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How to stand out on Social Media!

Visibility can make or break a start-up non-profit. In order to get your organization through the initial hurdles of funding your projects and establishing your legitimacy, you will need a strong base of supporters who understand and believe in your mission. And you will need to find that base of supporters on the cheap.


That’s where social media comes in. Social media can be an invaluable resource for non-profits. In 2013, I co-founded a non-profit in the Philippines, Young Pioneer Disaster Response, which provided disaster recovery services following Typhoon Haiyan. Using social media, my co-founders and I were able to recruit 200 volunteers from around the globe, raise around $50,000 in crowdfunded donations, and attract the attention of partner organizations who worked with us to build over 1,000 houses and rebuild six schools. We had no budget for boosting posts, no budget for paid ads, basically no budget in general.  While there are tons of great paid options to improve your reach on social media, sometimes you need the ability to attract attention organically.


With a well-thought out strategy and some deliberate effort, there is quite a bit that you can do to make your organization stand out on social media. Integrate the following habits into your organization’s social media workflow to improve your outreach success:


1. Be Mindful


So many people spend their days endless scrolling through their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds that it can be easy to forget the best social media content is often the result of careful and deliberate planning. Before you ever start posting on your organization’s social media, think about what it is that you hope to accomplish. Are you trying to raise awareness about a certain issue or cause? Is your goal to increase donations? Are you looking to recruit volunteers or staff?


If you are new to social media or your organization is just starting out, pick one goal and build a campaign around it. Start by thinking about your audience. Do you want to attract donors or volunteers? Who are these people, what do they like, and where do they live? By thinking strategically about your target audience, you can make decisions about when and how to post on different platforms in order to increase engagement with that audience.


Next, craft some strategic messaging. Figure out what you are trying to say and how to say it as clearly and concisely as possible. I like to plan as much content in advance as possible. It keeps you from feeling rushed to get a post up and usually results in higher quality social media overall. Social media management tools like Hootsuite are a great resource for those who want to plan their social media content in advance. The free version of Hootsuite supports the use of three platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and allows you to schedule posts in advance. They also offer some great templates for social media planning on their blog.


2. Use Stunning Visuals


As I mentioned before, a lot of people view social media by endlessly scrolling through their feeds. In addition, most social media consumption is done on mobile devices. In this environment of constant simulation, it is essential that your content be eye-catching. Invest energy into making sure that every post goes up with a beautiful photo or video. One organization which does a really great job with consistently great visuals is Charity Water.

While gorgeous photos certainly do the trick, statistics show that video gets significantly more engagement than still photos. When possible, post videos directly to the social media platform, whether individually or using a program like Hootsuite. This will ensure that videos play automatically and will dramatically increase engagement.


3. Make It Personal


Getting your audience to connect with your content will be an essential part of making any social media campaign effective. For this reason, it is very important not to spam your audience with direct asks. As a general rule, 80% of what your organization posts on social media should be content that “gives”. It should be human interest stories, interesting statistics and resources, or engaging photos and videos which will interest your audience and give them value in terms of knowledge or entertainment. 20% of your content should be calls to action which will motivate your audience to get involved with your cause.


One really easy way to build your organization’s brand and pique the interest of your audience at the same time is by sharing the personal stories about the people involved in your organization, from your staff to the beneficiaries you serve. Use photos, video testimonials, and quotes to personalize your content and make your audience feel like they are getting to know your organization.


An organization which does this really well is Team Rubicon.

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This article is part of our free 9-part course, Creating a Marketing Strategy for Community Nonprofits.

4. Use Your Words Wisely


In a world where communication has to be whittled down to 140 characters or less, every word counts. Try to get to the meat of what your organization is doing and explain concepts as concisely as possible. Use active language and powerful wording to motivate your audience.


A great tool to utilize when trying to come up with posts for social media is CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer. Just type in your potential post and it will tell you how good the word balance of your content is and what the best length is in order to increase engagement.


Social media has an ever changing landscape and keeping up with the latest techniques and trends can be a challenge. Getting into the habit of formulating a cohesive plan, expressing the personality of your organization, putting an emphasis on strong visuals, and carefully writing your posts will allow your organization to adapt to whatever twists and turns come in the future.


To learn more about social media marketing and other useful skills for non-profit organizations, visit the Project Eudaimonia website for articles from people with real world non-profit experience.

About the Author

Katlyn Murray is a media consultant specialising in work for humanitarian aid and development organisations. She has worked on disaster response projects with USAID, IOM, Micronesian Conservation Coalition, and Young Pioneer Disaster Response, among others. Katlyn wants to tell stories that will change the world.

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