8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social Media

Editor’s Note: At brand new or small nonprofits, people who run volunteer programs may be responsible for other functions within the organization, including marketing. Whether you’re taking on social media yourself, or working with a colleague to promote your volunteer program, this article can help you get started.

Guest post by Brad Wayland

8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social MediaSocial media is one of the most powerful marketing and engagement tools in your arsenal, but only if you use it effectively. Let’s talk about how your nonprofit can do that.

The birth of the social network did a strange thing to the field of marketing. Suddenly, it became possible to effortlessly spread the word about a brand or event to a positively massive audience — provided you knew how to do so. Nonprofits are in a unique position to benefit from social marketing, but they’re also faced with a unique set of challenges.

That’s what I’m here to talk about today — I’m going to go over a few tips for how you can get your nonprofit established through social and use social media as a way to engage volunteers.

  1. Ask Yourself: What’s Your Purpose?

To start, your first step should be to work out what your nonprofit aims to accomplish. What cause are you raising awareness for? Is it important that you generate donations, or is your aim to get people to attend events or volunteer for your cause? The answers to these questions will inform your entire social campaign, so be sure you have a clear understanding of your goals.

  1. Figure Out Who You’re Marketing To

Once you know the goals your nonprofit is aiming to achieve, the next step is to determine your target audience. Again, this is something that will inform every step you take moving forward. Different messages resonate with different people, after all.

“Try to pin down your average supporters’ socio-economic background,” reads a piece on Technology-Trust.org. “It might seem like a superficial thing to do, but actually it’s really good practice for working out the kinds of things you should post and the type of messaging you should use. Try to be as specific as possible — think about their age, location, economic background, what they likely think of your nonprofit, and what you’d like them to think about it.” You should also consider what types of people would like to volunteer for your cause and tailor your messaging towards them.

  1. Choose Your Social Network Wisely

The next question you need to answer is which social network (or social networks) you’ll be marketing on. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that, according to a 2014 Hubspot survey, Facebook is the #1 social network used by nonprofits at 98%, with Twitter coming in second at 70%. YouTube is an effective network to use for volunteer training videos and videos of past events to recruit more volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be on all these networks — only that they’re typically a safe bet for social media investments.

  1. Figure Out What To Track

How will you determine your success? What metrics should you track in order to work out whether or not your campaign worked out the way you needed it to? Since you’re running a nonprofit, you’ve got something of an advantage in this regard — according to Buffer, almost half of nonprofits find that a donation is the pinnacle of engagement. That might be a good place to start if you’re strapped for ideas. You can also track the number of new volunteers after a social media campaign.

  1. Create a Killer Hashtag

Especially if you have plans to market on Twitter, the creation of a suitable hashtag is essential. Make it short, memorable, and unique — but most importantly, make sure it’s one that’s easy to associate with your organization. Do note that hashtags carry an element of risk if you don’t carefully monitor your hashtag and curate it, there’s a good chance someone might hijack it (and trust me, that’s not something you want to have happen). Encourage your volunteers to use your hashtags and participate in the conversation on social media. As a result, you will have plenty of user-generated content to repurpose and tell your nonprofit’s story. These personal anecdotes and images will help engage current volunteers and recruit new volunteers.

  1. Account For Your Limitations

How much time and money do you realistically have to devote to social media? How skilled are you at creating content, and what does your writing look like? In order to successfully assess your strengths and abilities, you must first account for your weaknesses and limitations, and mitigate those limitations.

  1. Display Integrity and Transparency

As noted by a post on the Smart Insights blog, nonprofits are faced with a unique landscape where social media is concerned. On the one hand, they’re automatically considered to be a trustworthy source of information, and people experience a genuine need to connect with them and their causes. They’re also well-positioned to provide rich, emotive content.

On the other hand, if they send their messages poorly or ineffectively, the backlash is far worse than for other organizations. You need to be certain that you’re transparent and responsive, or things will very likely blow up in your face.

  1. Look At What Other Nonprofits Have Done Right

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at how other nonprofits have driven their causes to success on social media. Movember, for example, went from a small event run between friends into one of the largest annual men’s health fundraising campaigns in the world. Take a close, careful look at Movember and successful nonprofit organizations like Movember — ask yourself what they’ve done right, and what you can do to emulate their success. Another strategy nonprofits use successfully is asking their audience questions. For example, if you are trying to recruit volunteers for an event, you can ask what the volunteers from last year’s event what they enjoyed the most.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a more to bringing success to your nonprofit on social than we’ve laid out here. These are just a few tips to get you started. Bear them in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to learn more.


About the author:
Brad Wayland is the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton.

