Tips for Creating an Effective Nonprofit Campaign on Social Media

Guest post by Mary Kleim

No matter what your thoughts are about social media, you cannot deny the fact that some people who use it are full of compassion. They are always ready to help those in need, and nonprofit organizations can leverage that fact to make an impact.

Sometimes, people’s attitudes about social media can be discouraging. You’ll always come across trolls and insensitive users who are ready to harass others. Nevertheless, you should always look at the bright side: there will always be someone who cares, and that’s all it takes for you to take action.

Nonprofit social media campaigns are not always successful. Sometimes they go by unnoticed. It’s not about the cause, since all noble causes are worthy of a fight. It is, however, all about the way organizations and individuals promote these causes. You’ll need a system that will lead you to success. Read on to see how you can develop a successful nonprofit marketing campaign on social through these helpful tips and practical examples.

Inspire Action for Raising Awareness

When you’re organizing an engaging charity campaign and you’re using social media tools to raise awareness, you need to inspire people to spread the news by directing users to take some sort of action. The first example that comes to mind is Movember. The campaign launched in 2003 with the purpose of raising funds for men’s health and increasing awareness for prostate cancer. It turned into a viral global movement, where large populations of men around the world sport mustaches during November.

Movember Campaign Tracks its Progress since 2003Over the last 11 years, the campaign raised $715 million for men’s health.There was a 43% drop in global donations over the last year, but Movember is still an active movement that raises millions of philanthropic dollars each year. There is one main factor that lead to the success of this campaign: mustaches. Men are encouraged to show their support by growing a mustache and showcasing their progress on social media. They invite their friends to donate money, collectively contributing toward the success of the campaign. Without this little detail, many people across the world would still be unaware of prostate cancer and other issues related to men’s health.

Here’s the lesson: when you’re starting a nonprofit social media campaign, make sure to direct your audience to some type of action. Don’t just ask for money; inspire people to spread the news. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Some may hardly recall what that was about (raising awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), but we do remember lots of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. That’s the kind of action you should aim for. Why? Your goal should be concrete — in this case, raising money. If you get enough traction, the funds will start coming in.So you want to take the ALS ice bucket challenge?

Clarify the Objective

Whatever the goal of your campaign, make it as clear as possible. People are glad to donate money when they know they are contributing to a cause they care about. Make that cause clear and explain why they should care about it. In addition, you should set the specific philanthropic goal you want to reach. When people are able to monitor the progress of the campaign, they’ll want to help you reach your objective. If, for example, you’re raising money for someone’s surgery, you need to specify how much the procedure will cost and how much time you have to raise that money.

When you emphasize the urgency and gravity of the situation, the social media community will react quickly. The campaign will (hopefully) get tons of shares and activity across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Relate the Campaign to Pop Culture

Let’s face it: there are too many similar campaigns out there. You want to help animals? People are already being torn apart by thousands of requests similar to yours. Unfortunately, there is a competitive aspect to fundraising. There aren’t enough resources for everyone, so you have to try new and innovative methods in order to get the attention you need. The reality is you have to make your campaign attractive enough in order to raise awareness.

Here’s a great example — do you remember the famous blue and black dress? Or was it white and gold? It took the social media world by storm. The Salvation Army in South Africa used that to their advantage by raising awareness of domestic abuse. The campaign became a worldwide success. The woman featured in the below image was photographed in a white and gold dress, and she had obvious bruises on her face and body. The following text accompanied the graphic: “Why is it so hard to see black and blue? One in six women are victims of abuse. That’s no illusion.”

The Salvation Army in South Africa took a random meme and turned into a very powerful message.

The Salvation Army in South Africa took a random meme and turned into a very powerful message.

There Is Always Room for Humor

Nonprofit campaigns can be about serious issues. Some make people sad and emotional, so their human side triggers their reaction. That doesn’t mean you should always play the ‘emotional card’. Yes, you should emphasize the gravity of the issue, but you can do that through innovative ways.

Water Is Life — an organization that provides clean drinking water, hygiene education programs, and sanitation to people in desperate need, is an example of how a mix of funny and sad can be a winning combination. The team borrowed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, which people use to express their frustration with trivial things — like forgetting to charge their phone or neighbors blocking their WiFi. In a video that went viral, these statements were told by people facing much more serious problems — like the lack of clean water for drinking and hygiene.

Water Is Life borrowed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblemsPeople started using the popular hashtag to raise awareness of the issue, which lead to the campaign’s success.

Social media platforms have great power, if you know how to leverage them to your advantage. Thousands of nonprofits have revealed innovative ways to use these networks to bring focus to the causes they stand for. With the right strategy, you can do the same thing: make a difference for a cause you believe in.

