Classy’s 2019 survey of nonprofit industry professionals revealed that social media was the number one marketing tool across nonprofits, regardless of organization size. Yet, during the coronavirus pandemic, it can be overwhelming to think about what to post when there is so much critical information being shared. Nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike are trying to tow the line between sharing supportive messages, news, and branded content, all while being respectful of the current events.
While a unique challenge, it isn’t impossible to navigate. In fact, many nonprofits are doing an excellent job providing resources and support and raising awareness through social media. Use these eight tips and examples from nonprofits to inspire your own social media strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Adjust your messaging, but don’t stop posting.
It can feel strange to post about something unrelated to COVID-19 right now, but just because your mission isn’t related to health or human services, disaster relief, or emergency response doesn’t mean your mission isn’t being impacted. Find a way to share the effects the pandemic has had on your cause.
The following video by the United Nations (UN), and shared by GirlUp, is a great example of how you can show supporters how a seemingly unrelated mission is impacted by this pandemic. GirlUp’s mission is to empower girls around the world by standing up, speaking up, and helping them rise up as a community to change the world for good.
Created by the UN, the nonprofit shared the UN’s video that was posted for #WorldHealthWorker Day. This social media post explains how disease outbreaks disproportionately affect girls and women, and by educating their audience, they are connecting their mission to current events and creating a sense of urgency for their followers to make a donation.
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Happy World Health Worker Day! ⚕️ During crises, women act as leaders in their communities and in frontline services. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 outbreak in communities globally. This #WorldHealthWorker Day, we thank women around the world for their bravery and service (📸: @unwomen)
Try to find a way to connect your mission with the effects of the pandemic. If there isn’t a connection, be honest with supporters about how it’s simply affecting your ability to do your work.
2. Inform supporters that this is a unique opportunity for charitable giving.
With the current economic challenges, a monetary donation isn’t always possible. Switch up your asks and offer other ways to support your nonprofit during this time. But don’t stop asking for donations. You can encourage donations by explaining to supporters how the CARES act removed limitations on how much of your charitable donations can be deducted against your income.
You can read more in our recent post, Coronavirus Relief: Everything Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About the Stimulus Package, but the change is summed up in this excerpt from the post:
For the entire year of 2020, the limitation on how much of your charitable donations you can deduct against your income, no matter who you are or how much you give, has been lifted. Previously, it was a maximum of 60% for cash donations and 50% for non-cash contributions.
Under the CARES Act, these limitations have been removed for Federal income tax purposes. Additionally, anyone who donates up to $300, whether they itemize or not, can deduct that against other income for donations in 2020 (considered an “Above the Line” deduction).
Make sure you’re getting out there and communicating this to your donors as soon as possible. Not only is this relevant to major donors, it’s also important for small donations, donations made to peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, and recurring donations.
Share the short version of this update with your supporters on social media, but make sure to link to another verified resource, such as our post or a government website, to ensure they are informed of the small print associated with the update.
3. Leverage trending hashtags or cause awareness days.
This is an everyday best practice for social media, but your usual hashtags might not have the same return they usually do. Instead, do some research on what hashtags people are using in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
If your nonprofit is newer to social media, Sprout Social has some great resources that go over the basics. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Use Instagram analytics tools that have hashtag discovery features, such as All Hashtag, Keyhole, or Later.
- Combine your branded hashtags with industry, cause sector, or trending hashtags to get in front of a larger, but still relevant, audience.
- Check out upcoming cause awareness days to plan content ahead of when those hashtags will be trending.
- Tweak your hashtag usage for each platform. The ideal number of hashtags varies by channel, and hashtags that resonate with Instagram users won’t necessarily translate to Twitter or LinkedIn.
An important cause awareness day coming up is #GivingTuesdayNow, set to take place on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. This effort is a response to the unprecedented need for emergency relief and additional support for nonprofit organizations during this time. Familiarize yourself with the event and leverage #GivingTuesdayNow and COVID-19 resources to plan your strategy.
Check out how the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation created a simple graphic to share two important “save-the-dates” with their followers:
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Although the month of May may look a bit different this year, we’ll still come together virtually in honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month and the brand new #GivingTuesdayNow — because care is needed now more than ever. Wherever you live and however you choose to support the PBTF’s mission, we are united by a commitment to care for children and teens in need. Stay tuned for more details on how you can #CommitToCare with us next month. . . . #givingtuesday #btam #pbtf #carecurethrive #givingback #cancersurvival #cancerresearch #childhoodcancerresearch #childhoodbraintumorresearch #braintumorresearch #braintumor #braintumorawareness #childhoodcancer #childhoodcancerawareness #pediatriccancer #pediatriccancerawareness #pediatricbraintumor #pediatricbraincancer #childhoodbraintumor #childhoodbraincancer #childhoodbraintumorawareness #braintumorawarenessmonth
4. Go live and answer questions, share stories, and connect with your community.
As we adjust to the temporary norm of communicating strictly through our phones and computers, it’s more important than ever to have face-to-face conversations through video. In addition to posting pre-filmed videos, schedule a time to go live on Facebook or Instagram to interact with your supporters in a more personal way. This helps remind your audience of the people behind your brand and humanizes your mission, and depending on the content you share with them, it could be a great way to make an important connection with a larger audience.
A few creative ideas include:
- Have your founders go live and share their founding story and how far the organization has come.
- Hold an “ask me anything” style session where supporters can submit questions for your team to answer.
- Schedule an interview with a beneficiary to share their story and how the work of your nonprofit has impacted their life.
- Host a virtual event related to your cause. This could be a live yoga class, a meditation session, a motivational talk from a speaker, a concert, or an instructional how-to video.