4 Strategies for Engaging Your Volunteers on Facebook

Guest post by Abby Jarvis

Your nonprofit’s volunteers are likely using Facebook to connect with each other, their favorite companies, and their favorite brands and nonprofits.

Are you one of their favorite nonprofits? Do you want to be?

Let’s look at four tactics for engaging with your volunteers on Facebook.

Check out these tips for staying in touch with volunteers on the internet in general.

1. Recruit More Volunteers.

Recruit More Volunteers

Facebook is an excellent way to engage with and recruit more volunteers. If you have a strong presence on Facebook (i.e., you post regularly, interact with followers, and have a good mix of status updates, pictures, and videos), this is relatively simple.

You should:

  • Continue reaching out to volunteers by answering any questions or comments they post on your statuses, photos, videos, or other content.
  • Keep sharing great content.
  • Give people ways to find your Facebook page on your website and within your emails.

If you don’t have a strong Facebook presence, you should:

  1. Start with those in your organization. Encourage your entire nonprofit to like and interact with your Facebook page.
  2. Ask your current supporters to join in. If your current volunteers are liking and commenting on your posts, it’ll be easier for you to connect with their networks.
  3. Post content regularly. Post statuses, pictures, and videos on a consistent basis. Respond to your followers’ comments, questions, and messages promptly.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to recruit more volunteers via Facebook.


Well, individuals might start asking to volunteer simply because you’ve raised awareness on Facebook.

But, they might not know about volunteering opportunities unless you tell them. Next time you host a volunteering event, post a few Facebook statuses in the weeks leading up to the big day.

By growing your network on Facebook, you automatically have a larger pool of potential volunteers to pull from. Once you’ve virtually connected with those donors, post volunteer opportunities right to Facebook.

By maintaining a strong Facebook presence and reaching out to your existing supporters via social media, you’ll be able to expand your network and potentially recruit more volunteers.  

2. Make Donation Appeals…

Make Donation Appeals

…But not all the time!

Yes, your volunteers are already giving you time and energy.

But research shows that if someone supports your organization, they are likely to support it in multiple ways. In fact, two thirds of volunteers also donate money to the same organizations they donate time to. But in order to get a donation, you have to ask!

As a general rule, Facebook should mostly be an avenue for relationship-building and conversations with your supporters.

Appeals should be made only occasionally, and it’s important to time them well when you do make them.

Scheduling donation appeals during peak giving times can be a good way to convert some of your volunteers into donors.

Special events like #GivingTuesday aren’t necessarily volunteer-oriented, though.

VolunteerMatch and #GivingTuesday have recently partnered up to encourage “Giving Time” as an alternative to monetary donations.

Times like these can be opportune moments to ask for donations on Facebook. Additionally, the end of the year is prime time for donation appeals. Many people are in more charitable moods and have better grips on their financial situations.

Some of your volunteers might not want to give monetarily, but it doesn’t hurt to make a donation appeal on Facebook every so often (tip: don’t make your appeals any more frequent than once a week).

3. Highlight Your Volunteers.

Highlight Your Volunteers

Nearly everyone enjoys being the star of the show from time to time. Even your most selfless volunteers might like being publicly recognized for their work.

Facebook is the perfect platform for thanking your volunteers.

If one of your advocates did a great job getting signatures for a petition, for example, highlight her on your Facebook wall. Not only will it encourage her and show her that you care about her passion, it will also show others that you value your volunteers and inspire them to get involved.

You can even make a weekly or monthly post highlighting your supporters!

Your followers will appreciate the consistency, and it’ll motivate them to try to get the Facebook equivalent of “Volunteer of the Week.”  

Tip: Make sure you get permission from your volunteers before you post pictures of them on social media (especially if there are kids in the images!).

4. Encourage Volunteers to Share their Experiences

Encourage Volunteers to Share Their Experiences

If you want to potentially recruit more volunteers and get feedback from your existing supporters, encourage volunteers to share their experiences on Facebook!

During your follow-up after a volunteer day, ask supporters to post statuses, pictures, and videos (when applicable), to their own Facebook walls, tagging any other volunteers they met during the day.

If they had a positive experience, it serves as a great online review of your organization’s volunteer program.

If not, then your nonprofit can take that feedback and use it to improve your volunteers’ experiences with your organization.

Encourage your supporters to share their encounters with your nonprofit as a way to further engage with them!


Facebook can be an excellent tool for nonprofits to engage their volunteers. If you already have a substantial following on Facebook, use it to your advantage! If not, now’s a great time to start building up your social media presence.

