm is a great place to visit to see which social networks you’ve yet to claim.

    20. Create your own Wikipedia page

    Wikipedia pages can be great for social sharing and for helping manage your brand online. (They’re pretty great for SEO, too.) To create a page, go to the entry creation page at Wikipedia, and once you’ve created the entry, be sure to check back often and track any changes.

    21. Allow social media as a communication preference for your members

    Many people (millenials in particular) may prefer any notifications or messages to come via social media. You can add these folks to a group or list and message them directly when you might otherwise send an email.

    22. When someone registers at your site, ask for a social media profile

    This can be a simple extra field in your signup form (or for the especially tech-savvy, you can add social sign-in to your forms). Once you have the social media info, you can connect with this person and store his or her social media info in your donor database.

    23. Offer text-to-give & tweet-to-give

    As social media continues to go mobile, your payments can, too. Text-to-give is a slick way to help those who want to donate to be able to donate quickly.

    Same goes for those who might want to donate directly from Twitter. You can register your non-profit at Charitweet to enable simple, micro-donations direct from Twitter.

    24. Add social media PR contacts to your list

    If you’re looking for press coverage for your non-profit, instead of going the traditional news route, you can find many great contacts online, including online-only publications and journalists who are primed for your topic. Some smart searches (“PR,” “[your topic],” “[your area],” etc.) can reveal some leads worth following.

    25. Have a social media person on your board

    Find someone who knows their stuff on social media and can help with formulating strategies or making plans should something go wrong on social.

    26. Schedule routine drive-bys of your social media accounts

    Fifteen minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening may be enough to catch up on what’s been happening on your social accounts.

    27. Find and participate in Twitter Chats

    Share your expertise and connect with like-minded people. You can search in a chat tool like Twubs to find a relevant Twitter chat on your area.

    28. Respond to everyone

    Responding completely is one way to help set yourself apart on social media. And if possible, it’s great to respond in a timely manner, typically 24 hours or less (or a couple hours or less on Twitter).

    29. Ask about non-profit discounts for your favorite tools

    Many online tools offer discounts for non-profit businesses.

    Buffer has a 50 percent discount for non-profits!
    Visit our page here, or get in touch directly with our support team to activate the discount for your organization.

    10 Helpful Tools for Non-Profits

    1. Crowdrise – Crowdfunding platform ideally suited for nonprofit fundraising
    2. Amazon Smile – You can set up your organization to receive donations from Amazon purchases
    3. Classy, First Giving & Blackbaud – Peer to peer fund raising
    4. Mention & Social Mention – Social media monitoring
    5. Buffer – Social media scheduling and management
    6. Google for Non-Profits – Discounts on products for nonprofits
    7. Piryx – Web payments for non-profits
    8. Bloomerang – Fundraising management & software
    9. Harvest & Donate.ly – Online payments and donations for your website
    10. Charitweet – quick and simple microdonations with a tweet

    Further resources


    There appears to be great room for growth for non-profits on social media—and many ways to go about it! At the least, there’s certainly validation that social media is a great place for non-profits to invest. Take this list from the Huffington Post of seven reasons why social media is perfect for non-profits:

    1. Get the word out cheaper and faster.

    2. Use social context to drive friends of friends to participate.

    3. Build a community of supporters.

    4. More easily reach the people you’re out to serve.

    5. Find and engage influencers to help spread the word.

    6. Become a thought leader in the space you serve.

    7. Better tell your story.

    What have you learned about non-profit social media marketing?

    What tactics have been helpful or effective?

    I’d love to learn more from you on this topic. Feel free to add your input in the comments. See you there!

    Image sources: Pablo, Death to the Stock Photo, IconFinder, Nonprofit Quarterly, HubSpot