Article published on the Givebutter blog.

A strong social media presence is a simple, cost-effective way for nonprofits to reach their existing donors and expand their network of supporters. You don’t need an advanced degree in Marketing to engage followers, just a solid understanding of your platforms and a little effort and creativity. At Givebutter, we know that nonprofits don’t always have the resources to support a full-fledged marketing team, so here are some tips to help curate a loyal and engaged follower base.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

As nice as it may be to have thousands of Twitter followers, it does nothing for you if they mindlessly scroll past your post. It doesn’t matter if you’re a for-profit or nonprofit organization, social media marketing is not just about raising your follower count, it’s about engaging with potential customers or donors so that they’ll support your brand, product, or cause. This means that a market expansion strategy is not always the right track for social media accounts. 

The best part about social media marketing is how your supporters do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. 

If you create quality content for the followers you already have, they will actively engage and share with their followers. Develop a close relationship with your followers by making your social media presence engaging and relatable so that your followers feel like they are following a friend, not a brand-bot. Respond to their questions with personality, host branded t-shirt giveaway contests, and have fun with your feed.

Have a Sense of Humor

The most successful social media accounts engage their followers by making jokes. This makes you likeable, and when it comes to nonprofit marketing, being liked is critical. You don’t have a product that your followers need, so you need to make sure that they like you and your brand. There are thousands of nonprofit causes that need donor support and are using social media to gain supporters, so it won’t be enough to have a valiant cause. And anyway, you want your donors not just to donate to your nonprofit as a good deed, but because they are passionate about your mission.

Incorporating humor into your nonprofit social strategy is a little trickier than it is for for-profit businesses. Tostino's uses memes to reach young people on Tumblr, and Wendy’s Twitter account has gone viral many times by delivering sassy one-liners to people who claim allegiance to other fast-food restaurants. But how hard can it be to have a sense of humor about pizza rolls and chicken nuggets? Nonprofits center around more serious subjects, so using your sense of humor must be done tastefully. For example, Movember, who promotes men health through moustaches, posted a video featuring comedian Nick Offerman, who’s known for his facial hair. Of course, not everyone has a celebrity budget, but a witty hashtag or a cute puppy pic could go a long way.  

Content, Content, Content.

No matter how many followers you have, you won’t get any retweets or shares if your content isn’t quality. Walmart has almost 1 million followers, yet most of their standard tweets only get double digit favorites or retweets. When they shared a video of the viral yodelling kid, Mason Ramsey, meeting with their shareholders, they got almost 300 retweets and 2,000 favorites. Promoting your cause while also considering what your followers are interested in will make sure that your followers have a reason to be on your page.

One way to make your feeds eye-catching is featuring images or videos on every post. Let’s say your executive team met with a congresswoman about changing a policy regarding an issue that your nonprofit advocates for. That’s a big deal and an opportunity to post some quality content. But it would be really easy for your post to get lost on someone’s feed if you don’t have an image to go with it. And they don’t always have to be beautiful, professional photos; authenticity is valuable. Using stock photos at times will probably be necessary for most accounts, but you want your followers to be able to imagine a real person behind the post, so, when possible, use original visual content.

Know the Differences in Platforms

Nonprofits should have a presence on all the major platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.—and understand that each one has unique strengths and weaknesses. Your follower demographic may be significantly different on Facebook than it is on Snapchat, so make sure you are catering your content to the platform you’re posting it on. 

Even if most of your social media energy is going towards promoting a specific event, vary the content you use across platforms so that your followers have new, interesting content when they switch from Twitter to Instagram.

Each platform has key features that make them appeal to different demographics. Your active Facebook followers will probably be older than your Instagram ones. Videos do really well on Facebook, who curates people’s feeds based on an algorithm that predicts what they will be interested in seeing. Facebook is all about relationships, so you can’t just be all about brand and promotion. Make sure your posts are something your followers will want to share with the family or tag their friend in the comments.

Twitter appeals mostly to millenials and, your posts have to be short and snappy, and hashtag use is a key balance. Hashtags are helpful when trying to reach people outside of your current follower base, but using too many too often can make your posts look spammy and cluttered. More people follow brands on Twitter than they do on Facebook, so this can be more explicitly promotional, but make sure you’re still engaging with followers.

A lot of people use Twitter as their main source of news, so your Twitter feed should be informative, whereas your Instagram can be centered more around aesthetic. You can have a lot of fun with photography and design on your Insta feed and is a great way to show your followers what your cause is all about. Keep in mind that you will have a younger demographic here, as it is popular among college students and teenagers.

