The Nonprofit Guide to Social Media

You might be thinking: Okay, I know my nonprofit needs a Facebook page and an Instagram account — but why? Or perhaps you’re on the other side, asking yourself: Why are we investing so much time in this stuff in the first place? Who even uses Facebook or Twitter anymore?

It’s important to invest in social media as a nonprofit, if for no other reason than your supporters expect it (and it’s where they are). With most causes using social media to engage their community, people will look to your social media to learn more about and engage with you. If they don’t find you, they may trust you less, and worse they might find someone else. Today, more than 85% of U.S. adults are active on social media.

Whenever you hear “I never use Facebook, so we don’t need it,” remember the data. One person’s opinion is an N of 1. Understand the macro trends of your audience and use that to guide strategy. 

And, depending on the platforms and process you use, you can get a ton of value from social media! The important thing is to figure out how you can use each platform to have the greatest impact for your organization with the smallest investment. Read on below to learn how. 

1. Grow Your Following

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hit Like, did it actually fall? Let’s get one thing out of the way: More followers on social media doesn’t automatically guarantee more engagement. According to the latet M+R Benchmarks, each Facebook post only reaches an average of 4% of your fans. Gone are the days where you could post on your Facebook page or Instagram feed and know that your fans or followers will see it. But, you still need an audience. To start, check out our guide to getting more (real, live, human) followers on social media. 

If may also help at this stage to take a look at some lessons learned from the most popular nonprofits on social media to see what you can apply to your own nonprofit’s social media strategy. If you’ve already done the basics, we also have guides on influencer marketing for nonprofits (which should go far, far beyond your social media, but is relevant to this discussion), and social media takeovers for nonprofits. Finally, you might be tempted to give your following a booster shot by buying some fake followers. Here’s why that’s a bad, bad idea.

2: Post the Right Content

One of the keys to social media success is recognizing what organic social media (i.e., social posts that have no ad dollars to back them) can be good for and where it can fall short. If you’re relying mainly on organic social reach organic social media can be helpful for building brand equity, some awareness, piquing supporter interest, drawing engagement, personal storytelling, and on-platform peer-to-peer fundraising.

A few key rules to keep in mind to guide a successful organic social media content strategy: Post original content, post content that follows the news cycle, jump on the bandwagon with hashtag campaigns, holidays, or other trending topics, and don’t be shy about getting help from influencers (or simply your own network of supporters) to amplify key posts. Stuck for content? We have over 35 social media ideas.

Finally, you can operationalize your social media strategy by using a social media management tool to corral posts, platforms, and analytics.

3: Picking the Right Platforms

Social media is not an all or nothing affair. Your organization probably doesn’t need a Facebook Page, and a Twitter account, and a Pinterest profile, and a Snapchat filter, and a StickerKitty, and a YouTube channel. And, before you go Googling StickerKitty, it’s not a thing. We made that one up. But it sounds great doesn’t it

Here’s a breakdown of some of the top social media platforms for nonprofits…


In our experience, Facebook is still a must have platform for most organizations. Though it’s important to note that we’ve seen the value of organic Facebook posts diminish over time. Paid ads are the real king of Facebook, but with Facebook Donations, it’s now also the only major donation platform that charges a 0% transaction fee — and a popular way for users to donate their birthdays to nonprofit causes. Here are some more tips on creating organic content on Facebook to drive impact, including tips on Facebook videos and #hashtags #on #Facebook.


Instagram isn’t just a place for to highlight all your amazing travels and how much fun you’re having because you’re #blessed. With over 1 billion monthly active users (71% of whom are under 35), the Gram is another useful social media touchpoint for nonprofits. Nonprofits can use Instagram to broadcast their work, find more users to engage with their mission, demonstrate impact, and even fundraise — especially fundraise actually, now that Instagram has donation stickers.


There are 30 million active users on YouTube every single day, watching and sharing any one of the over 5 billion videos that have been posted on YouTube to date. All of this makes it the world’s second-largest search platform. If you’re in the video game, YouTube is king. The ideal use for YouTube is to increase awareness and tell great stories. If your goals can be achieved in video form, then YouTube is right for you. In our experience it’s not as effective of a channel if you need to drive off-platform engagement on your website.


Twitter is your go-to social media platform for timely and relevant news updates and engaging with important experts, leaders, influencers, and partners in your issue space. It moves fast and requires real-time engagement to stay relevant.

Pinterest and LinkedIn

Some other popular social media channels you might want to consider include: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and Snapchat.

LinkedIn for nonprofits is an often underutilized platform that can have outsized benefits to your organization. At its heart, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. We like to think of it as a digital relationship map of everyone you know, plus everyone that they know. It illustrates those first-, second-, and third-degree connections Kevin Bacon-style.

Pinterest is well-known when you’re plotting your #OOTD, doing some home decorating, or planning a wedding. But there’s also a space for Pinterest for nonprofits. It’s a great platform to consider if you offer infographics or how-to or explainer images. In addition to on-platform engagement, we’ve found that images on Pinterest tend to get indexed pretty highly in Google image search, which can also be an additional traffic driver to your website.

4: Measure Results

Generally speaking, there are 4 basic measures for success across any social media platform. All you need to ask yourself are these four key questions and use the native platform analytics paired with off-platform tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track your impact. These questions are:

  • Are people paying attention? 
  • Is your message being spread?
  • Are posts leading to other important actions?
  • Are people being re-engaged over time?

You can measure whether people are paying attention in number of on-platform engagements, such as views, likes, or comments.

Track whether your message is being spread in terms of shares. This includes shares or retweets or pins etc. of your posts on social media. But it should also include shares of your web content on social media. Make sure your pages are optimized for social media sharing, including making sure there is an image and the right metadata when the link is shared on social.

Want to use social media for good? It can take as few as 30 Tweets to get the attention of a US Congressperson. Politweets by Whole Whale lets you create a free Twitter advocacy tool for your website to help your supporters identify their U.S. Representative and tweet them your custom message. Did we mention it’s free? Learn more at