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The Nonprofit TikTok Gap: From Passive to Viral


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Published August 11, 2023 Reading Time: 6 minutes

An app that gained 100 million users in one year and shares more than one billion videos per day speaks for itself.1 TikTok isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. You may already know how influential it is by how many times you hear “I saw it on TikTok” in a week, but now it’s time for nonprofits to see the full fundraising potential.

TikTok is where information travels fast and effectively. So it’s OK to feel slight intimidation and content creation fatigue from the video-heavy social platform adding more capabilities for text and image posts. We’re here to help you turn that hesitation into confidence in a steady presence proven to engage donors worldwide.

Let’s hit the play button on TikTok for nonprofits, the 2023 edition.

High-Touch Engagement for Modern Fundraising

A rich community of active supporters who donate, participate, and share to support your mission—that’s the ultimate goal. The evolving digital landscape adds new layers of complexity, with more social platforms that shape donor expectations for engagement that didn’t exist decades ago. Modern engagement is about connecting with donors on the channels they spend their time with frequent touchpoints that feel personal.

Authenticity Shines on TikTok

How a nonprofit uses technology and creates a social media presence is crucial to its strategic operations and fundraising potential. Email and paid marketing channels will always have a place, but social media is where authentic and real-time engagement can thrive. Because TikTok is primarily about less-curated content, you can show up as you are, stay true to your values as an organization, and be accessible to more people.

Our latest report, The State of Modern Philanthropy, explored the state of social media fundraising and, more importantly, the opportunities forward-thinking nonprofits can take advantage of to build relationships.

Let’s take a look at the impact TikTok has:

  • 8.8% of TikTokers convert, but many nonprofits aren’t taking advantage of the traffic TikTok captures on a daily basis
  • 45% of TikTokers feel more connected to brands that teach them something new or offer information about themselves 
  • Millennial TikTokers are 2.3x more likely to create a post and tag a brand than other platform users 
  • 76% of TikTokers agree brands that post or reply to comments on TikTok feel like part of the community

Our report showed a low percentage of total traffic to Classy campaigns from TikTok, showcasing the opportunity gap for nonprofits. That tells us nonprofits are slow adopters of the platform due to potential unfamiliarity with TikTok’s best practices or a lack of resources to dedicate to building their TikTok presence.

We know when organizations connect with donors through authentic storytelling, they can activate support in widespread, meaningful ways. TikTok’s storytelling capabilities can help you reach your activation goals more efficiently, from driving people to a donation site to establishing long-term relationships with each interaction.

And now, with the release of TikTok’s new integration with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the likelihood of conversion is even higher. This advancement will be a game-changer for businesses looking to tap into the vast potential of consumers on TikTok.

TikTok and Generation Z

If you’ve considered how to engage Gen Z, TikTok is the social platform to focus on. Gen Z’s diversity and values around charity and community involvement show up as giving potential, and we only expect that to increase. 

Here’s a glimpse at the trends in Gen Z social giving behaviors from The Nonprofit’s Guide to Engaging Gen Z:

  • 79% of Gen Z donors find out about new causes through social media
  • 18% of Gen Z donors check out an organization’s social platforms before they donate
  • 14% of Gen Z donors prefer to receive updates from charitable organizations on social media

While older generations are still adjusting to the idea of social media communities, Gen Z grew up with this as the norm. Similarly to how they may watch someone they admire complete their morning routine to get product recommendations, they observe who their friends and networks are supporting through donations and volunteer time to make their donation decisions. Once they’ve been activated, they’re the most likely demographic to share their experience in a 30-second video and potentially inspire their extended circles to do the same. 

Outside of Gen Z, you’re sure to reach millions of millennials, Gen X, and even baby boomers on TikTok as well. Over time, as the adoption of the social media platform increases, people will increasingly rely on TikTok as a learning and engagement platform. In fact, TikTok is becoming the search engine for younger generations.² Understanding how your organization can benefit from the search and discoverability potential of the platform, now is the time to take action. 

