13 Tips to Level Up Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Engagement Tactics

10 min
social media engagement
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Rebecca Paredes

You’re posting photos. You’re sharing links. You’re responding to comments. Overall, you’re feeling pretty good about your nonprofit’s social media accounts, but some days, it can feel like you’re shouting into the void without much response. 

Given that social media drives 57% of traffic to online fundraising campaign pages on Classy, upgrading your engagement tactics can increase your community’s interactions with—and ultimately, level of support for—your nonprofit. Use the following tips to take your social media engagement to the next level, whether you’re sharing key information, interacting with supporters, or mobilizing action—and have some fun along the way.

Find out how you can use Classy and Facebook together to nurture your fundraisers, encourage third-party donors, and ultimately raise more money for your cause:

Classy + Facebook: A Guide to Boosting Fundraiser Retention

What Is Social Media Engagement?

Social media engagement occurs whenever someone interacts with your social media accounts. On a more granular level, engagement translates to metrics like:

  • Follows
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Click-throughs

You can track these metrics within social media platforms themselves (think Facebook Analytics or Twitter Analytics), or social media management platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite.

A social media engagement strategy isn’t as simple as just having a page that posts stellar content, although that’s an important piece of the pie. It also means navigating the unique formulas each social media platform uses to deliver content to followers. 

These formulas are called algorithms. Broadly speaking, social media algorithms determine what content to show to your followers based on their behavior—how often a person likes, comments, shares, and engages with what you’re posting. 

There are many nuances to the algorithms for each platform, and they’re updated frequently to iron out the kinks and improve user experience. But in general, the first posts on your feed will appear from the accounts that you interact with most often. 

This means that the more people engage with your posts, the more frequently your posts will appear in their feeds, and the greater your reach will be. 

Build a Strong Foundation

While the tips below touch on different topics, use the following in this first section to ensure you’ve built a strong foundation for engagement with your nonprofit’s social media posts.

1. Create a Social Calendar for Consistent Posting

You have plenty of big ideas, but without a plan in place it’s easy to lose track of the basics. Use a social media calendar to schedule out your content and make sure you’re regularly posting on all of the social media platforms your nonprofit calls home.

You can plan your calendar in an Excel spreadsheet, but if you want to increase your engagement, there’s a lot of value in using a social media management tool. These tools allow you to automatically schedule your posts, which gives you the power to not only plan ahead, but also ensure that you’re providing your followers with a meaningful variety of content with which to engage. 

As a general rule of thumb, when you’re starting to build your social media calendar make two-thirds of your content informational, and one-third or less promotional. This ratio avoids flooding your followers with a constant stream of overly promotional posts, and gives you plenty of room to post content that invites conversation.

Planning a social media calendar can also sometimes leave you thinking, “What do I post next?” If you’re stuck for content, it’s okay to recycle or refresh older content.

For example, you could post photos from past events (think “In Case You Missed It” re-shares) and evergreen blog posts from your nonprofit’s website. Some social media management platforms, like Edgar, will even automatically recycle a number of your posts to re-share, so you don’t have to lift a finger and your posts get more visibility. Win-win.

Free Download: The Social Media Marketing Guide for Nonprofit Events

2. Look at the Right Metrics

Data analytics is another huge perk of using a social media management tool that places all of your metrics in one place, as opposed to gathering numbers from the analytics websites of each individual social media platform. Data tells you what is or isn’t working with your audience, and it backs up this insight with hard numbers. 

When it comes to social media engagement, certain metrics have more value than others. Simply looking at likes and retweets on individual posts can play nice with social media algorithms and lift your posts in your followers’ feeds, but these are also considered vanity metrics—also known as the numbers that don’t necessarily correlate to eventual new donors, donations, or meaningful interactions. 

Instead, you want to focus on actionable metrics, the data that showcases whether your audience is actually engaging with and acting upon your content. Broadly speaking, here’s what you want to look at:

  • Engagement: An overall measure of how much your audience interacts with your account, and how often. Engagement may include likes, comments, shares, and mentions. High engagement equates to a highly responsive audience, compelling content, and more brand awareness.
  • Awareness: Also known as impressions (how many times a post appears in a person’s timeline) and reach (how many people actually saw your post, including followers and non-followers)
  • Referral traffic: A measure of how much traffic your social media accounts send to your nonprofit’s website. Are your Facebook fans actually clicking through to your nonprofit’s campaign page, or are they just liking the link?

