What was previously known as the pound symbol (#) is now widely referred to as the hash tag due to it’s use in social media. The hashtag provides search engine optimization (SEO). Margaret Rouse (2011) defines SEO as, “the practice of manipulating aspects of a Web site to improve its ranking in search engines.” (Rouse, 2011). This means that if your nonprofit uses hash tags that include relevant keywords in its posts, the higher up your organization will appear in the search engine when someone searches one of those keywords. However, it is very important not to over do it with the hashtags. I’m sure we all know that one person that every time they post something (especially on Instagram) they use about 15 hashtags, most of which are clearly not that relevant to the picture. Using just a few each time you post on any social media platform works perfectly and prevents your stakeholders from getting annoyed.

Jill Havlat (2012) informs us that the top hash tags that nonprofit organizations should use are:

#activism: This hash tag could be used a lot, so be sure just to use it when you want to actively promote activism and not whenever it’s somewhat related to what you are posting. This actually goes for all hash tags, too.

#CharityTuesday/GivingTuesday: This hash tag was created in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to the spirit of Thanksgiving and the materialism of Cyber Monday. It was supposed to be a new national day but ended up going viral and creating a whole new movement. Feel free to use this every Tuesday!  (“50 Hashtags to Spark Social Change”, 2014)


#causes: This is another pretty broad hash tag. Havlat (2012) suggests using it when you have a call to action for your stakeholders, when you want to share a beneficiaries story, or just have a general announcement.

#fundraising/donate: Use this when you have an upcoming fundraising event or want to thank donors.

This is a screenshot of a tweet by The Solider's Charity from my phone.

This is a screenshot of a tweet by The Solider’s Charity from my phone.

#grants: Let others know about how your grant writing is going. It’s always good to keep your followers informed because they probably want you to get the grant just as much as you do!

#CSR: It’s good to have friends with money. After you have established a relationship with a partnering corporation, let them know you care by giving them a shout out with the corporate social responsibility hash tag.  (Havlat, 2012).

Also be sure to check out the Public Interest Registry’s web page full of many more excellent hash tags to use!

For all of these hash tags, it is important to remember that your organization is not the only one using them. Your followers probably are using these hash tags, too, so you should look through these tags and see what your stakeholders think are important causes, fundraising events, activism, etc.

Screenshot from water.org's Instagram account on my phone.

Screenshot from water.org’s Instagram account on my phone.


Havlat, J. (2012, May). Top 10 Nonprofit Hashtags to Spark Social Good. Retrieved from: http://www.nonprofithub.org/social-media/top-10-nonprofit-hashtags-to-spark-social-good/

Rouse, M. (2011, November). Search Engine Optimization. Retrieved from: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/search-engine-optimization-SEO

50 Hashtags to Spark Social Change. (2014, January 27). Retrieved from: http://pir.org/50-hashtags-to-spark-social-change/

-Ali Robert



Charity: Water Leading The Way In Social Media For Nonprofits

We have examined all of the ways to use social media successfully and here is an example of one organization that has blown social media out of the water (no pun intended). Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that provides safe drinking water to people in developing nations (Charity: Water, n.d.) was founded in 2006 and by 2014 had already raised over $155 million (Charity: Water, n.d.). That is $4,103 every HOUR and over 60% of these donations came from online fundraising alone (Chaudhary, 2014). Believe it or not, Charity:Water uses $0 on marketing; obviously they are doing something right (Charity: Water, n.d.). Lets take a look and see what we can learn from Charity:Water.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.42.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.45.28 PM

Charity:Water’s online success is based off of three core pillars(Fankauser, 2013):

1. Inspire people

2. Create a platform for them to make a huge impact

3. Provide reporting so that people can see their impact

Charity:Water does an incredible job at inspiring people through content. Their social media profiles are rich with inspiring stories and pictures; and it shows. They are the most followed charity on twitter and were one of the first 20 brands to use Instagram (Fankhauser, 2013). This goes to show that taking risks with technology pays off and that people respond to an active online presence.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 3.01.22 PM

