Structuring Your Nonprofit Social Media Plan

February 25, 2016
5 minutes

For nonprofits, social media is by far the best way to communicate with those who share your passion and commitment to your nonprofit's mission. It is the most direct way to talk to followers, educate others who may not know your mission yet, and ask for support for your mission.

To be successful on social media, you will need to have a strong nonprofit media plan. Do not rely on "off-the-cuff" posts. There will be plenty of opportunity for spur-of-the-moment posts. A good social media plan always allows for spontaneity!

Remember that prior to, during, and later on, after the fun, it is vital that your organization's voice and your message come through clearly and purposefully.

Creating your nonprofit plan for social media may sound complex or cumbersome. Still, in reality, it will ensure your time online comes from working smarter, not harder, and therefore giving you more time to devote to your mission.

Start by making a Social Media Calendar

This is where you would build out your social media calendar. It is basically a content map or guide helping you plan out your organization's (social) content for the year. It can also contain other content if you wish.

Creating one doesn't have to complicated. You can simply start by using a wall calendar or even just a spreadsheet to plan out your year.

  • Holidays - Note down all holidays with a focus on the ones people are off work.
  • Schedule the predicted dates for online giving – Do you know if your state participates in a nonprofit giving day? Do you participate in Giving Tuesday? Are there other nonprofit social media initiatives that you participate in? How about the year-end appeals?
  • You can build scheduled posts in advance for each of these dates. You can also send teaser posts in advance of the date to drum up interest and to get donors both aware and pumped-up, ready to commit.
  • Include any organization events in the calendar – This is where you list all the fundraisers, Volunteer Appreciation date(s), and Open Houses, for example. The great thing about social media scheduling tools is that you will be able to set up posts in January for December's events!
  • Do a Search Online for Odd Holidays – You don't have to include every offbeat holiday but rather find the ones that might fit your organization or are popular with crowds as well. For example, you may want to post on "Love Your Llama Day" or "Hug Your Dog Day" if your mission is in animal welfare.

Now that you've put in all the dates you want to recognize, it's time to fill in the gaps and give some thought to the content you'd like to purposefully share. Regardless if your content was originally from your team or a shared post, your goal should always be to get your followers to interact with your post and have a conversation with you.

Planning Your Posts Means Knowing Your Audience

Ok, it is SOCIAL media, of course, so planning your content to post means first thinking about your audience. Remember that the reason they are following you is that they've taken an interest in what you have to say with your content. Think about what they would want to see, what they would want to know. What is it that they would be interested in?

Most often, you will find that they really want to hear about what it takes to make your mission happen. They want to know what it takes to run a shelter or a behind-the-scenes look at a pet rescue. Whatever your mission is, your content should show it and talk about it.

If you can attach a meaningful, purposeful photo or video, then all the better. 

It's important that you not just share what you find interesting. Put yourself in the mind of your typical follower and think about the things they would be interested in. To be blunt, if you bore your followers, they will leave. If you post content that interests them, then they will like, comment, and share your posts.

Don't Be Afraid to Post a Variety of Content

All posts in your social media plan should touch on one of the following:

  • Why the post matters, informative articles, describes the impact of your work
  • Polls or surveys, contests, thank-you's, volunteer focus, or project focus
  • Fun times, memes, stories, taking time to share a giggle or smiles
  • A call-to-action, donate today, join now, come volunteer, help out

Any and all of the above goals can be accomplished using original or shared content in the form of photos, videos, memes, and, if needed, a good short story.

It's Time to Consider What Platform to Use

It is good to use more than one platform as your audience will vary across each one for different reasons. Once you know each audience on each platform, things will get incredibly easier when posting content.

The important thing here is to be strategic. Don't feel that you need to be on all of them. Test each out to find where your greatest impact would be. Stick to the ones that work.

Facebook is the most popular still for nonprofits because it speaks to Gen X and Baby Boomers. Facebook gives great flexibility regarding content so you can post images with stories or do a live video to grab attention to your cause.

Instagram is all about images and will help you reach a market made up mostly of 18-38 yr olds. This platform's main purpose is in sharing image content. Beautiful pictures with a few words only. Impactful when done right.

Twitter is most often used by adult males. It is used to get information quickly and shared just as fast. They are used to brevity in posts. It remains a good place to post educational links about your organization. Good for nonprofits geared toward human services.

Pinterest is mainly popular with 30-55-year-old women. This is a great platform for sharing volunteer opportunities, anything related to animals and children, as well as 'how-to' video content.

LinkedIn is the businessperson's network, without a doubt. This is THE place to share open houses and volunteer opportunities. You can recruit staff and find consultants for your organization here as well.

New Networks are ones that are just coming out. Between Snapchat, Tik Tok, Byte, and more, it would be a good idea to see if you have a good audience, so don't be afraid to try out new social media platforms when they come out.

When Are the Best Times to Post?

There are no universal rules around on when to post or how often for that matter. If you follow the best in the business, those social savvy folks post about every 1-3 days and no more than 2-3 times each day.

Don't flood your social media channel too much in one day. You will definitely lose the impact of your posts. Of course, the exception to that rule is when you may be hosting a fundraiser where hourly updates may be worthwhile.

Pay attention to your channel's insights from your posts, and eventually, you will see a solid pattern that you will adjust the number of posts to.

Final Thoughts

DON'T FORGET the one reason you are on social media. You are there to raise awareness and build relationships with your followers and supporters. You will reach those who do not normally open your emails. Maintaining a presence here is a good thing.

Social media always changes. Just be prepared to be flexible keep on top of things. Keep in mind your language will need to change at times when posting to different platforms.

Make sure to carve out proper time to create your social media plan. Once the first one is done, it will take less time, in the long run, to keep it running consistently!

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