Engaging Volunteers Guest Blogger Abby JarvisAbout the author:
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

How to Maintain Relationships with Volunteers Using the Internet

Guest post by Carol Williams

volunteerNonprofits are well aware that finding dedicated and motivated volunteers is much more difficult than it seems. People are busy and there are many nonprofit organizations competing for their attention and service. Once you manage to find a volunteer who’s willing to dedicate their time and talent to your nonprofit, it’s in your interest to cultivate this relationship and promote future volunteerism.

Repeated volunteerism is challenging to many nonprofits – in fact, one study found that more than 33% of those who volunteer one year won’t do it the next year. How to best retain volunteers? Through the internet. Here are some tips on how to maintain relationships with volunteers by means of modern communication technologies.

Show the impact of volunteering in the community

It’s the belief in making the difference that drives the vast majority of volunteers. To engage them further, you need to show that their hard work brings a change in the world. And nothing works better than showing them how they helped a community. You can showcase their impact in a variety of forms like social media posts, blog posts, email newsletters or dedicated pages on your website. The medium isn’t that important – it should help you to tell the story in an engaging way.

Build a list for your email newsletter

Email newsletter is an old marketing technique that can be just perfect if you’re looking for a way to keep your volunteers informed about upcoming opportunities. But you should always define your audience – that’s why it’s best to create a segmented list aimed at people interested in volunteering with your nonprofit. It’s a smaller list within your email list which is based on a criterion – an interest in volunteerism. How to segment your list? By giving users an opportunity for indicating their interests when they’re singing up for your mailing list.

Send personalized thank you notes

Depending on the number of your volunteers, you might consider sending out personalized thank you notes by email or paper. A volunteer receiving the note will feel a real sense of appreciation if the executive manager of the nonprofit sends them a personalized message thanking them for their support. Take a few minutes to compose each message. Avoid general statements in the vein of ‘You’ve been great’. This is definitely worth your effort.

Extend individual thank you notes on social media

People like their actions to be publicly recognized and social media are easily the best kind of platform for doing that. Show them that you care by directly mentioning them in various posts about their volunteer work. When on Twitter, use @ and their username to mention them in your thank you tweets – without this symbol users might never know that they’ve been mentioned.

Encourage regular volunteers to share their experience on your blog

If you run a blog, there’s no better way of engaging volunteers than to let them share their experience through a guest post. Not only will they be flattered by your request, but also very likely to promote their post, helping you extend your reach. Such a post can encourage other people to become volunteers at your nonprofit. It’s best to share personal stories, so ask them to tell others about their experience while volunteering at your nonprofit or why they support your mission. They can recount how they got involved with your organization and give advice to future volunteers.

Ask volunteers for feedback

Asking for feedback will help you to gain critical data about the effectiveness of volunteer opportunities at your organization, as well as show volunteers that you really value their opinion. When getting the feedback, it’s important to always reply to it, thanking volunteers for taking their time. It’s best to do this individually.

Help people find future volunteering opportunities

If an individual decides that they’d like to volunteer with you, you need to make the process as easy and smooth as possible. Losing a potential volunteer due to lack of well-suited opportunities to get involved is a great mistake.

Make sure that your website is well-organized and provides lots of information to those who’d like to volunteer. List or link to volunteer opportunities and highlight them prominently in your design. Promote volunteer opportunities on social media as well – you can provide links to specific landing pages designed to target potential volunteers.


The web provides many opportunities for helping you to cultivate the relationship with your volunteers. Using the methods listed above you’re bound to attract even more people to your cause and encourage volunteers to help you out again and again in the future.


About the author: Carol Williams is a team member at Navel Oranges Department of Florida Fruit Shippers where she develops her interest in customer service and blogging. She has a strong background in volunteering which she combines with her love for writing.

4 Steps to Grow Your Volunteer Program with LinkedIn

Guest post by Monique Craig

Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Volunteer ProgramWhen it comes to professional networks, there’s none better than LinkedIn.

You can be sure that all profiles are real, information is (usually) up-to-date, and people are ready to take on challenges that can help them gain new skills, build new relationships, and get their name out there.

Here are 4 simple steps to make the most of this social network.

  1. Set up a LinkedIn profile for your organization

Don’t have a LinkedIn page yet? Or have one, but don’t mention your volunteers’ work? It’s time to change that. Create a profile with full information about your activities, and make sure to include relevant keywords people search for when looking for volunteering opportunities.

Now, it’s time to be active. Join relevant groups, listen to what people are taking about and once you spot the right moment, share you expertise by leaving an insightful comment or advice. People will start to notice your organization and seek you out themselves.

  1. Make sure your volunteers add you to their profiles

If your current volunteers have profiles on LinkedIn, ask them add you as an employer to their profiles. This is something that will make your brand more visible on the network. It might inspire the connections of your current volunteers to reach out to you and ask about some volunteering possibilities. LinkedIn users realize the value of volunteering in their profiles, as well as to the overall recruiting system – this is something recruiters like to see.