What you do with these metrics depends on your nonprofit’s goals and audience. Maybe posting at certain times of day drives greater referral traffic. Maybe you don’t get much engagement on Twitter, but you get tons of engagement on Instagram. 

These insights can help you develop your social media strategy over time and tailor your content to specific platforms and audience interests.

3. Get Visual

Posts with visuals drive more engagement. For example, tweets with images receive 18% more click-throughs, 89% more likes, and 150% more retweets. 

Here are a few easy ways to start adding more visuals to your posts:

  • Use free tools like Canva, Stencil, and BeFunky to create visually compelling posters, infographics, and graphics
  • Source free photos from next-level stock image websites like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels
  • Use Infogram and Piktochart to create printables and charts
  • Add GIFs to your posts with Giphy

4. Tag and Mention Other Nonprofits, Brands, and People

Tagging other people and organizations can help boost your post’s visibility. That’s because when you tag another page, the social network may show the post to some of the people who like or follow the page you’ve just tagged. 

Tagging also alerts another account that you’re talking about them, which can increase your chances of a retweet or share. This is an especially good move on Instagram; when you tag someone in your Instagram stories, they get a notification that prompts them to share your post to their own Story. That means your post is shared with their followers, which boosts visibility and potentially increases your post’s reach.

5. Change Your Approach to Hashtags

You might already know that using hashtags on social media are an easy way to boost visibility and help people find your account. What you might not know is that you can boost engagement by switching up the way you approach hashtags. 

Change your approach in the following ways, and use your engagement metrics to see what works:

  • Check out related hashtags: When you browse posts on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll see other tags that may help you define your audience even further. Even if a hashtag has a smaller audience, it could also mean your posts will be delivered to a more niche and engaged audience, which can translate into higher engagement. The only way to find out is to test it and see what the data says.
  • Make sure your hashtags are still active: If you’re using tags that haven’t seen much activity in weeks, it’s time to change tactics. Check by visiting the hashtag’s page and scroll down the first few posts. If you aren’t seeing any recent new posts, or posts that are only from your account, that’s a sign that it’s time to switch up your tags
  • See what tags other people are using: Browse the pages of influencers and other nonprofits in your industry. Are they using the same tags as you, or tags you’ve never heard of? Glean hashtag ideas from their posts and see what happens when you sprinkle them into your own content.

Be Social

At its heart, social media should be social. That means engaging in conversations with your audience, posting compelling content that inspires, and finding ways to help your followers know that there are real, passionate people behind the nonprofits they support. Here’s how to do it.

6. Keep the Conversation Going

The Case Foundation found that its most successful social media posts are those that invite a dialogue between the foundation and fans. That’s because responding to questions, replying to comments, and publishing posts that end with a question mark invite your audience to share a bit about themselves. 

Dialogues spur engagement, but they also foster a sense of connection and give you the opportunity to keep the conversation going, just like you would in real life. Here’s how you can get the ball rolling:

  • Respond to comments with a follow-up question
  • Share a story about what you posted
  • Tell a follower more about the post you shared
  • In your reply, encourage people to use hashtags specific to your nonprofit

7. Schedule Holidays Into Your Calendar Ahead of Time

Okay, maybe National Cookie Day (December 4) isn’t totally related to your organization, but other awareness and cause days, like Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11) and World Day of Social Justice (February 20) can be key opportunities to put your organization and its mission onto a larger population’s radar. 

These awareness days usually have hashtags and content associated with them. As such,  it’s a good idea to work them into your calendar to ensure you’re posting relevant content that will be seen by people following the hashtag (and related hashtags). 

For example, if you’re part of an organization that focuses on mental health awareness, take advantage of Men’s Health Month in June and weave mental health awareness into the conversation around the #MensHealthMonth hashtag.

Pro Tip
HubSpot is a great resource for seasonal holidays and related hashtags. 

8. Run Polls on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Polls can be an easy way to drive engagement, and they’re also packed with awesome opportunities to learn more about your audience. Using polls, you can invite your followers to respond to questions and share their responses, whether you retweet the poll on Twitter or share the results as an Instagram Story. 