Charity: Water has provided a platform that allows people to form an incredible bond with their brand through http://my.charitywater.org/. This is a website that gives people the power to create their own fundraising campaign for anything from marathons to birthdays with 100% of the money raised going to clean water. This type of engagement gives people a connection with with the organization where they feel as though they are truly a valued part. This also makes things a lot easier on Charity: Water. When someone creates a mycharity: water campaign, they share that campaign on social media and then the  organization then gets a major boost in money and brand recognition. Paul Young, the Digital Director of Charity: Water explains this by saying,

“We are trying to build a movement of passionate people who are going to form a relationship with us for years…. We want our donors to be advocates. We want them to share content, we want them to feel really connected to their impact and we want them to represent that to all their friends and family” (Gray, 2013).

After people have created their own campaign to fundraise for Charity: Water, or have simply made a donation, they can see exactly how and where every dollar that they raised is being used to change the world through a program called Dollars to Projects (Charity: Water, n.d.). This program pools together all of the money raised on mycharity: water from a certain time period and sends 100% of it into the field. Over the next two years, donors will receive photos, updates, and GPS tracking of the projects being implemented with the money they contributed so that they can stay in the loop and see the tangible impact that their contribution is having. (Charity: Water, n.d.). Not only is this incredibly engaging, it is also very transparent which encourages people to donate and can make a nonprofit stand out among the rest.

So, the moral of the story and the key to online success is engagement. If you want your organization to thrive with social media, take notes from Charity: Water and engage your donors through an active presence online. Give them the power to feel as though they are part of the organization and making a tangible difference. 

-Erin Kost

Charity: Water. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.charitywater.org/

Chaudhary, D. (2014, January 26). Charity:Water Explains How They Use Social Media and Content Marketing To Raise Funds Online. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.dutiee.com/charitywater-explains-how-they-use-social-media-to-raise-millions-online

Fankhauser, D. (2013, August 19). What Brands Can Learn From charity: Water’s Digital Strategy. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://mashable.com/2013/08/19/charity-water-digital/

Gray, C. (2013, December 27). Nine Digital Marketing Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from charity: Water. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.bethkanter.org/charitywater-digital/

Stats on Stats


Statistics are an excellent way to gauge what and how the rest of the nonprofit world is doing. I have sifted through many statistics for you all and have come up with a list of what I feel could be most beneficial to know so your nonprofit organization can make the most of its social media presence. I have specifically gathered facts based on one of the  most essential roles social media plays for nonprofits- money making.

First, lets talk money as it affects you as a business entity.

As I hope most of you know by now, a NPO’s social media following is not dependent on budget size! You can do a lot with a little money and much creativity. This being said, according to Kivi Miller (2012), “73% of nonprofits organizations allocate half of a full time employee to managing social networking activities.” She also informs us that, “Nonprofits say they spend an average of $3.50 to acquire a Facebook fan, and $2.05 per new Twitter follower.” (2012, Miller). If you are a smaller organization, you may be a tad worried that this is slowly going to eat away at your budget (because let’s face it, it is probably not that big). Fear not friends! Steve MacLaughlin (2014) has informed the public that in 2014 there was a 2.1% increase in overall fundraising, which may not seem like that much, but there are no signs this increase should become a decrease in the future. (2014, MacLaughlin).

money            holding-money

Now, let’s talk about getting your stakeholders to make donations.

According to MacLaughlin (2014), “84% of nonprofit donation landing pages are not optimized for mobile [and] 73% of nonprofits did not offer a ‘share’ option after an online donation .” I hope to see these numbers decrease significantly, and soon, because as MacLaughlin (2014) goes on to inform us, “9.5% of online donations are made on mobile devices.” (2014, MacLaughlin). And this number will most likely increase due to an ever-growing shift to mobile devices. Important still are the share buttons because they are an amazing opportunity for your stakeholders to inspire potential stakeholders on all their social media accounts. Another surprising statistic is that only 22% of nonprofits have an RSS feed on their website. (2011, Lacy). This is shocking considering how important conversation and storytelling is for nonprofits. If you are not talking with your stakeholders, despite an average retention rate of 58.4% for multi-year donors, they might choose to donate their money elsewhere if you are not answering their questions or inspiring them. (2014, MacLaughlin). To get to that point where you have multi-year donors you need to convince them that your cause is the cause they should donate to and you cannot convince them of this if you do not talk to them. And no better place to communicate than social media!

