Tag: social media

As the landscape for donor and advocate attention becomes more crowded in 2019, it’s critical for nonprofit organizations to connect with their audiences in more authentic ways. Social media can be an important tool for nonprofits looking to engage with supporters quickly, seamlessly, and effectively.

With more than 700,000 followers across their social media sites, Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation initiative uniting girls around the world to advocate for gender equality, has reaped the rewards of a strong social media strategy. Girl Up has used its social channels to draw awareness for its cause, promote its first-ever #girlhero Awards during International Day of the Girl, and share ongoing updates.

While social media allows Girl Up to have consistent communication with its supporters, the organization was looking to take their engagement with advocates to the next level. Girl Up launched a dedicated online community platform. Here’s why.

A changing social media landscape

For Girl Up, social media has helped the organization tell its story to a broader audience and promote its events around the globe. Through Facebook, Twitter, and most recently Instagram, the organization has showcased the stories of individual girls around the world and highlighted notable public figures and celebrities that lend their support to Girl Up’s cause. It has also provided Girl Up the opportunity to seek user-generated content by using Girl Up-specific hashtags like #DayofTheGirl and #girlhero (among others), encouraging image sharing and input from its followers.

Yet, recent changes to the social media landscape have presented challenges for nonprofit organizations. Audience growth on platforms like Facebook have plateaued as new social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat gain popularity among younger generations. Not to mention, changes to algorithms across platforms are making it more difficult to reach those active users from those demographics than ever before. The result? Many nonprofits, who have relied solely on social media as a cost-effective means of driving visibility and engagement, are having to reconsider its role in their strategy to connect with advocates. This is where an online community comes in.

What is an online community platform?

An online community platform provides a branded destination for communication, collaboration, and sharing around a cause. It’s a dedicated place for those with common interests – an organization’s advocates – to have meaningful conversations and create connections around a shared belief in their cause. Online community platforms are increasingly diverse, including everything from forums and blogs, to multimedia like photos and videos, gamification for contests and leaderboards, analytics integrations and more.

How Girl Up uses its online community platform

Since its founding in 2010, Girl Up has seen steady growth in its community of supporters. To date, the organization has 3,000 Girl Up Clubs in more than 100 countries, and has trained 48,000 girls to create tangible change around the world. With that growth and breadth of supporters came the need to maintain meaningful conversations with and answer questions from this growing community, with limited staff and resources. Using a dedicated online community has helped to mitigate that challenge.

Girl Up launched its online community platform, which is powered by Personify, more than five years ago. Within Girl Up’s online community, supporters interact with each other and have an open dialogue in chat forums – sharing content, perspective and more. For example, community members often use the forums to celebrate fundraising successes or to ask for support, specifically in how to tackle challenges around fundraisers. Some of the most highly engaged content on Girl Up’s community includes thought-provoking hypotheticals like, “If women were given the leadership role in every country, what would the world be like?” This ability to have advocates connect and support each other, instead of always requiring a conversation with a Girl Up representative, provides a deeper sense of community and eases the strain on an organization’s limited capacity.

Along with resourcing, online community platforms provide nonprofit organizations with benefits like secure ownership of content, data, and constituent information. In a community, content is created by members, but you are in control of the discussion and content can be searched and used in the future. This means that rich content developed in a community like Girl Up’s can be repurposed by the organization to use in social media, marketing collateral, and more. For example, responses from Girl Up community members on how to tackle fundraising challenges can be packaged and shared as a guide from the organization, or responses from thought-provoking hypotheticals can be used as inspirational Girl Up social media content or thought starters for other community discussions. This has created a more comprehensive 360-experience for Girl Up’s audience – and the organization itself.

For Girl Up, a dedicated online community platform has helped drive critical results for the organization. To date, the organization has 1,500 digital clubs in more than 100 countries that help support real world advocacy efforts. Over 11,000 users have a space to collaborate, share successes, and get help when needed. And the community is only growing stronger. Over the first quarter of 2019 alone, the Girl Up community has added more than 1,800 new members and counting – all supporting the organization’s core goals and messages on an owned platform.

The online community platform also translated to results for the organization offline. Girl Up was able to grow its offline community, increasing the number of local groups in high schools and colleges by an average of 45% each year. The number of offline actions for social change led by those groups increased by 29% over the last year. Based on the success of the Girl Up online community, the United Nations Foundation launched a second online community with Personify for another program to drive similar engagement and results.

