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How to Create Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns

We all know the impact that social media has on the modern day world of nonprofits. Nonprofits are able to reach new constituents easier than ever before, attract volunteers, engage donors, and gather big data that truly reflects the difference they’re making in our communities. It’s no longer a question of what we need to do to harness the power of nonprofit social media, it’s a question of how.

Social media is no longer an experimental marketing tactic – it’s now an integral piece of our fund development and marketing strategies. Despite the wide-open market on social media for nonprofits, social media is an uncharted territory for many organizations. The power of social media has barely been tapped, and there’s a whole world out there in the digital realm filled with potential donors, volunteers, constituents, and advocates for your cause. You just need to know how to reach them and get their attention.

By integrating traditional media with digital marketing, the impact can be earth-shattering. We’ve compiled some of our favorite, most successful social media marketing campaigns to inspire you, and provide insights to the campaigns that you, too, can apply to your own social media campaign.

It starts with a goal

Before we dive into the fun elements of a campaign, like messaging and creative, we have to define what we’re looking to achieve. Identify the primary goal, then define secondary objectives. (For example: Increase the number of pet adoptions while growing audience engagement.)

With a clear end-goal in mind, it’s easier to start building a pathway (or campaign) to get there. There are two main types of social media marketing campaigns nonprofits need to consider:

  • Awareness (often measured by social media post engagements, the number of video views, clicks, participation, and/or # of people who saw the ads)
  • Action (measured by the number of people that take the desired action, such as signing a petition, making a donation, or signing up to volunteer)

You’ve now got your goals in mind. Next, we’ll delve into the fun stuff: how to create compelling campaigns that produce results. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite (and most successful) nonprofit social media marketing campaigns, along with some insights on how you can apply their tactics to create your own successful campaign.

1. Partner with a reputable company to bring in donations

This year, Make-a-Wish partnered with Disney for their #ShareYourEars campaign. For every post, Disney donated $5 to Make-a-Wish Foundation, capping at $1M. Wow, right?!

They used TINT to display their user entries on their websites and drive social media engagement, as well as generate awareness. The results were astounding: the #ShareYourEars campaign became a trending topic on Facebook, and Disney doubled their donation to $2M. Think of how many kids’ lives were impacted from this social media campaign.

Make a wish nonprofit social media campaign

No, you don’t have to be nonprofit giant like Make-a-Wish to create an impact. Nor do you have to partner with a large corporate entity to raise funds or generate awareness. Find ways to
creatively connect your nonprofit’s mission with a for-profit company that aligns with your vision and values.

Creative Example
If you’re a nonprofit who builds homes for families in need, consider partnering with a corporate giant like The Home Depot, or go local with your city’s preferred residential construction company to inspire action or raise awareness.

2. Go highly creative, but low budget

One of our favorite nonprofit social media campaigns was done by The American Pet Products Association. Their ongoing campaign, “Pets Add Life,” wanted to increase the number of pet adoptions and got quirky with their social media campaign “Animal Consultants.” The campaign featured a series of low-budget videos of animals being interviewed by humans. Their campaign was incredibly successful with over 127K YouTube subscribers, and 3M views.

This campaign was successful because of the creativity and authenticity behind the content. It felt magical, yet it felt totally real. And let’s face it, the thought of our pets talking is just downright entertaining. Erego the countless hours spent on YouTube watching cat videos.

The key takeaway here is that you don’t need a big budget to produce results; just big creativity.

Creative Example
Say you’re a senior day center and looking to get the word out about your organization and break the stigma of senior age. Find current day trends (like the mannequin challenge, or the dub challenge) and create videos of the senior members participating in these trends using your own smart phone. Upload the videos to your YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter with a clever hashtag campaign so people can easily find it. (ie. #SeniorsRock or something like that) Put some paid advertising dollars behind it and there is your campaign!

3. Use advocacy campaigns to inspire action

The National Alliance of Mental Illness turned to social media when it needed to inspire people in our communities to take action by doing one simple thing: listening to their peers.

The goal of the campaign was to get people to pledge to listen and support individuals struggling with mental illness, and get people who are struggling with mental illness talking to those who could potentially help.

