The Why, What, and When of Tweeting for Your Nonprofit

Why Your Nonprofit Should Tweet

Unless you are still wondering about those weird words starting with a hashtag (#) that scroll by occasionally during the news, you know that Twitter has become a huge part of modern media. But Twitter is not just a social network to tell you what your favorite celebrity ate for breakfast. It can be a powerful marketing tool to help you build support for your nonprofit organization.

There are lots of reasons organizations ignore Twitter, chief among them is a lack of time or expertise and the prediction that the network’s popularity will fade out soon. But people have been speculating about Twitter’s demise since it was launched in 2006, and seven years later it’s among the top ten most visited websites. And if you have time to send a text message, then you have time to reach out to the more than 230 million active users on Twitter.

Twitter is an especially useful platform for reaching members of the millennial generation. As you can see from the Pew Research Center’s chart, the percentage of people aged 18-29 using Twitter has more than doubled in the last three years, and there’s solid growth across all age groups.

Respected nonprofits like Feeding America and The American Red Cross have been using Twitter for years to raise awareness and funds, but because it is free to join and requires little technological savvy, organizations of any size and scope can take advantage of it. The fact is, if you are ignoring Twitter, you are ignoring a huge potential audience!

What Your Nonprofit Should Tweet

While you may be tempted to just tweet a call to action every day, it is MUCH more effective to mix the occasional solicitation with many more tweets focused on informing and engaging your followers.

Here are 5 kinds of tweets you can use to maximize engagement.

1. Questions

Twitter is a global conversation! It allows organizations and individuals to connect on equal footing. Ask your followers about their own experiences and opinions.

Part of the power of Twitter is that it allows you to participate in direct conversations with supporters, creating more intimate connections. Stimulating and participating in conversations is key to reaping the platform’s marketing benefits.  

2. Retweets and Replies

Part of the conversation is answering when followers tweet at you and spreading great tweets from the people you follow.  

Like any other conversation, Twitter is a two way street. Using Twitter will open you up to feedback from your supporters, giving you another way to hear their perspectives. Sharing great tweets and other relevant content coming from other Twitter feeds will also help you ad value to your followers and keep them engaged.

3. Important Facts About Your Cause

Keep your followers informed. What has your organization accomplished? What challenge are you facing? Use statistics.


A lot of people use Twitter to keep up with what’s happening in the moment. It’s like a constantly churning micro-news site. You can throw your organization into the mix by giving pithy updates on what’s happening at your nonprofit.  

4. Photos, Videos, and Blogs

One of Twitter’s best features is that you can easily tweet a link to your Instagram, Vine, or back to your blog. Photos and infographics are retweeted more often than tweets with only text.  

We’ve noticed anecdotally that Twitter can be a powerful tool for driving traffic back to a blog and reaching new audiences. If you’ve invested time into developing a nonprofit blog , make sure you are pushing your content out on Twitter to keep bringing traffic back to your site.

5. Announcements and Calls To Action

These shouldn’t dominate your Twitter feed, but every once in a while tweet about your events and fundraising campaigns to let people know how they can help.

In addition to the tips above, there are a few other tweeting best practices you might want to keep in mind. According to a variety of research sources recently compiled by Buffer, certain types of tweets are more likely to spark engagement (retweets, replies, and favorites):

• Tweets with links to images

• Tweets with one or two hashtags

• Tweets that ask the reader to retweet

• Tweets with less than 100 characters (120-130 is ideal if you are including a link)

When Your Nonprofit Should Tweet

With everything you already have going on, you may be wondering if you have the time to add Twitter into the mix. The good news is, your organization doesn’t need to tweet a million times a day to see benefits. According to research by Track Social a good number for brands to shoot for if they’re just getting started is 5 tweets per day. As it turns out, the engagement per tweet (measured by the number of retweets) peaks at a frequency of about 5 tweets per day. This finding also squares with the results of a Buddy Media study of more than 300 big brands using Twitter, which showed a negative correlation between the number of tweets per day and the engagement rate.

That doesn’t mean you should leave it at 5 tweets a day forever though. As you get the hang of things, try ramping up the frequency of your tweets and tracking overall engagement. The Track Social study also showed that while engagement per tweet peaked at around 5 tweets a day, total engagement (measured by the total number of retweets) continued to increase as brands tweeted more frequently. So, you can start at 5 tweets a day and experiment with increasing that output over time.

Beyond the frequency of your tweeting, research performed independently by Bitly and Buddy Media has also shown that the time of day that you tweet can affect the level of engagement with your tweets:

• Tweets between the hours of 8AM and 7PM spark more engagement

• Engagement increases by 17% on weekends (Don’t worry! You can schedule tweets for your days off through Twitter’s Ad Products or other platforms, like Hootsuite!)

• Tweets posted in the afternoon tend to have higher click-through rates

There are also free tools like Tweriod that track your tweets and your followers’ responses to determine when the best times to tweet are specifically for your account.

The Bottom Line

Twitter is a marketing tool that reaches a wide audience that doesn’t require much time (or any money!). With a few posts a day, you can begin expanding your visibility and engagement with supporters. You can also follow influential voices in the nonprofit space to keep up to date with what’s going on and to expand your personal knowledge!

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Photo Credit: e-magic

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