Beyond Likes and Shares: How Nonprofits Can Foster Engagement on Social Media 

Marketing and Social Media

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By now you probably know that you should have social media accounts for your nonprofit organization (and if you didn’t, now you do).  

Social media is a very effective method to connect with current and potential donors. But building a successful social media campaign is more than just creating a page or posting a picture.  

For a social media strategy to be effective, you need to have engagement with your followers. When you increase engagement with them, you’ll find new followers, build deeper relationships with the followers you already have—and turn your followers into donors. 

But where do you start? And how do you build engagement?  

Think back to being a kid in school (middle school or elementary) and remember what your teacher taught you about the 5 W’s and H: Who, Where, What, When, Why, and How.  

Using these to build your social media strategy will maximize your opportunities to engage with your followers.

  1. Who and Where
  2. What
  3. When and Why
  4. How
woman sitting on a couch, engaging with her smartphone on social media

First, start with the Who and Where: 

It’s hard to separate the who from the where because the who depends on the where. As each social media channel is unique, your audience will be different too. Your audience on Facebook isn’t the same as your audience on LinkedIn, which will probably be different from followers on TikTok. 

To start building more engagement, look to see where you already have the most followers or engagement already.  

Use that base and start building on that foundation. Many social media channels have insights and analytics so you can find out who’s already following you. Those tools are vital to learning about your audience, and that can help guide you with what to post and where.  

There are so many options for social media platforms now, but don’t feel like your nonprofit needs to do all of them. Start with one that you’re already using, and then you can look at building other places.  

Next, the What: 

What to post is the most important element of building engagement.  

You want to share things that your followers will want to engage with. One of the most important things to remember is to vary your posts. By having different types of posts, you give more opportunities for your audience to engage and relate.  

It might be tempting to always do something similar, especially when you have a post that creates lots of engagement. But if you always do the same thing over and over people keep scrolling and begin to ignore you. Find what works, but don’t rely on one type of post. You’ll need to have multiple types of posts to keep followers’ interests. 

Some of the content will be dependent on the platform. LinkedIn tends to be more professional and structured, while TikTok is more relaxed and focused on fun. Each social media platform is different, so you’ll need to cater your posts for that specific place. Creating one post and then plastering it everywhere won’t create engagement. You’ll need to tailor the post for each site. 

But When and Why? 

The Why we discussed earlier: engagement helps build your donor relationships and attracts new donors. But when should you post?  

Well, there’s not a set answer. Luckily, most social media platforms can show you in the analytics when your posts are getting seen the most, thus (hopefully), when your followers are engaging with them. But those aren’t always accurate, so play with different times. Try posting at various times of day and see when your posts get the most traction. 

Now, the most important question: How? 

The other questions helped build the base for creating an environment that encouraged engagement. But now how do you actually create engagement? 

  1. Be personable. “People give to people” is a phrase we use all the time in fundraising. And it’s true here. One of the best ways to create engagement is to show that you’re a real person behind the posts.  

    Some of the best social media campaigns I’ve seen are ones where the brand has a clearly defined persona. They’ve created a relatable, interesting persona and you can tell what their personality is through their posts. These are successful not because they’re funny or sweet, but because they’re real.  
  1. Reply to comments, messages, and questions quickly, politely, and personally. Don’t just give a generic, “thanks for sharing” reply. That doesn’t feel personable. That feels automated. Give specific replies. Reply to direct messages when followers send them. By being personable, you help create more opportunities for conversation.  

    Think of it like small talk: Your post is the initial greeting. Then they reply back. If you don’t respond, it becomes the awkward shuffle part when people try not to make eye contact. Reply back with an appropriate response that encourages discussion. Let them know you welcome responses and conversation with them. 
  1. Create a space that invites engagement. That may sound obvious, but it’s a rule that’s easy to break. This goes hand-in-hand with what kind of posts you’re creating. Ask questions that encourage your followers to answer in the comments. Resist the temptation to always ask for money or only show volunteers. These are both good posts you should do. But not all the time. Like I said above, you need to vary your posts. 

One final thought to share with you: as you work to build engagement on social media, be patient. It takes consistent, little steps every day to create an active social media following. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not a viral sensation overnight. Just keep posting consistently and you’ll get there.  

Get the Nonprofit Social Media Strategy Workbook! Download Now

About the Author

In his role as President of his marketing and advertising agency, Oneicity, Ryan Thomas develops and executes fundraising campaigns of all kinds. Through direct mail, email, social media, digital ads, and holiday campaigns, his clients are seeing successful results and ROI year after year.   

About Oneicity

Oneicity specializes in customized fundraising and marketing. We provide direct mail, websites, email marketing, donor acquisition, and income problem solving. 

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