Social media vs. online community platforms

When deciding whether to devote efforts to social media or a dedicated online community platform for your organization, the answer is simple – use both. Social media, despite the changing landscape, has value and is useful for certain campaigns and situations – especially capturing the attention of potential donors or volunteers and creating consistent engagement opportunities with a broader audience. Once they’re engaged on social media, this audience can convert into an online community for members of your organization. If you make this transition successfully, social media can act as an acquisition tool and your dedicated online community can be your engagement and retention tool, providing rich opportunities for dialogue and conversation, and helping to further your organization’s mission.

On its own, social media is no longer enough to engage supporters, build trust and ultimately grow as an organization. Like Girl Up, today’s organizations should consider new methods to create transparency, increase authenticity, and build lasting relationships with their advocates.

9/9/19 Update
Facebook has made a major change to its Messenger policies. Starting January 15, 2020, pages can no longer broadcast to subscribers who haven’t interacted in the past 24 hours without paying for sponsored messages.

Sponsored messages are billed on an impression basis. Your ad account is charged for an impression when someone sees they have a message from your organization in their Messenger Inbox.

There’s an exception for news pages, but that is restricted to pages that “primarily create journalism,” not advocacy organizations that post news stories.

We think Messenger can still be a good channel for email and phone number acquisition, but the economics of it has changed.

We are testing tactics that are compliant with the new rules. Email Randall if you would like to collaborate on tests or want to know what we learn.


In the last few months, the two of us —Patricia and Randall—have had experiences that changed what we thought was possible as digital organizers.

We discovered a communications channel that combines the scalability of email and text marketing with the effectiveness of one-to-one conversations. It doesn’t hurt that we see response rates in this channel that are 800% higher than email asks.

That channel is Facebook Messenger.

Over one billion people around the world use Facebook’s messaging platform—Messenger—every month to connect with friends, family, and businesses.

Advocacy organizations are using automated Facebook Messenger conversations powered by bots to raise money, educate the public, contact their elected representatives, and turn people out to vote. These Messenger programs have no interaction between humans—it’s all between the user and a pre-programmed bot.

We saw those automated Messenger programs and wondered—could we combine the higher response rates and scalability of a bot to recruit people and ask them to participate in small advocacy asks with the effectiveness of one-to-one interactions to move people to get deeply involved with an organizing campaign?

Here are four ways we’ve experimented with Messenger, along with our early results.

Recruit new supporters via Facebook Live

Movimiento Cosecha organizes to win permanent protection, respect, and dignity for the undocumented community in the United States. The primary audience for their Messenger program is Spanish-speaking parents and workers.

Cosecha uses Facebook Live broadcasts from office or home settings to inform their supporters about campaign updates and recruit new supporters and broadcasts of rallies and marches to recruit new supporters.

They ask viewers of the broadcasts to comment a keyword on the broadcast to get connected to the movement. When someone comments a keyword, they receive a message in Messenger. When a supporter replies to that message, they are opted-in to Messenger conversations. The process is easy for the supporter. They don’t need to wait for a web page to load or type in their contact information on a petition.

In the five months since Cosecha launched a pilot Messenger program in New Jersey, they have recruited 900 subscribers from a page with 4,600 followers—primarily via Facebook Live broadcasts.

Drive calls to elected representatives

Cosecha uses public pressure to create political change and organizes immigrants to tell elected representatives the issues that are important to them. When driving calls to representatives, we knew that many of the Spanish-speaking parents and grandparents we are organizing had never made these types of calls before and may be hesitant because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the tactic.

We used Facebook Live broadcasts to explain the effectiveness of calling elected representatives and encouraged people to call even if they were nervous. We then asked supporters to comment a keyword on the livestream to open a conversation in Messenger. The supporters would then receive a daily messages asking them to call a different elected representative throughout the week. The message included a call button that acts like a speed dial, when the supporter presses it, it calls our legislative hotline. We saw a nearly 99% open rate for these broadcasts.

Given the 1:1 conversation capabilities of Messenger we were able to help anyone who replied to a broadcast because they were uncertain about how to complete the call or asked questions such as “Can I call when I get out of work?”

We used Twillio—a cloud communications platform—as a legislative hotline to patch callers to our selected representative. When someone made a call, they heard a pre-recorded Spanish-language message that guided them on how to effectively convey their message. In just 10 days, we were able to drive over 500+ calls to decision makers in New Jersey from Spanish-speaking immigrants. We also captured their phone numbers, which enables us to communicate with them via phone and peer-to-peer text. Nearly 25% of those callers answered follow-up messages asking for their city and we can now send them information about local events.

Connect people to local events

Sunrise Movement is a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. The primary audience for their Messenger program is high school and college age youth.

Sunrise Movement used Manychat, a Messenger marketing platform, and LocationKits,  a tool that takes user location data and returns locations near them, to help supporters find a rally at their Senator’s office. Organizers also answered questions from supporters and pointed people to resources if they wanted to organize their own rally.

