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Make It Social: How Charities Can Use Their Channels for Impact

Cell phone with social media images and icons on the screenWe live in an age where 1 in 10 millennials would rather give up a finger than their smartphone; where one-third of marriages start out online; and where websites, social media, and apps account for £2.7 billion of annual donations in the UK alone. 

When writing our latest guide, Make It Social: Tips & Tricks for #SocialMedia Success, we surveyed 100 charities in the UK. We found that only 14 percent had integrated their social media usage into their overall fundraising. Yet 78 percent of these organizations claim to be posting either frequently (around three times a week) or very frequently (more than five times a week) on their channels. So clearly, there is a disconnect—something that we have found when working with many charities, nonprofits, and foundations on refining their digital presence. 

There is a real appetite for a robust and effective social media strategy and presence, but many organizations might not know what it looks like for them, or how it can be effective. How can you ensure that the content that you post resonates with your audience and ultimately helps you meet your organizational goals? 

These are some of the questions we aim to answer in Make It Social, where we feature case studies, tips, and tricks from experts in the charitable sector. Here are four suggestions from this free publication. 

1. Go, Team!

Implementing an effective social media strategy is never the role of one person alone. Yes, your organization might be lucky enough to be able to employ a full-time social media officer who is able to manage channels on behalf of the organization, but it’s extremely beneficial to bring other departments on the journey with you, particularly when you’re designing the strategy. Getting buy-in from the whole team, and making sure everyone in the organization understands why you are on social media, and on the channels you are on, are important. 

Your team can also play a role in growing the reach of your content. According to LinkedIn, only 3 percent of employees share company-related content, but those shares drive a 32 percent increase in engagement. Employees get two times higher click-through rates from their shares, compared to company shares of the same content. 

2. Know Your Audience 

One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make is posting the same piece of content across different social media channels. Users behave differently on different platforms. Whereas people go to Facebook to see emotion-driven content, they might go to Twitter to see aspirational content, or Reddit to see what certain communities might be doing at any one time. It’s very unlikely that a single piece of content will be impactful on every single platform, because people go to different channels for different things. I always like to think of different social media platforms like different parties. Sharing your cat’s horoscope on LinkedIn is like the time when your parents came home early from a holiday and rudely interrupted a house party you were throwingit ruins the vibe. 

We recommend developing brand personas for social media to make sure you are engaging with the right audiences when you have a particular objective in mind. 

3. Share Your Stories

At the end of the day, people are on social media to connect with other peopleto find out what they are doing, what they are eating, where they’ve been on holiday. Which is why storytelling is such an important part of a compelling social media presence. User-generated content can add immense value to a charity on social media and can often generate 6.9 percent higher engagement than brand-generated content on Facebook. This is because people respond to authenticity – it creates moments to engage in, rather than information to absorb or donation requests to respond to. Turn your supporters into advocates and offer a successful way of cultivating supporters by appealing to your followers’ desires to share their own stories. 

This is something that Bliss, the premature baby charity, does extremely effectively. In their experience, taking a community-led approach tends to vastly outperform content they deem to be “promotional”things about the charity and their achievements, for example, rather than their impact on babies and their families. 

4. Be Open, Just Ask! 

Whenever we run workshops, we encourage participants to approach social media like they would a dinner party. Think about whom you might meet and find common ground. No one wants to sit next to a person who can only talk about him- or herself, so take a genuine interest in others, and be friendly in your conversation and delivery. 

What can you learn about your audience by asking a question? How might you follow up on a conversation that interested you earlier in the night? You wouldn’t ask a favor of someone you just met, so how will you ask your audience for money? 

Remember that the ask is more than just direct requests for money, although that is a goal for many charities. Use your channels over time to test different types of messaging, understand your audience, and be thoughtful about how you make the ask. Be clear, and don’t hide your objectives. Research has shown that better transparency among charities could increase donations by 50 percent, so if you’re asking for money, tell people what you want to use it for, how their actions will help your cause, and how they can get further updates. 

This is something that Islamic Relief UK have had a lot of success with, particularly when using Facebook Live for their appeals. Through constant testing, they’ve raised over £25,000 through Facebook Lives alone. One of the things they have found particularly effective is making a subtle ask at five-minute intervals during a Facebook Live, as they realized their audience takes at least five minutes to watch the video and check their notifications. 

Although we live in a time where the landscape is constantly shifting and evolving, the fundamental principles stay the same. Focus on people, help them share and tell their stories, and make sure your ambitions are realistic and grounded with purpose. 

Erin Niimi LonghurstErin Niimi Longhurst is senior manager at Social Misfits Media, an organization working with nonprofits and social enterprises to create dynamic social media strategies for marketing, campaigning, and fundraising. Erin has been working in the world of digital content for years, including with leading digital agencies, responsible for creating and implementing successful integrated content, community management, and social media strategies on behalf of global brands. Erin is also a food, travel, and lifestyle blogger and a published author.

Topics: Nonprofits and Social Media Social Media and Fundraising