  1. Make the most of LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace

LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace is a great new feature that allows you to get your volunteer listings in front of LinkedIn’s corporate audience. The best part? This service is free for VolunteerMatch users. All your listings on VolutneerMatch.org automatically post to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace. And when viewing a potential volunteer on VolunteerMatch that connected with your organization, you can clearly see if the volunteer found your opportunity through LinkedIn.

To make the most of your postings, make sure you include required or desired skills for the volunteer position, and show how this role will support your overall mission and its impact on your nonprofit.

  1. Find volunteers through Advanced Search tool

In addition to using VolunteerMatch to make yourself visible to potential volunteers, you can use LinkedIn to seek out volunteers yourself. Using the Advanced Search tool, you can find many professionals who’ve indicated an interest in volunteerism.

Click ‘Advanced’ next to the search bar – you’ll find a section of ‘Nonprofit interest’ where you can choose from two sub-categories: Board Service and Skilled Volunteering. Check the ones you’re interested in. You can narrow down the results of your search by title, location, industry, school, spoken languages and many more.

Now you should have a clear idea about LinkedIn as a potential talent pool for your nonprofit, and a way to increase visibility for your program. Try these methods, and you’ll be on your way to building a strong brand that attracts volunteers.

Monique Craig is an Australian blogger and marketing specialist who works for Oneflare, an online marketplace which connects customers with local service providers.

Photo credit: Sheila Scarborough – flickr

Why Online Petitions are Crucial to Your Volunteer Recruitment (and Retention)

By Aaron Viles, Care2

How online petitions help engage volunteers.These days, every nonprofit organization has a website, usually chock full of articles, reports and blog posts about the issues and programs they support. The role of the Internet as a platform for sharing information with volunteers is pretty obvious. But increasingly, real engagement, organization and action are happening online. This is giving nonprofits new ways to communicate with supporters, find new audiences and leverage their volunteer base to get involved, do good work and make change.

Every nonprofit faces the challenge of finding and keeping volunteers. One tool in particular can help groups do both: online petitions.

Finding New Volunteers

The Internet is vast and gives each individual user the ability to connect with people a world away and build a community uninhibited by geography. People today are increasingly mobile and have connections to many places and many causes.

While an issue may seem local or idiosyncratic, you never know which and how many people may be inspired to get involved. An expat may care deeply about the fate of a local park in her hometown. Someone in California may have friends and family in Kansas with whom they can share the good work of a local organization. Put simply: reaching people online gets your issues in front of their whole network and can exponentially raise your exposure and spread your message.

Online petitions are a fast and easy way to get this process started. First, they present a clear message and opportunity to make an impact. Good petitions have a clear ask directed to a real person with the power to act. This short and sweet format, with active, persuasive language, helps distill nonprofits’ missions into something concrete; educating people about what drives their group while actually moving the ball forward on their issues.

Keeping Volunteers Engaged

Many researchers have found that the key to keeping volunteers is to understand what motivates them to get involved in the first place. Once they’re onboard, the challenge is to keep them active with your organization and issue. Research suggests that the more committed a volunteer is to an organization, the more likely they are to remain involved.

Getting people to feel committed requires engagement and making their volunteer work seem meaningful. Asking supporters to sign a petition—either in an email or over social media—is a fast and easy way for you to get volunteers to take substantive action. Signing a petition has a real, significant effect that can make supporters feel better and more connected to your organization and mission.

Plus, engaging people online can actually be a gateway to encouraging offline involvement. In 2013, Pew found that nearly one in five users of social networking sites said information they learned there inspired them to get involved offline. Even more exciting, researchers in Norway found that local voluntary organizations that communicated with their supporters online were more likely to grow, and (this is the best part) they found that the online engagement didn’t just replace the traditional face-to-face activities. This meant that finding ways to connect to volunteers online actually increased total engagement, strengthening their relationships with volunteers.

People volunteer for lots of reasons, from having a personal connection to an issue, to the desire to meet like-minded people and make friends. But common among these motivations is the desire to be part of a community doing good. Giving people a chance to make a difference and a place to take collective action fosters this sense of both community and efficacy that makes your organization and your relationship with your supporters stronger.

Has your organization used online petitions to engage volunteers and supporters? Tell us about it in the comments!

Aaron Viles is a Senior Grassroots Organizer for Care2. He works with citizen authors on The Petition Site to create petitions that will win concrete victories for animals, the environment, and other progressive causes. When not in front of a screen or on a conference call, Aaron can be found doting on his daughters, pedaling furiously to keep up with the peloton, and serving as a volunteer leader for the Sierra Club, Dogwood Alliance and his church.