Tweeting to Raise Awareness

In the age of social media, anything humans say can be transferred across the globe in a matter of seconds. Nonprofit organizations on Twitter are able to exploit this tool and do a lot of good with it.

Let’s take a look more specifically at all the good Twitter can do.

Feed the Children's tweet in support of fundraising for Oklahoma tornado recovery

Gain a Following

On Twitter, nonprofit charities are able to gain a tremendous following. Some of the more powerful nonprofits include UNICEF with almost 2 million followers and the Gates Foundation with almost 1 million followers.

These two are examples of how large an audience, free from geographic restrictions, a nonprofit can reach on Twitter. Even smaller or newer nonprofits are effective at building a significant online presence if they’re willing to put in the time and work.

Small nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders and the Humane Society of the United States have built up followings of 300,000 and 200,000 followers respectively.

As a case study, try following The Happiness Theory on Twitter. They’re a budding nonprofit in pre-launch that would be great to follow through their online growth.

How to Gain That Following

Follow Relevant Groups

By following other charities, you can learn a lot about Twitter. First of all, following other groups similar to yours will help to brand your initiative as a nonprofit. Following other charities can also give you a peek into the different tactics they use, giving you a chance to implement these strategies in your own promotional efforts.

Speaking of Branding…

People tend to follow brands they enjoy and identify with. In your Twitter bio, explain the purpose of your nonprofit, some of the projects you’re engaged in right now, or what you’re planning to accomplish. It’s also a good idea to put your central location in your Twitter bio.

Add Twitter to Your Website

Easy enough. Put a link to your Twitter account on your nonprofit’s website. Use the little Twitter icon – it has become so recognizable that people visiting your site for the first time may even be looking for it.

Use Relevant #Hashtags

When tweeting, use hashtags to draw in a new audience. Different ideas for hashtags to get you started are #charity, #nonprofit, or #helping. Anything along those lines would be a great addition to a tweet.

As you settle into your niche within Twitter, investigate what other hashtags might help you build your following – keep an eye out for trends that might align with your mission, and use Twitter’s search bar to see if related phrases are being used.

Twitter Tip: Keep your tweets short. People tend to respond to and retweet tweets that are less than 100 characters. That means that though you should be using hashtags, don’t rattle off a dozen of them at the end of your tweet! Keep it short, simple, and shareable.


Your audience will grow when you start to interact with the followers that you have. People will tweet at you, and they really appreciate when a nonprofit tweets back at them to answer their questions or show your agreement. It can establish a personal interaction and loyalty to the nonprofit, making them more inclined to react to your calls to action.

Promote Your Cause

Once you gain an adequate following, you will be able to promote your nonprofit to a greater number of people than you would have reached otherwise. Use that following to introduce them to your nonprofit if it is starting up and what you plan on doing in the future.

Twitter Tip: Asking for retweets when you really need them (but not constantly!) can be a great way to get a message out there fast. Asking your audience to “please RT” can get up to ten times more engagement than a tweet without any call to action, and asking “please retweet” can get up to 23 times more!

Give Updates

Twitter is a great place to give live updates. We have seen this with the Presidential Elections and unfortunately, with natural disasters and terrorists attacks. Use this fact about Twitter to give live updates about what is going on in your charity or what your cause is doing:

World Bank Group Pres. Jim Yong Kim speaking now on #poverty, #health and human future @who in Geneva. #WHA66

— World Bank (@WorldBank) May 21, 2013

Twitter Pictures

Twitter has not become the most visual site – yet. Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest take the visual category in social media. Twitter does, however, offer the ability to post pictures to your profile and attach pictures to tweets. This would be a perfect way to not only tell what you are doing, but show what you are doing.

Feed the Children, a charity located in Oklahoma, has a great example of using a picture to visualize their cause. The picture reinforces the way that others are able to help the cause:

Let’s RT for families affected by tornadoes. Text DISASTER to 80888 with $10 & #PrayforOklahoma.…

— Feed The Children (@FeedTheChildren) May 21, 2013

Show Support

Your charity will not always be able to help out in a time of need. Sadly there will be time when you can’t do anything but show your support and reach out. A great way of doing this is to take to Twitter.

During the recent Boston Bombings, nonprofits in Boston had their hands full with getting people to hospital, making sure everyone had a place to stay, and even feeding people. Nonprofits around the country expressed their support for these charities’ hard work over Twitter. This helps the charities that are able to physically aid in the cause by knowing they have a support group behind them.

Often times this is a great way to collaborate with for-profits. If you’re able to promote your own support for a cause following a crisis, it’s likely to draw in furthered support from local corporations.

Express Thanks

Lastly, when charities receive funds, resources, or even kind words from others, Twitter is a wonderful way to reach out and thank your donors. During a time of need, a charity’s Twitter account is likely to get busier, and it is always a nice gesture to attempt to respond to as many people as you can.

Since the advent of social media, the promotional strategies for nonprofits have been evolving in exciting and powerful ways. Your nonprofit must adapt with these changes instead of resisting them in order to stay relevant in our more and more socially-connected world. Utilizing Twitter is a short, quick way to thank someone, distribute information, and garner support for your cause.

How is your nonprofit staying relevant and utilizing social media? Share your experiences in the comments.

Shane JonesShane Jones is a strong advocate for the power of personal, “humanized,” digital collaboration and shares his opinions and vast experience on social and digital marketing. While advertising and branding is his expertise, his passion lies in blogging. Outside of the business world he’s a marathon runner and an avid bucket lister trying to inspire more action and less talk, despite my propensity for gab. You can find him on Google+