Four percent of the message recipients RSVPed to attend a rally near them, a 300% increase over the same ask made by email. Due to the overwhelming success, Sunrise is now expanding its use of the tactic to connect subscribers to one of the hundreds of town halls nationwide or encourage subscribers to organize their own town halls discussing the Green New Deal.

Cosecha invited people to attend a march and rally via peer-to-peer text messaging and Messenger. The RSVP rate for peer-to-peer texting was 4% and 10% for Messenger, a 150% increase over peer-to-peer texting.

Engage in one-on-one conversations

People primarily use Messenger as a channel for conversations with friends and family and aren’t accustomed to receiving broadcast messages. That leads them to reply to messages with questions about getting involved, sharing their personal stories of why the issue matters to them, and other replies.

For organizations running a bot only program, these replies are a problem because if people don’t click the buttons or respond with the keywords that were set by the bot builder, the organization is unable to deliver the series of messages they created.

We love these replies because they are openings for organizers to engage in a conversation and move people to participate more deeply in the campaign. For example, Cosecha uses these conversations to recruit people to attend an organizing meeting or other events in their community.

“Using Messenger for one-to-one communication and relationship building has been essential for growing Cosecha’s base. We have had a campaign in New Jersey for years – and one mother had previously attended meetings but had never taken a leadership role. nThen one day, I noticed her name pop up responding to a broadcast we had sent in Messenger. She was responding to an RSVP message we had sent out saying that she ‘wanted to get involved again.’ That week, we found other people who had been engaged through Messenger in her area and sent her their contact information. Within a few weeks, she organized an event and started a new chapter in her town.”
Christine Miranda, organizer, Movimento Cosecha

The bot platforms

There are several bot platforms that are easy to use and inexpensive. The examples above use Manychat. A full review of the platforms is beyond the scope of this post, but here’s a couple of platforms that advocacy organizations are using.

  • Chatfuel
  • ManyChat
  • Strive Digital
  • @Mssg

Creating a basic chatbot on your own on the ManyChat or Chatfuel platform takes 10 to 30 hours. You could also hire a bot expert or agency to build a bot for $500 to $2,500 (or more). You can expect to spend 5 to 20 hours a month managing a basic Messenger program.

Cosecha and Sunrise Movement spend much more time on their Messenger program each month because organizers are connecting 1:1 with people in Messenger and recruiting them to participate in campaigns.

Risks associated with using Facebook Messenger

The biggest risk is that Facebook changes how organizations can use Messenger.

In 2018, Facebook announced that they are focused on building out the business ecosystem around messaging on WhatsApp and Messenger over the next five years. In March of this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the vision and principles of Facebook are changing from an open platform to a “privacy-focused communications platform.”

Those two announcements might seem to be in conflict, but the privacy-focused communications platform might be a pivot to messaging (and generating revenue from messaging) and away from a platform that is focused on a News Feed. We don’t know what Facebook will do in the future, so it’s important to consider the risks. Facebook could change the types of messages we can deliver, change inbox placement, eliminate the use of push notifications or eliminate the ability to use Messenger for marketing all together.

Sunrise is proactively collecting email addresses and phone numbers of Messenger subscribers with petition asks in Messenger to hedge against these risks and to reach their supporters across channels.

Running a Messenger program that combines bot and one-to-one conversations is a lot of work. Aside from the Messenger bot set-up, your organization may have dozens or hundreds of new messages coming in each week from people who want to be involved in your work.

If you have a people-powered theory of change, it’s a great problem to have. Those replies can be handled by volunteers or staff and are the beginning of a conversation that moves the supporter up the ladder of engagement.


We’ve discovered that Messenger is an effective channel to supplement peer-to-peer text messaging, phone calls, email, social media, and the web. Supporters can complete a variety of tasks from within one app — or move from the initial introduction (livestream of action) to completing the task (calling the rep) with minimal friction. Like any new platform, it comes with risks and requires a strategic assessment, but the ability to combine the breadth and scalability of broadcast messages with the depth of 1:1 conversations makes it the most effective communications channel we have right now.

Your organization has an important campaign coming up. You’ve set your campaign goals, and you know which social platforms you’ll use. Now, it’s time to create strong visuals to support your message and evoke the right emotion for your campaign.

In the organizations I’ve worked, finding the right photography, infographics, or illustrations is a common challenge. Your nonprofit needs to consider:

  • Are we picking images that inspire?
  • Does this photo evoke the story of our organization?
  • Will the information we share to our audience make a direct impact?
  • Do the photos come across as engaging and memorable, or are they flat and forgettable?