Turn Common TikTok Hesitations into Confidence

TikTok may feel foreign if you’re not a regular user, especially when you encounter a TikTok video in the making or catch a headline about a new trend influencing people in a big way. What’s crucial to remember is that there’s so much good TikTok can offer because of its ability to spread information to the masses quickly. This makes it great for sharing the incredible work you do to better the lives of anyone who engages with your organization.

Let’s explore the common hesitations around TikTok to help you feel good about going all in without giving up the values that matter to your nonprofit.

1. TikTok Is Different From Other Social Platforms

TikTok entered the scene and shook up the world. It has a different approach to calculating its algorithm and elevating content than other platforms we know and love. TikTok videos also have fewer barriers and competition, giving them a higher chance of being seen. 

We see everyday people go viral on TikTok, so what makes your organization any different? While crossing the million-views mark on your next video may be a lofty goal to start with, your nonprofit can gain incredible exposure from moments of engagement on the platform if you put the time into defining a strategy. Plus, followers matter far less on TikTok, so it’s less about building a massive following and more about trusting the algorithm will feed your content to people interacting with similar content. 

Get in front of passionate individuals who may be ready to take action. This is not to say stop engaging on other social media platforms but don’t let TikTok’s unique nature scare you from testing the waters.

2. Video-First Content Feels Challenging to Create

We get it: videos take more work. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent your process to get your nonprofit on TikTok. One dedicated day of filming content to use within the many helpful video editing apps can result in a month’s worth of posts. Plus, user-generated content performs extremely well online, so tapping on your community is another workaround.  

Each video you share on TikTok may reach entirely different audiences or show up in someone’s feed at different times. Your TikTok followers will care far less about you wearing the same outfit or sitting in the same room in your videos than the message you share. When you take the pressure off the quality visuals to tap into the relevance of your mission to your donor base, you’ll find organic moments to create or re-share content without ample budgetary requirements. And if video isn’t your thing, check out TikTok’s new text posts to help round out your posting plans.

Video Ideas for Virality, Conversion, and Engagement

3. There Are a Lot of Trends to Keep Up With

TikTok trends pop up constantly, so instead of trying to get involved with every single one, focus on your unique voice and how you can leverage that to stand out on the platform. Your nonprofit mission will remain constant as trends come and go. And with more and more people turning to TikTok to speak openly about challenges they face, from mental health to financial strains, this makes it a place where storytelling emerges. 

It’s also easier to engage with new trends when they’re relevant to your work or stories. Ultimately, you know the “why” behind your organization’s founding, the reason your programs exist, the experiences that draw in new supporters, and the stories of beneficiaries. That type of conversation will always have its place on TikTok, so don’t feel you need to squeeze yourself into a particular box to engage donors.

4. It’s New to the Fundraising World

TikTok is newer, but nonprofits see excellent results when embracing the platform for fundraising. And while it’s rare to see a TikTok account with multiple viral posts, it only takes one to pick up the momentum that brings thousands to millions of individuals to your page. Remember, the goal of your TikTok presence is to build relationships, whether through many followers and likes or visibility on your profile that leads people to donate

Here are a few nonprofits that showcase the potential of TikTok for fundraising:

NAMI | 51.3K followers | 1281.K likes

Kansas City Pet Project |  1.3M followers | 28M likes

Broadway Cares | 48.9K followers | 1.9M likes

Go From Passive to Viral

As you can see, there’s a big difference between having a TikTok account for your nonprofit and seizing the opportunity to make TikTok an engagement engine. Sometimes, all it takes is the confidence to see hesitations as opportunities to make your presence known. And as more nonprofits enter the TikTok scene, it’s likely people will look to TikTok as the primary platform to connect with organizations they want to support. 

Get ready to showcase your creativity and meet the donors waiting to hear about what you’re doing to make the world a better place.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

Article Sources

1. “The Incredible Rise of TikTok – [TikTok Growth Visualization],” Influencer Marketing Hub, last accessed July 27, 2023, https://influencermarketinghub.com/tiktok-growth/.

2. “For Gen Z, TikTok Is the New Search Engine,” The New York Times, last modified September 17, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/technology/gen-z-tiktok-search-engine.html.

Promo image for the State of Modern Philanthropy report

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