Year-end fundraising used to be all about events, direct mail and soliciting major donors. But year-end fundraising is moving into the digital age. And social media’s importance is growing every year. According to the 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study, Instagram saw a tremendous amount of growth this year, with nonprofits seeing a 34% increase in followers. And Twitter followers increased by 26%. At Mightycause, we often tell nonprofits to “meet people where they are.” And judging by these numbers, where your people are is Instagram, scrolling and liking and commenting. So, social media needs to be part of your year-end fundraising plan. Here’s how to make the most of your social media efforts in 2019.
In the first part of our year-end fundraising guide, we’ll discuss social media strategy and best practices that will ensure that will help you ensure your posts get seen by the right people.
No, you’re not imagining it. Being seen on Facebook has gotten harder. It’s intentional. In June 2016, they started prioritizing friends and family in users’ newsfeeds. Which is great for the average user, but a huge bummer if you were counting on organic reach for your nonprofit’s page. And making it even harder is that Facebook is now competing in the online fundraising arena. As we’ve written about before, it can be confusing for nonprofits and followers alike. Only 4% of a nonprofit’s fans actually see a given post. And engagement is less than 1% per post.
But the news isn’t all bad! Facebook can still be used for nonprofit fundraising. And it can also be a powerful tool to reach new people. 29% of people who see a nonprofit’s post aren’t fans of their Page. So, the landscape is changing, but adapting is easier than you think!
Budget for advertising
We’re not going to mince words here. To be seen on Facebook, you’re going to need to pay. We miss the halcyon days of free advertising on Facebook, too. They were great! But they’re over.
The good news is that Facebook advertising is cheap. You can reach thousands more people with a post for just a $10 boost. You can place an ad through that reaches tens of thousands for just $100. And what’s really awesome is that Facebook’s targeting tools are extensive. Facebook knows pretty much everything about its users, and they let you use their data to target your ads. Want to place an ad that reaches male Democrats ages 25-35 in Sheboygan, Wisc., who are married with children, like “Star Wars” and have made donations in the past to political causes? You can do that. Easily. (Also if that is your audience, contact us, we’d love to know more about your fascinating nonprofit.)
Develop algorithm-friendly content
So, no one really knows how Facebook’s famous and complex algorithm works. Well, outside of Facebook anyway. But social media managers have been posting and paying attention to the results. And while we don’t know the specifics, we do know that some kinds of content works better than others.
- Videos (but not YouTube). Facebook’s algorithm loves videos. You’ll see a much higher reach with videos than you will images or text-only posts. But the trick is to upload them directly to Facebook. YouTube is a competitor, so you will see less reach if you share a video hosted on YouTube. So, do your editing, then save the file as an MP4 and upload it directly to your Facebook page. And don’t be afraid to go long. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that they would prioritize longer videos with higher completion rates in users’ feeds. (Note that they’re ranking by completion rate as well as length. Keep it engaging!)
- Facebook live. Facebook has been pushing Facebook Live hard since they released it to the general public in 2016. How much do they want you to use it? They will notify people who like your Page that you’re live. That’s how much! Think of creative ways to incorporate a live-stream into your year-end campaign. It could be a sit-down with your executive director, a walk through your facilities, or a fun game or event. (An animal shelter could film dogs tearing into gift-wrapped in-kind donations, for instance.) The stream itself should be creative, fun and the sort of thing you yourself would want to watch. Even if it’s a little outside the box, you’ll have a bigger audience and a chance to ask your supporters for donations.
- Facebook Stories. So, we’ll get back to Stories in a minute when we talk about Instagram, but this is another tool you can utilize to potentially reach more people — especially your fans. Facebook Stories may also send a notification to users who follow your nonprofit’s page and have not yet turned off notifications for Stories. And the good news here is that you can cross-post Facebook and Instagram Stories to save you some time and effort. (Facebook owns Instagram.)
- Watch parties. Ready to unveil your new year-end fundraising video? Set up a Facebook watch party! This will send notifications to many of your followers, generate excitement, and help your nonprofit be seen.
- Shepherd your followers elsewhere. Given that it’s harder and harder to be seen on Facebook, it makes sense to start asking your Facebook followers to keep in touch in other ways. When was the last time you asked people on Facebook to sign up for your email list? Or tried to get them to follow you on other social media platforms? We’re not saying abandon ship — we’re just saying that Facebook is not the only way to communicate with your supporters!
Careful with the donate button!
Make sure you understand how Facebook fundraising works!
If you place an ad, use the “Learn More” button. When you’re asking people to start fundraisers, make sure they know you want them to use Mightycause. Specify that you’d like to collect donations on Mightycause. Facebook is soliciting people who “like” your page, link to your Mightycause page and use Facebook to promote charitable endeavors. So, fend off confusion by being as clear as possible with your audience.