Here are a few ways to get the most out of your polls:

  • Keep the topics relevant: If your organization is a water charity, your audience might wonder why you’re asking questions about coffee. Make sure your polls clearly relate to your organization so they still appeal to your target audience.
  • Post at peak hours: Even the best poll will get minimal responses if you share it during a dead hour. Use your metrics to determine when your audience is most engaged, and launch the poll at that time (and share the results during peak hours, too).
  • Ask questions you want answers to: Use polls as an opportunity to educate your audience, ask how they feel about topics relevant to your organization, and get a sense of what they want to see next. For example, Microsoft Education used a poll on Twitter to start a conversation about women in STEM, a topic that aligned with an upcoming Twitter chat.

Classy + Facebook: A Guide to Boosting Fundraiser Retention

9. Host an “Ask Me” Experience

The concept of the “Ask Me Anything” gained popularity on Reddit, and social media makes it easier than ever to directly engage with your followers to answer questions about your organization. An “Ask Me” experience is exactly what it sounds like: your audience asks questions, and you (or your team) answer them. 

Your approach will be slightly different for each platform: 

  • Facebook and Instagram both have Live features that allow you to respond to questions in real time
  • On Instagram, you can use the questions sticker in Instagram Stories, which has the added bonus of making it easy to post your answers directly in your Story (where it’ll remain for 24 hours)
  • On Twitter, you can create a custom hashtag for people to leave their questions before and during the event

To make it easier on yourself, promote the “Ask Me” ahead of time, and let your audience know what day and time you’ll be answering questions with your team. Come up with a few canned answers to commonly asked questions, and invite your followers to submit questions ahead of time so you can start planning ahead (and have answers to get the ball rolling on the day of the event).

Experiment with Different Types of Content

You’ve exhausted your stock photo library. You’re fresh out of hashtags. When in doubt, think outside the box with these tips for engagement.

10. Go Live (and Let People Know Beforehand)

Live videos might feel intimidating, but with a bit of planning they can pay major dividends for your organization’s engagement metrics. On Facebook alone, users comment over 10 times more often during live videos and spend over three times as much time watching a Facebook Live video than a video that’s no longer live. 

However, not all content is suited to the live environment. Focus on videos that make sense in the moment, like livestream reportage of major fundraising campaigns or “Ask Me” events. The big key for success here is to let people know ahead of time that you’re going live. Post about the stream at least a week ahead of time, again a few days prior, and once more the day of.

11. Showcase Volunteers, Employees, and Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Surprise and delight your audience with content that takes them behind the scenes, showcasing the people who work day in and day out to promote your nonprofit’s mission. This has two benefits in that it: 

  • Humanizes your organization, helping your audience understand that there are hard-working people behind your brand
  • Builds community and promotes shares, particularly when you highlight, tag, and mention volunteers

Bonus benefit: It’s fun to celebrate the people who keep your organization running, and the unexpected insight into your organization may help drive new levels of engagement.

12. Use Instagram Stories in New Ways 

Because Instagram Stories have a shorter shelf-life (they expire after 24 hours), they’re fantastic opportunities to test new content that might not translate the same way to your standard feed. For example, CARE France, a humanitarian organization, used Instagram Stories to feature the daily lives of seven women in developing countries

Each woman—including a street cleaner in Madagascar, a farmer in Ecuador, and an Afghan refugee in Athens—used a smartphone to record their everyday lives. This storytelling format aligns with the way people use Stories naturally, but the narrative also advances CARE’s mission to fight the underlying causes of poverty.

13. Test Everything

As long as you’re sticking to your nonprofit’s brand and mission, there aren’t any definite rules about how you post on social media. Post content with and without links, with one hashtag or many, and see what happens when you throw in the occasional emoji. If something doesn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, you’ve still learned something about your audience and the way they engage with you. 

These 13 tips are tailored to help up-level your social media engagement, but remember that the best approach to social media is the one that works for your nonprofit. Try all of these tips, or try just one at a time and see how they land. 

You might find that some tips work better on certain platforms than others, some resonate really well with your audience, and some may even become your nonprofit’s bread-and-butter. After all, every nonprofit’s social media strategy will be a little different, and all of this data is information you can use to tailor your approach to really move the needle. Happy sharing!


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