Here are three ways you can create the right images for your campaign.

Problem: When I search for stock photos, they look so generic and boring

Let’s say you are promoting a campaign to get more rural women from your area to sign up to vote. If you were searching for images, you might use terms such as “women, voting.” With search terms that broad, you’d probably find photos of smiling women putting a ballot into a box. Also all of the women will look disparate: 20s, 40s, 60s, white, etc.

To zero in on the right photos for this audience, get more specific. Start by thinking about what makes your campaign authentic. In the above example, it’s “women, rural, voting.” You could even scale down further since this campaign would be targeting certain types of women: “women, 30s, 40s, latinx, women of color.”

And, since you’d be in a rural location, think about what it is about that landscape that is particular to that area. Instead of featuring “any person, anywhere,” you want to search for images with visible context that puts them distinctly in a place recognizable to your audience. Use search terms like “woman, rural, mountains, 40s”, “Woman, farm, family, rural”, or “Woman, small town.”

By the way, you don’t have to use images of women voting. You want to show who they are, what they do, and how they live, to help your supporters feel an immediate connection.

Problem: my impactful data looks so flat.

Illustrating strong data points is a quick way to catch someone’s attention. Just the act of showing a large number in a social media feed of photos makes someone pause and ask, “Hey, what are they saying here?” A way to make your visuals stand apart is to animate your information.

The animations don’t need to be complex. An example where this works really well is on Vote Run Lead’s Facebook posts. To show that 52 Vote Run Lead alumnae committed to run in 15 state primaries across America, the organization created a simple animation of the number running up from 1 to 15. Other types of these simple animations are interspersed throughout their image feed, which makes their content instantly more visually engaging.

There are many ways to create animated data. The best way is using your staff graphic designer or hiring a freelance designer.

  • A designer is comfortable with image creation and animation software, such as Photoshop.
  • A designer will pay close attention to your organization’s brand guidelines.
  • Most importantly, a designer understands aspects of animation that will give it the right effect, as speed, fading, timing can all be attuned appropriately.

Problem: I don’t know how to search for stock photos, I can’t hire a designer—but I do interact with my audience often.

Having photos of your community, donors, and people that you serve is a huge win. Let me say it again, because this is important: A HUGE WIN! These photos give your campaign authenticity and are perfect for social media.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you work for an organization whose goal is to provide families with resources to support the education goals of their children. You’re probably holding events like college fairs and family nights. Bring a camera and photo release forms to your events. As people enter the event, ask them if it’s OK for you to take their photos, and if it is, have them sign the release form.

It’s best to have active photos, such as a child learning to use a stethoscope, versus passive photos of people in a large audience. Candid photos catch someone in the act, and adds life to your pictures. A word of caution: never post a photo on social media of someone who hasn’t given you their authorization.

By taking the time and effort to intentionally select and design your graphics, you can turn a daunting task into engaging and impactful work.

A strong social media presence is important for nonprofits. From brand awareness to improved engagement with supporters and donors, there are many reasons to improve your social media strategy. However, it’s not always easy when social media is only part of your role.

When you don’t have the time to apply new ideas, you tend to stick to what’s familiar. This is fine if you want to maintain your current social media presence, but it’s not the best approach to stay creative and engaged in today’s fast-paced social media landscape.

To improve your social media strategy in 2019, here are five mistakes to avoid.

Using too many platforms without a clear strategy

It’s common to jump into social media platforms because they’re new or “everyone is there” without a clear strategy.

There’s no need to join all popular social media platforms if your community and supporters are not using them. Moreover, the more platforms you join, the harder it is to keep them active. It’s better to manage two or three platforms rather than setting up a profile on all social media channels, some of which might not be ideal for your organization.

Think of your strategy and what you want to achieve from every social media channel and then decide which ones will most likely work better for your cause. For example, instead of just saying “we need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn,” start by being more specific.

Each of these social networks provides a clear objective:

  • Facebook: to engage with your supporters of all ages
  • Twitter: to share live updates from your events and benefit from trending awareness
    days to expand your reach
  • Instagram: to tell your story in a more visual way while building a more engaged community of broader supporters
  • YouTube: to showcase your videos and use the channel as an online video library to raise awareness about our your work
  • LinkedIn: to recruit your staff and volunteers

Posting without a plan

You may feel your organization doesn’t have much time to create a content calendar for your social media presence, so you decide to share content when you have the time to do it.

This may seem easy and efficient, but it’s not the most effective strategy.

Posting without a plan can typically save you time from organizing your content in advance, but it also reduces the effectiveness of your social media presence.

If you post to a channel on an ad-hoc basis, it’s harder to remember your initial objectives and to bring your team together to help source the content.