Twitter’s clout has grown a lot in recent years. It’s gone from being just another social media platform to being a source of headlines. No longer the domain of hip techies and teens, public officials and news outlets use Twitter to connect quickly with their audience about important events. You nonprofit can harness the power of Twitter to raise money and engage with supporters. Here’s how you can use it for year-end fundraising.
Goodbye, 140-character limit!
Awesome news: Twitter doubled their character limit. You can now tweet in 280 characters. Never again will you need to use an emoji instead of a word because it’s fewer characters. Or be forced to send out 3-part tweets to say what you want to say. 280 characters gives you a lot more space to make your appeal, talk about your year-end campaign and engage your supporters.
But the great thing about the character limit was that it forced your tweets to be focused and succinct. Don’t let those lessons fall by the wayside now that you’ve got twice the space to write. Stay focused, keep your messaging clear and remember that attention spans are short. (And don’t forget to include links to your Mightycause page!)
Twitter is all about communication. So if you want to be successful on Twitter, you need to talk to people rather than at them.
- Respond to people. Did someone tweet a link to your fundraiser? Is someone asking a question about your nonprofit’s address or website? Respond to them! Be prompt, be friendly and be engaged.
- Monitor conversations. Tweetdeck is free to use, and a great tool to see what conversations are happening. You can monitor hashtags, see a running list of anyone who tags your account and seize opportunities to engage and interact.
- Use Mightycause’s Social Sharing settings. You can make all of the above a lot easier by utilizing your Social Sharing settings. Customize your settings so that when people share a link to your page on Mightycause, a hashtag is added to their tweet and your account is tagged.
Be creative and personable
Content that performs well on Twitter is authentic, distinctive and human. No one wants to follow a bot who tweets things at them. So, make sure your tweets are real, have a distinct voice and stand out from the crowd. This #GivingTuesday tweet from Performing Animal Welfare Society is a great example of a creative campaign tweet:
Six more hours to give.
$7,000+ in matching funds available.
Your donation helps feed and care for PAWS' eight elephants, including 52-year-old Gypsy who spent most of her life in the circus. She's lived at PAWS for 12 years.
Donate: https://t.co/pmZPRpr1CZ pic.twitter.com/6VG1uTapPB
— PAWS (@PAWSARK2000) December 4, 2019
They naturally worked in hashtags, tagged other accounts, included a direct call-to-action and shared a video. Now, we know not every nonprofit has content to share content featuring elephants, but you can use this as inspiration when you’re tweeting about your campaign. And please do tag us! We’re happy to offer a retweet of cool campaign-related tweets!
Instagram is growing in popularity each year. They have a billion daily active users. (Yes, that’s billion, with a “b.”) So, you definitely don’t want to ignore this mega-popular platform! Here’s how you can use Instagram to bolster your year-end campaign.
Two advertising birds, one stone
Instagram is owned by Facebook. The cool thing about that is that you can create ads for Instagram from Facebook. So, when you’re creating your ads on Facebook, make sure you connect your Instagram account and have your ads placed there simultaneously. This is one of the ways you can get around the fact that you can’t post hyperlinks — ads do have links added.
Now, in order to do this, you’ll need to convert your account to a Professional Account and link it to your Facebook Page. Learn how to set up your Professional Account that here.
Be a Storyteller
One of the biggest trends on Instagram in 2019 is that more and more users aren’t even looking at “grid posts.” They’re concentrating on Stories. And, as a bonus, when people watch and engage with your Stories, it helps your account’s overall engagement. That, in turn, helps your nonprofit be seen in more users’ feeds. (Like Facebook, Instagram uses an algorithm that looks at engagement to determine which posts to put in users’ feeds.) So, for nonprofits looking to make the most of their Instagram presence, it’s important to learn how to utilize the Stories feature.
What are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories work a lot like Snapchat: a Story is a little snippet that exists for 24 hours, and then disappears. You can film videos and take pictures with your choice of filters (or go #nofilter). Instagram Stories also has tools for you to create text-based content, add GIFs and stickers, tag other accounts, conduct polls, answer questions, and even share grid posts to your Stories. When you have 10,000 followers or more, you can put a link in your Instagram Stories, too. (Word of warning about the Donate button: it processes the donation through Facebook, not your donation processor of choice.)
How Do You Use Instagram Stories?
People get super creative with Instagram. You can do a lot with Instagram Stories, so the sky is really the limit. We recommend you get into the app and start playing around! But here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Do an AMA. That means “ask me anything.” There’s a pre-loaded Instagram tool for this — and don’t worry, you can screen results and simply not answer any that aren’t relevant or helpful. This can get people engaging with your Stories, which means your grid posts have a better chance of being seen! It’s also just fun and easy content. You can get more specific, and ask for questions about your organization or area of work.
