How To Build a Following for Your Nonprofit

By: Dan Harmon - Guest Contributor on July 8, 2022

Nonprofit leaders play a vital role in enacting social change, often through community building, resource networking, and platform maneuvering. As a marketer at your nonprofit, it’s your responsibility to develop a clear plan for encouraging growth, especially through social media engagement.

With a thriving community, your nonprofit will be able to bring more awareness to your causes/projects, ultimately increasing the number of donations to the organization.

Here, we’ll be covering 5 steps you’ll need to gain more online followers.

Step 1: Draft the plan

The first step to any initiative is to plan it out. This process should entail an outline that states the initiative’s overall goal and the objectives needed to meet that goal.

In this case, we’re looking to grow the nonprofit’s community through social media and web content. You will need to research potential communities that would join your cause and the most effective recruitment methods. Brainstorm a list of ideas you have for this and organize these notes into a more coherent list of objectives for achieving your goal.

Your social media content plan could be organized this way:

  • Market research and analysis

  • Budget for content creation

  • Gather contact details for potential donors and partners

  • Message and conduct online outreach to find donors and partners you’d like to work with

  • Create social media content (map out posts, captions, and a schedule)

  • Engage with the community through likes, comments, and direct messages

As you develop the outline, make sure you do a fair bit of research into each one of these areas. The more detailed the plan is, the better prepared you’ll be for taking action.

Step 2: Find donors, volunteers, and followers

Finding and engaging with people should be a priority. If the project requires donors to finance social media growth, you’ll need to create an outreach strategy that will collect donations.

Develop a budget for how to pay for things like market research, content creation, digital media creation, branding, or social media management. While organizers can do this themselves, others opt to outsource professionals for this kind of work. For example, you could hire freelancers to conduct research into what content you should create to reach the desired audience. Or hire a social media manager to create, post, and schedule all your social content.

You’ll need to research the target audience and use marketing analytics software to understand your community’s patterns. Are there any particular interests or hobbies that your members have? Interview people about how they became involved with the nonprofit. Also, take a look at popular nonprofits and how they recruit members. Where do nonprofits look for outreach? This information will give you a good sense of the promising growth areas.

Search for profiles that express an interest in activism, charitable giving, or topics related to your nonprofit’s cause on social media. For example, you could type in keywords like “environmentalism” or “eco-lifestyle” to find like-minded individuals for an environmental nonprofit. Interacting with these profiles will mean social media algorithms will “group you” into this category and suggest your account to users who follow similar accounts.

Step 3: Develop a marketing approach

Marketing isn’t just a tool for businesses and influencers. Nonprofits are using this power for their causes.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge[1] serves as a great example, with ALS Association organizers using viral media marketing to bring awareness to the cause. This approach took creativity and an understanding of YouTube’s algorithmic patterns to gain virality.

A decent marketing approach should include aspects such as how to present the nonprofit properly and how to effectively communicate its needs. Many organizers decide to take a multimedia approach, creating profiles on massively popular platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GoFundMe.

It’s common for nonprofits to post photos and updates to engage the audience in a positive way, letting donors and followers know how much progress has been made for the nonprofit’s beneficiaries. This is a great way to recruit new people to the cause, demonstrating the kind of change that a donation could create.

Step 4: Upgrade to modern technology and platforms

Being technologically savvy goes a long way in today’s landscape, which is why you should learn how to navigate and manage various social media. While these platforms are usually easy to learn, there still might be some aspects you’re unfamiliar with.

If you don’t know how to post a video or a live stream, here are some tips:

  • Purchase and set up the recording equipment, such as a camera and a microphone

  • Design a professional background with a studio or a video overlay

  • Invest in video making software or audio editing software to help create your content

  • Record the live stream or video

  • Post the content, either on a platform like YouTube or on your website

Step 5: Focus on the message

Whether you’re posting on social media for follower traction or drafting a newsletter to recruit donors for a fundraiser, crafting a clear message is a crucial aspect of growth. Part of this will be knowing the audience you’re writing to; if you’re speaking to business partners or nonprofit financers, a professional tone will be needed to explain the goals or the needs of a message.

If you’re looking to create engaging social media content, this will be a creative process that takes a more personal or informal tone. On a blog website, you can write deep dives that detail your nonprofit’s projects.

You should also think about what to communicate to followers. Nonprofit communication often includes these elements:

  • Information about what the cause is and how your organization is working toward achieving its goals.

  • Details on how community members can participate in fundraisers and events.

  • Updates on the progress made.

  • Explanations on how to donate to the cause.

As you build your following, always remember to express the needs of the nonprofit and how the community can help in meeting those needs.

Build your following in order to build your community

Being the owner of a nonprofit and having such a presence in your community is an important and extremely rewarding role. So following the tips we’ve discussed is going to help you build a following and help as many people as possible. To recap, here are the main points:

  • Map out a plan

  • Find volunteers, donors, and followers

  • Develop a marketing approach

  • Upgrade to modern technologies and platforms

  • Focus on the messages

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  1. Ice Bucket Challenge dramatically accelerated the fight against ALS, ALS Association