Author Bio: Mary Kleim is a social media marketer and writer from Assignment Masters. She is passionate about fundraising and she’s always ready to share insights that help people fight for a cause they believe in.

4 Takeaways from Our Shark Week Campaign

Zoo Atlanta

The Zoo Atlanta team rocking their shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

For years, VolunteerMatch has supported Discovery Communications by providing employee volunteer management software. This year — and for the first time ever — VolunteerMatch partnered with Discovery to dive into unchartered waters: Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16). Shark Week is Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event, and as part of our partnership, we helped inspire volunteerism among Discovery’s passionate viewers and our own followers. Discovery even re-created this awesome PSA to help.

For us, we teamed up with 12 other organizations in our network — from nonprofits focused on marine causes to environmental organization and aquariums across the country — to help spread the word. These organizations responded and proved to their communities that #VolunteeringisFin.

In the weeks leading up to Shark Week, VolunteerMatch pondered questions like, “What do volunteers and sharks have in common?” and found some pretty surprising answers. We even quizzed San Franciscans on their knowledge of shark facts, raising awareness right from the hotspots of our hometown.

We also launched our very first Instagram Sweepstakes, garnering 40 entries, as well as fun conversations and engagement with our online community. What did we learn from this campaign? Here are four key takeaways from Shark Week:

  1. A Strong Partnership can be Creative and Fun

Earlier this year, Discovery Communications and VolunteerMatch renewed our multi-year partnership. Since then, we’ve continued to support one another’s goals and causes by building on impactful initiatives — like National Volunteer Week and Shark Week. By supporting one another, even in unexpected ways, we can play into each of our strengths and continue to work toward making our world a better place.

  1. Organizations Are Eager to Partner with Your Cause
Reef Check Foundation

Reef Check Foundation swims while wearing shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

We reached out to over a dozen organizations to help spread the word. Twelve responded with their excitement and willingness to help even before learning they’d get some pretty cool sharkfin hats to wear. These organizations showcased their volunteers across the U.S. — cleaning beaches, supporting animal causes, and teaching youth campers the importance of giving back (all while having a good time in the process).

Transparency and communication are key here. If you communicate openly and honestly, many organizations will partner with you to help amplify your message. Special thanks to: Aquarium of the Bay, Aquarium of the Pacific, California State Parks Foundation, City of Newport Beach Recreation & Senior Services Department, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park Conservancy, Reef Check, Shark Stewards, Zoo Atlanta, and Zoo Miami.

  1. Hashtags Are Essential in Telling Your Story

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encouraged followers and visitors alike to showcase their volunteer impact during Shark Week by using the hashtag “#VolunteeringisFin.” The hashtag was mentioned 27 times on Facebook, 15 on Twitter, and 14 on Instagram, allowing people to follow the story across channels — through whatever medium they prefer.

  1. Lower Barriers for Social Media Promotions

Hosting a social media contest or sweepstakes can be challenging, especially when you consider ROI — inclusive of the total cost of prizes, shipping, and legal counsel — all on a nonprofit’s shoestring budget. But it doesn’t have to be…

Our first Instagram Sweepstakes was successful, in part, due to its low barrier of entry. All our followers needed to do in order to enter was like, comment, or tag a friend on a VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentioned the Sweepstakes.

If you’re looking to plan a campaign or promotion of your own, be on the lookout for tomorrow’s tips on creating an effective nonprofit campaign on social media.

Did you enjoy our Shark Week campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

Make Time for Collaboration | VM Summit 16

Now is the perfect time to register for VM Summit 16.

Why? Early bird registration rates end July 1, 2016. That’s this Friday.

After July 1st, ticket prices will increase by $75 each. Save your nonprofit (or company) a little cash and register now.

You may be asking, “Why should I attend VM Summit 16?


Collaboration at the 2013 VolunteerMatch Summit

We’re glad you asked! By coming together to form effective partnerships, nonprofits and companies have the collective power to create real change in their communities and world. But what makes an effective partnership? There are many opinions out there — most of them fueled by what the “other side” should be doing.

Imagine what would happen if both sides of the equation came together in one room to work through common issues that occur through corporate/ nonprofit partnerships. And imagine engaging in collaborative and empathic conversations that help you find out what the “other side” really wants and needs.

That’s VM Summit 16. VM Summit 16 will bring corporate social responsibility (CSR), employee engagement and nonprofit professionals face-to-face to learn how to create impactful partnerships that best engage corporate volunteers.

Still want to know more?

Browse the event agenda to see our many opportunities for conversation and collaboration. And read about the vision for VM Summit 16, straight from the Summit’s event manager.

Don’t forget: register by Friday, July 1st lock in early bird rates!