No matter what social strategy or platform you choose to focus on, make sure you are staying engaged with your followers. Establishing your voice on social shows current supporters and potential donors what your nonprofit is all about and why your cause is worth supporting.


Article published on the Givebutter blog.


A lot of people consider doing volunteer work abroad. While the desire to help another community is admirable, it's vital that you reflect on what will actually be beneficial to others and how your good intentions can be misguided. There are a lot of advertised experiences that seem life-changing but are actually harmful to local economies and don't provide effective long term solutions. We want to help you make sure that your time is dedicated to an effort that actually makes a difference.


My first question to these volunteers is this: Why did you go abroad to help? The cheapest programs cost over $500 dollars per person, often not including flights, which would be a more than generous and much appreciated donation to the Boys & Girls Club down the street from your house. And as far as time and labor goes, food pantries, afterschool programs, and humane societies can always use a few extra hands. There’s no shortage of work to be done locally in Western countries like America. In fact, (though this article will refrain from using moldy, antiquated terms like first-, second-, and third-world), Paul Farmer—co-founder of the nonprofit Partners in Health and a professor at Harvard Medical School—did emphasize Western countries’ own failures in upholding their standard of affluence when he coined the term Fourth World, which refers to the ailing and impoverished pockets of “wealthy” countries that champion capitalism and claim societal excellence. These pockets of struggle that Farmer refers to are not few and far between. So when you’re feeling particularly philanthropic, don’t forget about the work that needs to be done right across the street, instead of across the ocean.


A lot of the work you can do locally is, simply put, very, very easy... Donating your old clothes to a homeless shelter. Stacking canned goods at food pantries. Helping kids with their math homework once a week at the Boys and Girls Club. All things that high schoolers and college students, chock full of idealism and humanitarianism but often lacking in know-how and valued skill, can do. Better yet, can make an integral, routine part of their lives, rather than a checkmark on their life’s to-do list.


The overwhelming majority of volunteer abroad programs focus on infrastructure. Building a school for an impoverished neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. Building a clinic for a rural town outside of Tegucigalpa. Most programs are construction-based, yet these service-oriented programs aren’t exactly targeting experienced contractors. 


There’s an important distinction to make between a group of voluntourists spending a week ‘rebuilding’ communities around Bulawayo versus something like Doctors Without Borders, a nonprofit that supports medical professionals providing care to people in the Majority World. People with these kinds of specialized skills are in high demand in locations that are lacking in higher education and the world-class resources our doctors have here in the States. So an ophthalmologist that travels to the Philippines to perform Lasik on citizens who need to see in order to be employed is providing something they wouldn’t have had such easy access to otherwise.


Helping to construct a new school, church, or clinic may seem like a tangible way to provide real benefit to a community, and it's satisfying to see such real results of your efforts. But these construction based projects can actually be harmful to the communities by taking away decent jobs from legitimately competent laborers that live in the community. A week of free labor from a bunch of eager, compassionate American teenagers may seem like something under-resourced countries could use, but it takes away a week of decent wage from people in countries with already stunted economies. These people from Western countries that so fervently stress the economic necessity for access to opportunity are stripping locals of opportunities. And hammering the last nail on a building and then heading home the next day isn’t even attempting to address the larger economic and social implications of these communities’ struggles.


To address these implications, we have to think outside the scope of 10-day trip and towards the long-term effects of our voluntourism. A teacher going overseas to teach Cambodian students advanced mathematics is an admirable effort that is closer to the ophthalmologist in the Philippines because they are using valuable skills and specific expertise to help people who need them. But these kinds of efforts are most productive when they are used as a way to share their ideas and expertise regarding how to teach complex topics with local teachers who will be in the classroom every year rather than just a week, month, or even semester. International correspondence could have a more sustainable impact on under-resourced education systems by preparing existing teachers with much-needed resources and ongoing educational programs and expertise, whereas newly constructed schools can often be difficult for an impoverished country to fund or hire teachers to fill.


It’s an admirable thing to want to use your vacations to help other people rather than lounging on the beach, but volunteering effectively isn’t just about good intentions. Despite being considered an affluent nation, the United States still has 45 million people living below the poverty line, whole cities drinking grey or yellow water, and 500,000 people without a home. There’s still plenty of work to do in your neighborhood, and you can actually make a bigger impact with the money, time, and energy you would have used flying overseas. And if you have a specialized skill that you think would be useful abroad, make sure you’re not only providing labor but also considering how you can help citizens sustain the work you did after you’re gone.