The campaign launched in 2013, and in a year, the #IWillListen campaign generated more than 12,000 pledges using the hashtag and inspired several on-the-ground events. College campuses took action by organizing a “day without headphones” to inspire students to be available for those in need. The level of online engagement was astounding: 3,000% increase in likes, 200+ I Will Listen videos submitted, 7,000 tweets, 350 news stories, and 300 million impressions.

Creative Example
If you’re a homeless shelter, kick off an advocacy campaign that inspires members of the community to hand out items to those in need or commit to random acts of kindness for 12 days leading up to Christmas. Create a hashtag that can be found easily (ie., #AZs12DaysofMiracles) and promote it across all your social media channels, with smartphone videos documenting acts of kindness, and encouraging users to share their random acts of daily deeds.

4. Engage a younger audience by taking advantage of current tech

World Wildlife Fund wanted to engage a younger audience with smaller donations and raise awareness around 17 endangered animals. They did so with their #EndangeredEmoji campaign on Twitter. They turned 17 endangered animals into emojis, and when every user tweeted one, they pledged to make a $0.10 donation that would be tallied at the end of the month. Within a year, the emojis had been used over 202 million times over Twitter. Wow!

WWF Nonprofit social media campaign

5. Take a humorous approach with your campaign

MomsRising.org is an organization that advocates for issues facing women, mothers, and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions. In 2009, they came up with a customizable video campaign in an efforts to raise awareness and increase memberships. In just 10 days, they increased memberships from 160,000 to 1,179,154 as a result.

Key Takeaway
Get creative and don’t be afraid to take a more light-hearted approach to communicating your mission.

In the above Moms Rising example, the ability to customize the Mother’s Day video to send to your own mother is what truly ignited the massive engagement. Who wouldn’t want to send a funny, personalized video to their mother? Think about ways you, too, can use humor and/or personalization to fuel engagement with your audience.

Remember the hilarious app that allowed you to plaster your face onto a dancing elf’s body? Of course you do! And we bet you shared that to all your friends. The same principle can be applied to your nonprofit social media marketing campaign.

Next Steps to Building Your Nonprofit Social Media Campaign

Reaching your organization’s goals starts by reaching the right audiences, connecting with them with the right content, and inspiring action with the right message. With a little creativity, planning, and flawless execution, there are several ways nonprofits can leverage social media marketing to generate awareness, increase donations, attract volunteers, and drive constituent engagement.

While traditional media, such as radio, television, print and on-site events still play a critical role in today’s nonprofit marketing, it’s important to be able to extend these efforts into the world of social media to connect to an even broader audience. Keep these things in mind when you’re getting ready to plan a campaign for your nonprofit:

  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. We get it, shaking things up from the norm can be intimidating at best. But how will you ever truly get to see where the boundaries for your organization are without testing them? You can still be innovative and creative without sacrificing the credibility of your organization.
  • Take a for-profit approach. Why should the for-profit corporations have all the fun with advertising? We bet you’ve got a compelling mission, with a cause people really care about. You may need to allocate a little more budget to your paid social media advertising spend to produce the results you want – but don’t let that scare you off. The best part of social media marketing is that you have real-time access to the campaign performance, allowing you to monitoring the results, and proactively make adjustments as-necessary. Even more, you’re able to reach highly targeted audiences that you get to define, increasing the likelihood of people engaging with and/or taking action on your advertising campaign.
  • Hire the help you need. Yes, you may have an in-house marketing team, but it’s always nice to get a fresh perspective on the how to effectively integrate your mission with social media. A digital marketing expert can lend a strategic, yet creative perspective that will help you break the both communication and creative barriers between your organization and your potential donors, constituents, volunteers, or advocates. If you need some extra creative help for designing ads, do it! If your nonprofit social media campaign is done correctly, the returns can be massive.

Next Article: Is your nonprofit in desperate need of volunteers? Learn how you can find and recruit volunteers using LinkedIn. It’s easy, affordable, and you’re able to connect with professionals that possess the skills you’re looking for.