When you spend the time to plan your content, either with spreadsheets or social media management tools like Lightful, you can create more effective posts that align with your main objectives.

Treating social media as a silo

When you create a social media strategy and its objectives, don’t ignore other channels that might complement your organization’s work.

For example, you can send an email newsletter that promotes your latest fundraising campaign. You can also encourage people to spread the word about the campaign on their social media channels by including the links to your social profiles. When supporters promote your campaign through their own networks, you can include these metrics in your social media strategy.

Thus, working with numerous teams can ensure that communications, marketing, fundraising, content, and even SEO can come together to yield the best results for your nonprofit.

Not measuring your performance

A lack of time or skills shouldn’t be an excuse to not measure your social media performance. This is a common mistake, and you end up posting on social channels without really knowing what works and what needs improvement.

Some fundamental steps are to review every channel’s main stats (reach, engagement, clicks, and demographics) while discovering the best performing posts. Sometimes you can be surprised by the findings even when you’re sure of what works and what doesn’t.

Allocate at least 30 minutes each week to review your stats and document the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your nonprofit. This is also useful when communicating the success of your work to other team members.

Ignoring the latest trends and how they apply to your strategy

You don’t need to be an expert to keep up with the most important social media trends. Sometimes you can even review your own social media presence and what other nonprofits are posting on each channel to help you create successful content for every channel.

Here are some top social media trends to consider for your organization:

  • Visual content to improve awareness and engagement: Images, videos, GIFs, infographics are here to stay. They can help you tell your story in a more engaging way. Moreover, there are many online tools to help you create them without spending too much time or money.
  • Messaging and groups to encourage interactions: WhatsApp and Facebook Groups are good examples of how private messaging and communities are going beyond public Pages. You can use them to work with your ambassadors or your volunteers or even between your team members to enhance collaboration.
  • Improved focus on engagement on every channel: Followers are not as important as engagement. All big social platforms are downgrading the importance of growing your followers if you don’t have strong engagement. This is an attempt to stop the number of fake followers without paying attention to the actual interactions you’re having with your supporters. Try to be more engaging by asking questions, posting interactive content such as polls, and promote dialogue through your content.
  • Stories as a new form of content: Instagram Stories are one of the most engaging content types on social media in 2019. Facebook Stories are now the next thing to try out and LinkedIn is also following with their own version of Stories. This new type of vertical content is appealing because it feels more casual and authentic. It’s also a great way to post interactive content (polls, questions, etc)

Keep all these in mind when you’re reviewing your current social media strategy. One small change at a time can lead to great success, provided that you’re strategic and consistent with your creative ideas.

The key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try out new things, but always document what works and what can be improved. Start thinking of social media as part of a bigger digital journey and work together with other teams to produce the best results.

Nonprofit staff members managing social media are often in a unique position to be the first line of communication for supporters or community members with questions or concerns.

Think of your social media channels as a “uniform” that visually represents your team and your mission. Here are some tips to ensure your followers, friends, fans, and supporters feel valued by your organization.

Be personable

Ever notice an organization repeatedly copying and pasting the same response on a thread of comments? Yes, it’s difficult to uniquely respond to every comment. You can, however make small adjustments—like using their name within the comment—to let them know it’s a human being considering their needs and feedback.

Pro tip: the most frequently asked question is going to be the top comment, and most people will take notice.

View every comment as a new way to build a relationship. This person is either an existing supporter or they’re a potential one. Take this chance to increase retention rates or solidify a new donor. Don’t be afraid to convey real emotion. Your audience wants to know there are real people behind the social media channels instead of the usual robotic responses.

Respond promptly

Social media can start many a conversation. Your responses show donors and followers that your organization cares.

This is where following through is important. Once you create your social media pages, be committed to providing consistent quality customer service to your community. The Internet has created a world of instant gratification. When your supporters send a direct message or comment, they’re expecting a timely response. Monitor your inbox and watch for notifications, and don’t allow your response rate to become less than desirable—or even worse, non-existent.

You might not be able to answer their question, but you can pass it along to someone that can help. Ideally, your team will receive questions or concerns that can easily be resolved through a simple response. If not, pass it along to the appropriate department and surprise the messenger with a phone call. By reaching out promptly to resolve an issue, you satisfy their need and show that you value their insights.

Addressing sensitive topics on social media

With customer service also comes a form of public relations control. Social media is a known outlet for complaints, however, each negative comment offers a way to publicly make it right. It’s not easy to handle confrontation, especially on such public platforms.