Whatever your content will be, make sure to schedule it ahead of time so that your team has runway to promote the event on social media and email and drum up excitement. Send an email or social reminder the day before and an hour before your live session to make sure you have a solid turn out.
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TOMORROW (April 16): Connect with some of the TWLOHA Team for our next #TWLOHAatHome conversation! Chad Moses, Director of Outreach, will be talking with Lindsay Kolsch, Co-Executive Director, and Aaron Baccash, FIND HELP Program Manager at 4 pm EDT right here on Instagram. We’re so grateful for this time we get to spend together!
5. Learn more about how to communicate with supporters at the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions.
Navigating the ever-changing world of social media is a full-time job in itself, so if you need more hands-on training for communicating with your supporters during this time, consider attending the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions.
Taking the place of Classy’s annual Collaborative conference held in Boston, this four-day virtual experience is a great way to gain insights, strategies, and inspiration on how to move your mission forward during this time. The online sessions will teach you how to adapt to changing circumstances through fundraising and marketing, organizational priorities, leadership in times of crisis, resilience, and more.
Register to save your spot for access to 20 sessions curated by industry leaders and nonprofit experts.
6. Connect with an influencer.
According to Classy’s report, Why America Gives, consumers are more likely to be motivated to donate to a nonprofit by a social media influencer than a Hollywood celebrity, national politician, or professional athlete.
Remember that a social media influencer doesn’t have to be someone with half of a million followers. It can be a local artist, activist, business owner, or creator who has a dedicated following.
Do some research to uncover influencers in your city or who have worked with causes similar to yours and then reach out to see what type of engagement or promotion you can agree upon.
If you are having a tough time getting started, try sending an ask to your internal team, board members, and extended networks to see if anyone has a connection and are willing to facilitate an introduction.
Can’t find an influencer? Ask your followers to share on your behalf, like Operation Broken Silence did:
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Help us spread some encouragement during this hard time we are all in. Grab your favorite photo above and share away! • Check out the link in our bio for some free Zoom video conference backgrounds and more: @obsilence • #obsilence #operationbrokensilence #coronavirus #covid19 #stayhome
7. Share updates about your virtual events.
You should always be promoting events on social media, but now that your events are going virtual, you have to make sure you’re mobilizing your digital audience. Use your social media channels to share updates, drive registrations, look back on past events, and remind supporters that your events are still happening and your beneficiaries still need them.
We love how To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) used their event’s branding and logo on this graphic, but made the message about how the current situation affects their mission. This is a great way to promote your virtual event while still providing thoughtful content to your audience.
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We believe that voices of hope and access to mental health resources are needed now more than ever. So many people have decided to join us for the Virtual Run For It 5k on May 16 already, but reaching our fundraising goal is also incredibly important because it makes it possible for TWLOHA to continue this work. Each month we reach 8.5 million people online and connect thousands to mental health resources through our FIND HELP Tool. We understand that everyone is impacted differently during this season. If you’re in a space where you’re able to help, we hope you’ll join us as a fundraiser or donor. Your support will allow us to continue showing up for those struggling throughout the days, weeks, and months ahead. As a thank you to our fundraisers, we’re offering some great perks like an exclusive campaign pin, print, finisher medals, and even gift cards to the TWLOHA Online Store. And, the first 100 fundraisers to raise $150 will also receive a free meal gift card from Chipotle! You can sign up at the link in our profile.
8. Ask for your supporters to share their stories.
User-generated content is a great way to diversify your social media calendar, highlight your awesome supporters, and engage your audience all at once. It can also help you raise more funds, as All Hands and Hearts found when they leveraged user-generated content for Giving Tuesday and saw a 263% increase in revenue.
Depending on the size of your following, how engaged they are, and how much time you have to dedicate to reading and reposting responses, there are several ways to create user-generated content.
- Use Instagram’s question feature in your stories to ask followers how they’re managing during isolation, if they have questions about your work, or what they’re doing to keep busy. Open-ended questions are great because they allow your supporters to choose how they interact with your nonprofit.
- Post a prompt on your feed and ask followers to share their stories in the comments. Questions can be fun, meaningful, or related to your work, but make sure that your questions are engaging, and don’t sound like a cliched attempt at increasing engagement metrics. Stay away from the overused, “how did you first hear about us?” Be timely and intentional with your questions so that your followers feel like they are having a conversation and connecting with you.
- Hold a “challenge” in your stories or news feed where you ask followers to fill in the blank, come up with a caption, or submit a photo. If asking for photos that will be messaged, make sure to ask permission to share on your page before you repost.
All of these will require someone on your team to respond, moderate, and engage with all of the submissions, so don’t attempt this if you won’t be able to reply. If you post a question and don’t respond, it can alienate your followers and discourage them from engaging with your social media again.
Follow Your Normal Best Practices
These are difficult times and the world is facing unique challenges, but many of the usual best practices you follow are still valid. Continue to post impact stories, highlight your volunteers, offer ways to get involved, and share campaign updates. It can feel strange to post about something unrelated to COVID-19, but remember that your social media followers are following you for a reason—they care about what you have to say. So don’t be afraid to give them something to think about, respond to, or share with their followers.
You never know, you may just share the post that brightens their day and gives them the motivation they need to get involved.
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Thanks to those who have already taken action to support our COVID-19 emergency fund, we have purchased our first load of supplies. Earlier today, our staff in Nepal were already busy distributing it to the families most in need. We are grateful for your support: www.blinknow.org/covid-19
And in today’s landscape, activate your fundraisers to also share about your cause to their networks. Download our latest guide to learn how you can improve your fundraisers’ experience, boost their reach and funds raised, and keep them coming back to evangelize and fundraise on your behalf.