If you are looking for a good example to follow, check out PBS. They have the largest following on Twitter which may or not have everything to do the fact that they are the most talkative on Twitter. (2011, Lacy). Here is a link to PBS’s twitter account: https://twitter.com/pbs  


-Ali Robert

Lacy, K. (2011, October 25). 15 stats on how the top nonprofits use social media. Retrieved from: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/15_stats_on_how_the_top_nonprofits_use_social_medi_43841.aspx

 MacLaughlin, S. (2014, February 17). 50 Fascinating Nonprofit Statistics. Retrieved from: http://npengage.com/nonprofit-news/50-fascinating-nonprofit-statistics/

 Miller, K. (2012, April 18). Social Media Stats and Trends for Nonprofits. Message posted to: http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog/2012/04/18/social-media-stats-and-trends-for-nonprofits/

The Future of Nonprofits

Today everyone and their grandma is on social media. We live in a society dominated by fast-paced interaction on the internet that is constantly evolving and chasing the next best idea. Since nonprofits are not fully caught up to the rest of us, you might be wondering “How is this going to affect them? What does the future for nonprofits look like in the context of social media?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Since I cannot predict the future, there is no way to say for sure how nonprofits will change, but here is what the experts predict:

Online giving will be monumental!

Most fundraisers know that the key to increasing funds is to build relationships with the donors. This keeps people coming back and encourages them to give more. With social media, it has now become so much easier to interact with donors on a personal level.

Online giving has already seen a huge advancement since its creation, but the future holds indescribable opportunities for nonprofits (Thomas, 2013). With the increasing popularity of micro-funding, nonprofits have been able to leverage social media to gain many one time donations of just a few dollars (Fouts, n.d.). While the $1 donations appear as though they would not make a significant impact, studies have shown that many micro donations are proving to be more advantageous than a few big donors. (Fouts, n.d.).


Social media will be the top priority for volunteer recruitment 

Experts predict that social media will become a nonprofit’s #1 priority for volunteer recruitment in the future (Dillon, 2012). Facebook and Twitter make reaching out to a community easier than ever before, which opens up the biggest pool of volunteers in history. While Facebook and twitter allow an organization to recruit any kind of volunteer, there are also sites such as volunteermatch.org that organizations can utilize to find volunteers that meet certain qualifications.


Social media has this incredible power of being able to join people with common passions together. When people with shared passions unite, this generates action and leads to change. So, if you are looking for a passionate volunteer, engage your community and help band together those with the desire to see your organization’s mission succeed. People can care about an issue on their own, but it is when they join together for a cause that things actually get done.

Donors are getting picky

The competition for donations is going to be a new challenge for nonprofits in the near future. With countless charities accessible at the tips of their fingers, donors are getting picky about where they put their money. Often times, the first real impression someone has with an organization is their social media or website. This means that if nonprofits want to beat out their competition for donations, they need to have attractive, easy to use, and well-optimized websites (Dillon, 2012). They also need to be extremely relational and engaging on social media so that people feel connected with them. But do not fret, social media still provides the opportunity to reach far more people than ever before.

-Erin Kost

Dillon, D. (2012, February 7). The Future of Social Media for Nonprofits – Nonprofit Hub. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://www.nonprofithub.org/social-media/the-future-of-social-media-for-nonprofits/

Fouts, J. (n.d.). Micro-funding- The wave of the future for non-profits? Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://janetfouts.com/micro-funding-future-for-non-profits/#axzz3WwbGx5kM

Thomas, D. (2013, May 29). Why Online Fundraising is the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://www.nonprofithub.org/fundraising/nonprofit-online-fundraising-infographic/

Volunteermatch (n.d).