Pro tip: take all sensitive issues to a personal message. Don’t ignore the initial comment, though. Let them know that you’ll be personally reaching out to resolve their concern. If you don’t acknowledge the comment, this gives the impression to followers that your organization ignores conflict. You won’t be able to please everyone, but if you position yourself as responsive and caring, you can avoid a PR blunder.

The key takeaway: Gone are the days of waiting for responses to phone calls and emails for customer support. Social media is the modern day first line of customer service. By providing a human perspective to your social channels, you can delight your followers and keep them engaged with your mission.

Do you think your nonprofit should try live streaming or different kinds of videos in 2019? Desperate to try new software for your editorial calendar? Tired of producing long, boring printed annual reports and wish you could put it online?

When you want to try something new or make a change at your nonprofit, someone may ask you if other nonprofits are doing it too and if you have any research to support this change.

For nonprofit communications and marketing questions, you don’t have to post plaintive requests for help on social media. Instead, the annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report produced by my organization Nonprofit Marketing Guide, can be a helpful resource.

The 2019 Trends Report covers all of these questions and more. It was compiled from the answers of approximately 600 nonprofit professionals who took the 2019 Nonprofit Communications Trends Survey in November 2018.

More than half of nonprofits live streamed video in 2018

Several social media platforms are encouraging live streaming video as an especially engaging form of social content.

Nonprofits are giving it a try, with 39% saying they live streamed video to Facebook, 9% saying they live streamed on Instagram, and 4% saying they live streamed on YouTube. Just under half of nonprofits, 46%, said they did not live stream at all in 2018.

Nonprofits use video in numerous ways

We also asked about recorded videos. By far, the most popular type of video among nonprofits is storytelling about participants or supporters, with 60% of nonprofits creating them.

Video appeals for fundraising and “thank you” videos to share with supporters are created by about a third of nonprofits each.

For many nonprofits, video is considered too time-consuming, but it’s one of the first tasks they would ask a new communications team member to take on, if their team were to grow. The same is true of social media in general: it’s viewed as too time-consuming but important enough to assign to a new team member, if the team were to grow.

Shorter annual report formats are most popular

At Nonprofit Marketing Guide, we have long advocated for shorter annual report formats. We contend the traditional 20+ page print reports no longer provide the value they once did, especially given the exorbitant amount of time and money required to produce them.

Nonprofits agree, with only 10% of nonprofits choosing that long, traditional format. That’s not to say print annual reports are disappearing. About a third of nonprofits will produce an 8-20 page print report with another 23% opting for a 2-4 page report. Print is still in – but the page count is definitely coming down.

Only about 10% of nonprofits say they will create a web page, blog post, or microsite as their primary annual report. Another 12% say they will produce an infographic as their primary annual report. If you want to drop print entirely, you won’t be alone, but you won’t be in the majority either.

Editorial calendars most often built in common office productivity software

Using an editorial calendar to manage content creation and publishing is a fundamental best practice that most effective nonprofits use. More than 80% of nonprofits surveyed use an editorial calendar.

There is, however, no one type of software that’s best for an editorial calendar. Much of it is personal preference – at Nonprofit Marketing Guide we often talk about whether staff have “calendar brains” or “spreadsheet brains” when discussing software preferences.

Almost half of nonprofits said they used either Google Suite or Microsoft Office products to manage their editorial calendars. Project management software such as Airtable, Asana, Basecamp, Coschedule, Smartsheet, and Trello, collectively account for another 16%. Another 10% prefer to use a simple wall or paper calendar.

Nonprofits still rely heavily on email and meetings for internal communications

When it comes to internal messaging, nonprofits still rely on traditional tools, especially email and meetings, in spite of how time-consuming and unproductive they may be. We hope in future years to see more adoption of internal communications tools like instant messaging and messaging through project management software, rather than email. But for now, nonprofits adopting those tools are in the minority.

Only 14% of nonprofits reported regularly using instant messaging apps for internal communications and just 7% reported using messaging features within project management software.

Text messaging for internal communications was popular only for smaller organizations (under $1 million) and with CEO-led communications teams (which tend to be within smaller organizations).

Communications strategy, team structure, and salary data

In addition to these tech-related insights, the 2019 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report also includes new and updated data on:

  • The priority level, experience level and effectiveness on nonprofits for 12 marketing strategies
  • Communications teams sizes, structures, and budgets
  • Communications team salaries, including regional differences
  • The link between organizational culture and effective communications work

Interested to learn more? Download a free copy of the 2019 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report here.

If you work in a communications role at a nonprofit, you probably have news and social media alerts set up for keywords relating to your organization’s work – for example, a housing nonprofit might have an alert for terms like “homeless,” “couch surfing,” or “sleeping rough.” But what if the people you’re trying to reach don’t use those words? What if they don’t use words at all?