Have questions about VM Summit 16? Reach out to us at

VolunteerMatch on the Street | SHARK WEEK

How many humans do sharks kill each year?

How many sharks do humans kill each year?

We took to the streets of San Francisco to find answers to questions such as these, while having a little fun along the way. Check it out — you might be surprised by the answers!


For this year’s Shark Week, Discovery is ramping up efforts to promote shark conservation while offering viewers concrete ways to get involved. Earlier this week, they partnered with Oceana to introduce congressional legislation that helps ban the trade of shark fins across America. With a ban on trading in the U.S., we can make a huge dent in the commercial and recreational overfishing of sharks around the world.

Here’s how you help:

  1. Join Discovery and Oceana in supporting the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act by sending a letter to your representative.
  2. You can also find volunteer opportunities in your area to help clean up and give back to our oceans.

Discovery even produced this awesome PSA for us — with characters donned in shark fin hats — encouraging passionate TV viewers to be matched with good causes in their communities.

Learn more and get your full dose of all-things “shark” next week: Shark Week begins this Sunday, June 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT, only on Discovery.

Can’t wait ‘till Sunday? Read our blog post on 4 things sharks and volunteers have in common.

4 Things Sharks and Volunteers Have in Common

How Volunteers are Like SharksWhen our team first met to discuss how we could be involved with Discovery Communications’ Shark Week, we hoped our followers might ask:

What does volunteering have to do with Shark Week?

After a quick brainstorm and a few laughs, we agreed the best way to spark a conversation about the importance of volunteers and sharks were to connect the two directly. What we found was surprising: we’re not that different after all.

So how are volunteers like sharks, the diverse and powerful creatures of the deep blue sea? Here are four ways.

  1. We’re Endangered

Earlier this year, we analyzed a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on volunteer rates in the United States. The report told us that volunteer rates in the U.S. have been steadily declining for over a decade. In fact, the rate of people who volunteer dropped by nearly 4 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

We wanted to find the cause, so we took to Twitter to engage our followers in a conversation. Thought leaders, nonprofit representatives, philanthropists and volunteers all weighed in on what they thought some potential causes and possible solutions might be.

Sharks are also disappearing. According to Discovery, scientists have seen crucial populations drop 90% in just one generation. Together, we can pledge to protect sharks and support organizations like Reef Check Foundation and Shark Stewards, who work to preserve and protect our oceans and advocate for policies that promote sustainable fishing practices, respectively.

  1. We Play a Pivotal Role in Society

While the numbers on volunteer rates aren’t promising, our significance in society is undeniable.

Many have posed the question, “What would our world look like without volunteers?” and it isn’t pretty. For one, the estimated $1.6 billion in impact from volunteers who used VolunteerMatch to get involved in 2015 would disappear. Without volunteers giving time, environments around the world would be less prosperous, animal protection initiatives would decline, care for the elderly may diminish, and assistance in times of crisis and need may come become sparse.

As apex predators, sharks play an important role in their society too. They keep our ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced by keeping populations of fish in check. Without sharks, fish would overgraze, destroying large sections of our oceans, and leaving entire ecosystems vulnerable to future threats.

It’s one of many reasons Discovery — alongside Oceana — helped introduce congressional legislation today to ban the sale of shark fins here in the U.S.  Help us help sharks: voice your concern by sending send a letter directly to your representative in support of the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act. Learn more.

  1. We’re Determined

Volunteers are determined to make a difference and leave a positive impact on our communities. With 29 causes and over 118,000 new opportunities posted on VolunteerMatch last year, there’s no shortage to what volunteers can do. And it’s our determination to find a volunteer opportunity with a cause we care about that makes all the difference.

Meanwhile, sharks are surprisingly intelligent creatures. They’re capable of learning, remembering, and even teaching one another. According to Discovery, they’re also curious. Great whites approach and investigate just about any unfamiliar floating object out of curiosity. And when they’re ready to attack their next meal, sharks are determined.

When a shark goes in for the kill, it will move quickly — catching speedy fish with an element of surprise. Sharks can also be found hunting prey all over the world. And like volunteers, some sharks prefer to go the distance alone, while others find strength in numbers.

  1. We Break Stereotypes

Critics say volunteering is for those who have the time, but research shows that volunteering may actually help you save time by adding years to your life. Plus, volunteers often say that they leave their volunteer shift feeling like they’ve gained something in return.

Sharks are also breaking stereotypes. Many think they’re dangerous, but in reality, sharks do not deliberately hunt humans. According to scientists, if a shark attacks a human, it’s typically a case of mistaken identity. And here’s a something we bet you didn’t know: While sharks kill about 6 humans each year, humans kill up to 100 million sharks per year.

What are some ways you think volunteers are like sharks? Share them with us in the comments section below!