Many nonprofits dream that one of their posts will go viral, instantly resulting in donations pouring in from around the globe and celebrities wearing their t-shirts. After all, when a nonprofit has a strong social media presence, it leaves a great first impression.
But let’s be honest—most small and mid-sized nonprofits don’t have the resources to outsource social media management or create professionally-produced videos. And most nonprofit leaders aren’t marketers or content creators (and already wear a lot of hats!).
It can be challenging to develop a social media strategy that’s both effective and realistic. That’s why we’ve created this list of common mistakes nonprofits make on social media—so you make the most of the time you’re able to invest in content creation.
Mistake #1 — Pouring Into Too Many Platforms
Do you feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin on social media? Odds are, you’re spending too much time on too many platforms. You certainly don’t need to be everywhere, because your audience won’t be everywhere.
We recommend picking 2-3 platforms where you know your key audiences are active, depending on how much time you have to dedicate to social media. Consider who your target audience is and which social media platform(s) they use regularly. For example, if your organization’s mission is to mobilize teens who care about local environmental issues, TikTok and Instagram might make sense for you. However, if you’re a professional association that hosts events for adults with advanced careers, Facebook and LinkedIn would be a better place to spend your time. TikTok and Instagram are great if you have dynamic pictures and videos to share, while Facebook and LinkedIn can get away with less visuals and more formality.
For some inspiration, check out this upbeat TikTok about Save The Music Foundation, a nonprofit which supports music education in schools across the country!
Mistake #2 — Posting Too Many Donation and Volunteer Requests
On social media, people aren’t looking for ads—they’re looking for connection and information about causes they care about. If the majority of your posts are only asking for help, this can hinder real relationship and trust building and give the impression that your organization is struggling to pursue its mission.
If you had a friend who only contacted you when they needed something, that person would be a terrible friend. Don’t be a bad friend to your nonprofit’s supporters! They follow you because they want to hear updates about your nonprofit’s successes and the meaningful work you do each day. And be sure to show appreciation for their generosity!
It’s okay to ask for donations and volunteers through social media, but balance the amount of posts that have direct asks in them with posts about your work towards your mission, success stories from people or causes you’ve helped, and how your supporters/volunteers are making an impact. The less promotional your posts feel, the better! The best posts make your supporters feel like a key part of achieving your mission.
One tip we have to make giving and volunteer opportunities available (without overposting about it) is having a link in bio website. Having a place to house consistent links on your social media page makes this information accessible alongside other content that people are looking for. We have a free, step-by-step resource on how to make a link in the bio page on Canva, no coding experience necessary!
Mistake #3 — Neglecting to Share Your Nonprofit’s Wins
Social media should be one of the first places you go to share about your successes. Whether you had great turnout for an event, reached a milestone, or have a personal story to highlight, these moments are essential to a great social media strategy.
Your followers want to see you succeed. They want to know their donations are helping your organization carry out its mission. Seeing that your organization is active is not only encouraging, it builds trust that you’re making a difference. And it’s an excellent way to invite donations.
Below is a great example of a nonprofit organization with plenty of wins to share, Destiny Rescue. They rescue children from sexual exploitation and human trafficking and provide aftercare programs to help them stay free. Notice how their followers are encouraged and inspired.
Many nonprofits do not prioritize ways to track their progress, and this is a common mistake in general (read more here about the 4 Reasons to Start Measuring your Nonprofit’s Impact). This mistake can directly hinder your social media efforts because having tangible evidence of success is one of the greatest ways to build credibility on these platforms.
- “This year, we built 17 homes for families facing homelessness.”
- “Since our humble beginnings in 1998, we’ve served over 500,000 meals to handicapped or homebound Texans.”
- “Your generous giving has helped us provide 146 hours of free counseling services for teens this month.”
When nonprofits measure their impact well, they have a treasure trove for content ideas!
Mistake #4 — Posting Too Often, or Not Enough
It makes sense for some nonprofits to post more than others, depending on how the organization uses social media to help with its goals. For example, many animal shelters post almost every day with pictures and videos of adoptable animals.
However, there is such a thing as posting too much or too little on social media. If you post multiple times a day on several platforms, this is not only time-consuming, it may cause people to unfollow due to the volume of your posts on their timeline. But it’s also not helpful to only post once every few weeks, as this leaves your followers in the dark about what you’re up to and if you’re making an impact.
We recommend for small or mid-sized nonprofits to post 2-3 times a week. Then, allocate some time on top of that to interact with followers and other accounts. For larger nonprofits with more time and resources to spend, posting 4-7 times per week is more feasible.
Check out how this nonprofit, To Write Love On Her Arms, took time to respond to followers on Mother’s Day. As an organization that seeks help and hope for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide, their responses are truly sincere. Most followers would rather have genuine interaction with your nonprofit twice per week rather than generic posts every day.
One more common mistake along these lines is posting too much or too little of a certain type of content. For example, be sure to post multiple announcements for events, since not everyone will see one post on their feed (and those who do will want a reminder). And balance out content like inspirational posts and shares with your own original content about your purpose.
Mistake #5 — Forging Ahead Without a Plan
It’s tough for nonprofits to make the most of their social media presence when they don’t know 1) where they want to go and 2) how they’re going to get there.
That’s why we highly recommend coming up with a social media strategy and content calendar. Your strategy will help you plan ahead and determine:
- What you want your nonprofit’s social media to achieve
- What audiences you want to reach
- What types of content you will post
- What your overall feed and individual posts will look like
- What holidays, national days, events and other key dates to prepare for
Without a social media strategy, you risk spending your valuable time interacting on platforms you don’t need to be on and people who aren’t interested in your nonprofit’s mission. You risk being unprepared when it comes to planning a #GivingTuesday post that makes your nonprofit stand out or announcing an exciting new program launch. You risk missing out on valuable data that can tell you who is engaging with your messages, when, how and why.
But if navigating the digital world just isn’t your thing, it’s okay to ask for help. Let us know if you’re interested in your own, custom nonprofit social media strategy—so you can spend less time on Facebook and more on your mission.