I’ve been running some experiments in emoji search, both individual and in groups that give added meaning.

Sophia Guevara NTEN author quote about nonprofits adopting their own emojiThe first search I conducted on Twitter was using a “handshake” 🤝. I was able to find posts of users who had tweeted using the same emoji. I decided to complicate the search by adding two and then three emoji together. The second search was a “handshake” and a “briefcase”. There were still a lot of results until I added the third emoji, a graduation cap. One result: a tweet about a diversity event.

Searching emoji on Facebook was less fruitful. Searching for “trophy” 🏆, I came up with three video results that had made use of that emoji in their description. Using the “fries” emoji 🍟 produced a nacho fries recipe. On YouTube, a search for the “donut” emoji 🍩 resulted in a video of donut economics.

Is your nonprofit optimizing for emoji search?

Online marketing consultant Jayson DeMers wrote in an article for Forbes last year that searching for emoji in a search engine would bring up posts that used that emoji, but also posts relating to the topic that emoji represented.

Right now, with emojis usually used as an embellishment for written text, it seems frivolous to think about emoji search or its impact on SEO, but linguists predict that emoji communication will only get more popular and perhaps may even become a language of its own.

After learning more about emoji searching on social media channels, I wondered how one could propose a new emoji or associate an emoji with their own brand. The Unicode Consortium has developed a formal process to do so.

The Oakland As found success adopting the baseball emoji. Is there an emoji that your nonprofit should use?


Social media is not going anywhere. And for nonprofit organizations, having a social presence is necessary for marketing, communication, networking, and brand awareness. If you’re a new organization or your social presence has been lackluster, how exactly do you build a social presence?

The best way to build your social presence involves three key concepts: consistency, clarity, and community. By incorporating each of these principles into a social presence strategy plan, you’ll have consistent content to share, provide a clear message about your work and your mission, and connect to and network with the community you serve.

1. Consistency

Becoming consistent with your social presence is important—not only for making sure that you are posting on a regular basis, but also so you’re consistent with your content. A great way to stay on top of being consistent is to establish a monthly content calendar.

When planning your content calendar for each month, keep these three questions in mind:

  • What type of content do we want to post each week?
  • Which platforms do we want to post on each week?
  • How often do we want to post each week?

Due to the use of algorithms on most social networks, you want to make sure to post at least once each day to help increase the chances of your content being seen. However, this does not mean just posting any picture, quote, or video just for the sake of having the content posted.

Always remember that it is important to be consistent with posting at the times that your audience is most engaged. Your content should have a “call-to-action” for them to comment on, share, or like. Be consistent with using hashtags that relate to the post as well as your organization’s personality.
Tenelle Bailey quote

When building a consistent social presence, you need to also be consistent with your social branding. Your organization has built-in branding items that should be used across social media, such as logos, colors, and font. Make sure to remain consistent with adding these elements (where possible) to establish a clear, branded theme that is woven throughout your social presence.

Additionally, your organization should decide on a few main hashtags that you will use when posting content across social networks. This will allow for your content to create a branded, identifiable, and searchable social presence. For example, when posting to Instagram for SISGI Group, we always try to include the hashtags #sisgigroup, #nonprofitorganization, #socialchange and #nonprofitleadership. Take some time to research the hashtags used most often in your nonprofit’s area of focus and use them frequently.

2. Clarity

Building your social presence also means that you must be clear on the “Why?” when it comes to the reason that your organization is using certain social networks and what type of content should be posted.

There are few things to keep in mind when when setting up your social network profiles, creating, and curating content to share:

  • What does your organization want to accomplish on social media?
  • Who is your target audience, and what are you here to help them with?
  • What voice does your organization want to present on social media? Humorous, conservative, emotional, etc.

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you maintain a clear social media strategy as well as help you connect to the right audience for your work.

3. Community

The concept of building a community on social networks should be one of the main reasons that your business or organization would want to be on social media.

Although social media networks are a great place to promote and bring awareness to your organization, these days most of the social network platforms encourage “authentic community building.”

This means that the information being posted by your business or organization is perceived to be beneficial to potential followers, and is not perceived to be salesy or spammy. Similar to real life, where constantly talking about yourself and how great you is frowned upon, you don’t want to do this in a social networking space either. Think instead of building your social presence by creating two-sided conversations through your posted content.

When you create a consistent social media presence, you’ll find it easier to engage and connect with the community you serve. However, that community will not grow if you do not build upon your consistency and clarity, within your content strategy. Knowing how to balance the content that your organization shares and what content to share will help you to effectively build your social presence while building your community.