- Staff/volunteer takeovers. People love getting a peek behind the curtain! Turn over the reins to a staff member or volunteer for the day to vlog about what a typical shift is like at your nonprofit. (This is also an awesome, fun way to show some love to the people who make your work possible!)
- Be an influencer. A popular format for Instagram Stories is an “unboxing,” where a user unwraps a PR box of goodies they got in the mail. A clever spin on this? “Unbox” some in-kind donations! In-kind donations often come in around year-end, so why not use it to make content?! (And remind your followers to donate to your year-end campaign while you’re at it…)
- Give a tutorial. Another mainstay of Instagram Stories is a tutorial. While the influencer crowd prefers make-up and hair tutorials, think of what you might be able to teach that would be interesting to your followers!
If you’d like to make sure an Instagram Story is saved, you can make it a Highlight. Story Highlights preserve certain Stories on your account. You can group certain types of Stories together, or even put together an FAQ for your organization that users can reference and watch as needed. Learn more about how to create Story Highlights.
Videos on Instagram are limited to 60 seconds. But if you want to share some longer-form video content to get your followers engaged, you can try Instagram TV (IGTV). You can use IGTV to premiere your year-end campaign video, or even do a sit-down interview with your executive director to talk about the importance of donating at year-end.
Hashtags matter a lot on Instagram. As with Twitter, they make it easier for users to find your posts. So we recommend doing a little research into popular hashtags your nonprofit could use to boost your visibility. If you run a cat rescue, adding #catsofinstagram to your post can make a huge difference in how many people see your post. There are lots of hashtags you can use, and sites like Tag Blender are a great way to find the best ones to use.
Check out how Virginia-based Lost Dog & Cat Rescue utilized hashtags in this #GivingTuesday post:
View this post on Instagram
At Lost Dog, we believe that every dog and cat we rescue is #worthit. Each life is worth the very best care we can give them, no matter where they’re from or how they look. 🐾💙 Every week, we send at least one can full of dogs and cats who need medical care to our veterinarian. They may need heartworm treatment, dental work, routine treatment or even surgery. On average, each trip costs about $5,000.00. This Giving Tuesday, we’re asking for your help in funding 20 trips to the vet. Please consider making a donation today via the link in our bio. 💗 #animalrescue #dogrescue #catrescue #fundraiser #fundraising #northernva #northernvirginia #nova #fallschurchva #fallschurchvirginia #fairfaxva #fairfaxvirginia #givingtuesday #givingtuesday2019 #pets #petstagram #rescuepet #rescuepets #rescuedismyfavoritebreed
Link in bio
Okay, so you can’t put a link in a post on Instagram. But you can stick it in your bio! So make sure your edit your bio to include a link to your year-end fundraiser. Then just direct them to your bio to find the link when you post about your campaign.
Connect your ‘Gram to your Mightycause page
You can add a feed of your Instagram to both your organization page and any fundraisers. It’s a great way to enhance your visual storytelling and make your Mightycause page pop.
As always, we recommend going where your people are. You don’t need to plug your campaign on every conceivable social media platform. Spending time updating Pinterest is not a great use of your time if you don’t see a lot of traction there. (You can certainly cultivate your audiences on new platforms in the coming year! But year-end is not the time to start this process.) But there are other platforms you can use to give your campaign a boost. Here’s how to think beyond the “big three” platforms to get some extra traffic to your page.
Most of us use LinkedIn most often when we’re looking to make a change in our careers. But with 500 million users, it’s a powerful platform to use year-round. LinkedIn exists for professional networking and has become a favorite place for nonprofit professionals to connect. So you may use it differently than you use, say, Facebook or Twitter, but you should definitely be using it!
Update your company page
Your nonprofit’s Facebook page and Twitter profile are probably up-to-date. But how about your company’s LinkedIn page? We’re guessing it’s a little out of date. So hop-to! Here’s the lowdown on company pages in LinkedIn.
Get help from your high-level staff & volunteers
Odds are, your executive director and board members are active on LinkedIn. Ask them to post about your year-end campaign to their network on LinkedIn!
Medium is a blogging platform that’s growing in popularity. Artists, activists and companies alike use Medium to express themselves and connect with other like-minded users. They have 60 million monthly visitors, which is nothing to sniff at! Issue-focused content can do extremely well on Medium, so if your nonprofit’s work tackles Big Issues, try signing up for a Medium account and writing about the work you do. This guide to writing successful content on Medium is a great place to start if you’re not sure what works. (If you already have a blog for your nonprofit, you can post any content your write for your blog on Medium as well.)