Story Time on Social Media with Your Nonprofit

Do you know what you should post on social media? No? Well, that’s okay because we do! You are not alone in not knowing what you should post on social media sites. Many not-for-profit organizations don’t get much farther than knowing that they need to post something to increase donations.

But, what this something is escapes most people. Don’t worry though because we’ve come here to tell you that that something is visual storytelling! In such a fast paced environment as social media, nothing better catches the attention of your stakeholders than a poignant picture, video, or infograph.

Julie Dicaro, author of the “Social Media for Nonprofits: What Should They Post About?” on 435digital.com, informs us that the best types of photos to post on social media are behind-the-scenes, candids, and historical photographs (meaning past events). She also advises that nonprofits post press releases, news articles, and blog posts to almost all of their social media sites. Be careful to keep the content you post on each site in line with typical site content. For example, it would be okay to be to post a press release on your organization’s Facebook page but not-so-much on your Pinterest page. (Dicaro, 2012).

Julie Campbell in her post “9 Ways to Create Magical Content for Your Nonprofit on Social Media” on nonprofits.about.com, relates to us an eye-opening fact: “57% of people who watch a video made by a nonprofit then go on to make a donation.” This is further proof as to why you should make your posts more pictures/video’s than words. (Campbell, n.d.)

Within your visual storytelling posts it’s important to involve your stakeholders. Involve them emotionally, give them a call-to-action, ask questions, respond to comments, and share testimonials! After all, it is all about them. (Dicaro, 2012).

The question of content still remains…what kind of stories do you post on social media? The answer according to Campbell, from her powerpoint on Slideshare, is:

  • Creation stories
  • Continuous improvement stories
  • Behind-the-scenes stories
  • User-generated stories
  • Impact stories (Campbell, 2014).

95fc17a273c3e747cdb15d2faf37f029   Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.11.50 PM

It’s very easy to get good stories too! All you have to do is ask your stakeholders (at live events, in surveys, on your website), look at previous thank-you notes you have received, and keep it varied (stories from clients and volunteers). Be sure to keep all these ideas in a safe spot and then when you want to tell your story make sure it goes across many different channels. Like mentioned earlier, keep content in line with a sites typical content while at the same time sharing similar things across all channels. (Campbell, 2014).

Lastly, do not be afraid to be take risks! Using social media can be uncomfortable for some, especially if your organization has previously only used traditional methods like print and broadcast. If you stay organized, enthusiastic, and true to your organization’s purpose using social media as a way to tell a story will create a very positive response!


-Ali Robert


Campbell, J. (2014, November 12). Nonprofit Storytelling in a Digital World. Retrieved from: http://www.slideshare.net/juliagulia77/nonprofit-storytelling-in-a-digital-world?next_slideshow=1

Campbell, J. (n.d). 9 Ways to Create Magical Content for Your Nonprofit on Social Media. Message posted to:http://nonprofit.about.com/od/socialmedia/fl/9-Ways-to-Create-Magical-Content-for-Your-Nonprofit-on-Social-Media.htm

Dicaro, J. (2012, October 8). Social Media for Nonprofits: What Should They Post About? Message posted to: http://www.435digital.com/blog/2012/10/08/social-media-for-nonprofits-what-should-i-post-about/

Are the Social Media Efforts of Your Nonprofit Successful?

Now that you fully understand the importance of using social media, how will you know if you are making an impact? It is vital to make sure that your social media efforts are working because it’s not about getting more likes or followers; it is about making a tangible difference in your community. Also, success must be measured in order to be sustained. Here are a few simple ways to measure the success of your social media efforts.

1. Set goals

You will never know your success if you have nothing to work towards. You can set broad goals such as growing your newsletter list, increasing the amount of volunteers, or turning more supporters into donors. You can also set more specific goals, which are easier to achieve and measure.

For example, in 2013 the organization Water is Life set out to end the hashtag “#firstworldproblems”. This was a very specific, easy to measure goal that took the social media world by storm (Hrabik). Here is a video explaining it:

2. Benchmark

Even though no two organizations are exactly alike, seeing where you stand in relation to similar organizations is a simple way to measure your success. This can be done over time and repeatedly after new campaigns are implemented.