Refer to this content sharing chart to help you maintain a balanced content strategy:


Now it’s time to put these tips into action.

  1. Establish a workspace that all of your team can use to upload images, notes, and other useful attachments or information that should be shared. We’ve created a helpful template if you’re looking for inspiration.
  2. Decide on your organization’s branding concepts, social voice (emotional, serious, humorous, etc.), and posting schedule.
  3. Start planning monthly content on the calendar, keeping in mind the 3 C’s: consistency, clarity, and community.
  4. Post and repeat.

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


Julia Campbell is a speaker at the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Recently Facebook announced what could be the most drastic change to the news feed yet. As many nonprofits know, organic (unpaid) reach and post engagement from Pages has gone down in recent months, with fewer and fewer of their fans seeing their Page posts. I’ve written a lot about this topic and ways to fight the Facebook algorithm and get in front of more of your supporters on Facebook.

Soon many of the traditional, battle-tested social media strategies may not be as effective as they once were on Facebook. Before we dive into the announcement and its implications, it is important to note that Facebook has always prioritized posts and content from users’ friends and family, since day one. However, this new change will once again dramatically affect the reach and engagement of posts made by business and organization Facebook Pages.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook about feedback he has received from users about the overwhelming amount of “public content” on the platform—posts from businesses, brands, and media. He went on to say, in a public Facebook post of his own: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

What are “meaningful interactions”?

Facebook wants their users to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through cat memes, slapstick videos, and BuzzFeed links. It turns out they want Facebook to get back to its roots, where individuals spend more time personally interacting on the site, with friends and family. There is speculation that Facebook is making this shift due to recent research that it published that found that spending more time on social media correlates with mental health issues.

Facebook does give us several clues about what constitutes a “meaningful interaction” and how brands and organization Pages can adapt.

What can nonprofits do?

My advice for nonprofits on Facebook has always been two-fold:

  • Become the go-to resource for your audience; and
  • Share compelling stories about your work and your impact.

Remember that Facebook changes may take months to take effect. However, nonprofit Facebook page administrators should be prepared for another drop in organic reach.

While we wait to see the effects, there are some strategies that your nonprofit can start to put in place immediately:

Focus on email

Email is not dead, and it’s not going anywhere.

Email still remains the best way to communicate with a large group of people at scale—when email campaigns are carried out thoughtfully and with purpose. Nonprofits should be doubling down on building their email lists in a strategic fashion, and develop a plan to send meaningful communications to their lists more frequently.

Consider creating a Facebook Group

Groups may now get priority over Pages, since they promote “meaningful interactions” (in many cases). If it makes sense to your organization, your nonprofit may want to consider starting a Facebook Group.

Facebook said itself, in the official announcement around changes to the News Feed: “In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”

Groups require different strategies than Pages. They are organized around topics rather than brands, and people tend to engage more with each other, asking questions and offering helpful resources.

Focus on engaging content but stop using “engagement bait”

It may seem counterintuitive, but posts on Pages will have to be engaging without using so-called “engagement bait” on posts.

Examples of engagement bait include:

  • Vote baiting—asking users to “vote” by choosing a reaction (smile, wow, heart, etc.)
  • React baiting—”LIKE this if you…”
  • Share baiting—telling people to share with friends to win a prize or similar
  • Tag baiting—asking users to tag themselves or others in a picture that isn’t of them
  • Comment baiting—”Comment ‘YES’ if you agree with…”
Screenshots of posts on Facebook, illustrating vote baiting, react baiting, and share baiting
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Screenshots of posts on Facebook, illustrating tag baiting and comment baiting
Select to enlarge

However, Facebook did clarify that posts about fundraisers, asking for resources, help, or recommendations, etc. will not be affected by the changes.

Focus on live video

We all know by now the popularity and proliferation of live video on all social networks, especially Facebook.

  • Videos on Facebook see an average of 135% more organic reach than images.
  • Facebook users spend 3x more time watching live videos than a video that’s no longer live.
  • They also comment more than 10x more during live videos.

Livestream surveyed customers and discovered that:

  • 80% of respondents said they would rather tune into a live video than read a blog post.
  • 82% of respondents were more interested in watching live video from a brand than reading social media posts.

Facebook said the following: “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook. In fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities.” It’s all about promoting discussion.

Consider paid promotion

While many nonprofits, especially smaller ones, don’t include marketing costs in their budgets, it may be time to start doing so. Social media is increasingly pay-to-play, through boosts, ads, and promotions. Even boosting a post for a few bucks can greatly increase your views, likes, and comments—and more importantly, click-throughs to your nonprofit’s website.


A version of this article was originally published on jcsocialmarketing.com and is reprinted here with permission.