#SocialMediaGoals: A Non-Profit Guide to Effective Social Media


By Malleana Ruffin, Social Media Manager, PIR

This article is part 8 of an 8-part series called “Bootcamp for Mission-Driven Organizations”.

While celebrities may claim to break the Internet with their captivating content, you don’t have to be a Kardashian to use social media effectively. Well leveraged, social media can be one of the most cost-effective and impactful aspects of your non-profit communication plan. Social media connects your cause directly with the people who want to support your cause—what could be better than that? Want to be a #SocialMediaPro? Read on. This advice will have you posting in no time.


The sheer number and variety of social media channels can be overwhelming. It’s important to cut through the clutter and choose wisely. Facebook has 2 billion active monthly users and the widest demographic range of any social media platform, according to www.pewresearch.org, while Twitter is a fast-paced, high volume network with demographics skewing to the under-30 age group. Instagram is the platform of choice if you want to reach a millennial audience. And, LinkedIn is a professional network used for sharing industry articles and general business or non-profit content. Make sure to select the platforms most likely to reach your intended audience. Don’t expect to find many middle-aged users on Instagram, for example. 


As with any marketing strategy, planning your social media posts will make them more effective. Create a content calendar to map out what you will share, where you will share it, and at which intervals. Some questions to consider during planning are: How often will you post? Who will manage the content? What will the approval process be? What events, internal and external, should you plan for? It’s also helpful to learn about how often to post on social media and what time of day gets the most clicks on various platforms. In addition, it’s important to provide content that is useful and newsworthy to your audience. Not doing so can have the opposite of your intended effect—fewer followers and supporters for your cause.


Short, sweet, and show-while-you-tell are social media content guidelines to live by. As for the “short” part, composing succinct posts isn’t just relevant on Twitter, where characters are limited to 280. Brevity is also a boon on Facebook, where posts of fewer than 80 characters offer up 66% more engagement. In regard to “sweet,” researchers at Cornell University partnered with Facebook to study 500,000 users and found that “happy” content gets shared more quickly and often than “sad” content. While raising awareness and funds for your non-profit, coming from a positive angle will benefit your strategy. And, don’t forget “show-while-you-tell.” Pictures and videos make your content come to life. Your audience is three times more likely to engage with Tweets that contain images and videos, and Facebook posts that incorporate visuals receive more than twice the engagement. 


Hashtag everything to engage followers interested in what your non-profit or good for the world business offers. You can use popular ones, such as #MotivationMonday or #TBT (Throw-Back Thursday), and link them to your mission. Check out the website www.hashtags.org to search thousands of hashtags and see what’s trending and relevant to your organization. In addition, you can drive engagement through interactive content. Turn “likes” into action by experimenting with Twitter polls and Facebook surveys. Contests or challenges are great, as well. Invite followers to caption an inspiring photo, tell a life-changing story, or nominate an amazing volunteer. Here are some social media contest tips from www.classy.org

  • Use your website, email list, and other social networks to drum up contest participation.
  • Give prizes such as tickets to a fundraising event, virtual lunch with the board chair, or an annual membership.
  • Send a thank you to entrants who don’t win, along with a great story about your organization’s work.

While creating and maintaining a social media presence can be a bit #intimidating at first, it’s actually easier (and more fun) than you may think. Now that this article has given you some strategies for meeting your #SocialMediaGoals, it’s time to start building a functional and fierce social media presence for your organization!



Whether you’re a beginner or experienced expert, there are some fantastic resources available to help you market your organization on social media. This piece from www.classy.org can help you grow your followers. You can take courses online to learn social media best practices. And, since imitation is the highest form of flattery, check out this article on 10 Non-Profits Twitter Accounts that are Doing it Right