You must be careful, however, because obsessing over your benchmark could hurt your organization. This form of measurement must be done within the context of your target audience and mission (Meyer).

Blackbaud produces an annual Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits, which is a free and helpful resource for benchmarking.


3. Try different approaches

Trying new things on social media allows your organization to get a clear picture of what works and what does not. For example, if your organization has been posting frequently to Twitter with no obvious impact, then maybe your target audience is not active on twitter. Try using Facebook or YouTube to get your message across. It is also possible, and even beneficial, to use multiple social media platforms at once.

Take a new approach, track your activities, and tweak your social media efforts to make sure you are moving forward.

-Erin Kost

By Organizational Focus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/onlinemarketingstudy

Hrabik, L. (2013, November 15). The Top 4 Nonprofit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 (And What You Can Learn). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.nonprofithub.org/social-media/the-top-4-nonprofit-social-media-campaigns-of-2013-and-what-you-can-learn/

Meyer, B. (2014, September 10). Nonprofit Website Benchmarks. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://thinkshout.com/blog/2014/09/nonprofit-website-benchmarks/

Marketing for NPO’s Made Easy: Planning it Out

By now you should know why your nonprofit organization should use social media (you can reach stakeholders worldwide and it’s a great way to increase donations). So, you are probably asking yourself, what now? Now you begin the process of marketing yourself on social media sites! I know this seems like it should be an easy step because many of us are digital natives but, in fact, marketing your NPO requires several important steps that we normally do not think to do when using social media.

The first step in marketing that organizations usually forget when using social media is to PLAN. Planning out your campaign is extraordinarily important. JD Lasica in his article “The 7 elements of a Strategic Social Media Plan“, on SocialBrite, actually compares NPO campaigns that are not strategically planned as just putting out a bunch of fires repeatedly.

The good news is that planning for social media marketing includes just seven steps which will give your NPO a successful campaign! Authors of the textbook, Social Media Marketing, Tracy L. Tuten and Michael R. Solomon give an in depth explanation of strategic planning for social media marketing, but here I will just reiterate the main points in the planning process they discuss:

  1. Conduct a situation analysis and identify key opportunities
  2. State objective (S.M.A.R.T goals)
  3. Gather insight into and target one or more segments of social consumers
  4. Select the social media channels and vehicles
  5. Create an experience strategy
  6. Establish an activation plan using other promotional tools (if needed)
  7. Manage and measure the campaign. (Tuten & Solomon, 2013).


Important side note: During the part of your planning when you pick what social media platform to use (this is step 4 if you are going by the list above), you should consider, according to Jennifer Gmerek, a content marketing specialist, and Steph Drahozal, a social marketing maven, these platforms as your top choices:

Be sure to check out their site to get more detailed information about why these platforms work for nonprofits, so you can make an educated decision when you decide what sites to use!

Lastly, if you need some inspiration to get your planning started check out Nonprofit Tech for Good’s list of the Top 11 NPO’s who excel at social media! Checking this out will show you what the end product of a well thought out campaign looks like and hopefully guide you and your NPO towards success as well!



Drahozal, Steph., & Gmerek, Jennifer. (2014, July 3). Best Social Media Platforms for Nonprofits to Explore. Retrieved from: https://www.salsalabs.com/support-community/blog/best-social-media-platforms-nonprofits-explore

Lasica, JD. (2012, February 15). The 7 elements of a Strategic Social Media Plan. Retrieved from: http://www.socialbrite.org/2012/02/15/the-7-elements-of-a-social-media-strategic-plan/

Tuten, Tracy L., & Solomon, Michael R. (2013). Social Media Marketing. Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

(2012, July 30). 11 Nonprofits That Excel at Social Media. Nonprofit Tech for Good. Retrieved from: http://www.nptechforgood.com/2012/07/30/11-nonprofits-that-excel-at-social-media/

Allison Robert