5 Social Media Strategies for Non-Profit Organizations

January 23, 2019

By Shruthi Sharma

We often hear that a consumer must be exposed to a brand 7-8 times before they recognize it. Similarly, an individual needs to hear about a nonprofit approximately 20 times before they actively notice the organization’s name.

As audiences become increasingly bombarded with information, nonprofits must effectively promote their vision on relevant channels to be noticed. Nurturing a prospect from awareness to loyalty, and ultimately, advocacy, requires multiple points of contact across channels. Social media is one of these channels which cannot be ignored in any digital marketing strategy.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at five research-based approaches through real business cases, and learnings that you can leverage to succeed in social media.

1. Run effective campaigns using the CURVE Model

Litterati uses Instagram to create a digital map of litter in the world. Using the hashtag #Litterati, people can geotag waste with associated keywords and timestamps to indicate what, where and when litter is found.

This kind of social media engagement enables nonprofits to track the “problem”. Hashtags allow audiences to see their contribution to the larger footprint and increase their likelihood of further action. This is a popular method to involve communities in social goals.

To build this type of campaign, the CURVE model – Curiosity, Uniformity, Relevance, Value and Emotion – offers a guide to creating relevant content for social media audiences.

Let’s deep dive into how Litterati used the CURVE framework:
– Litterati arouse Curiosity by having a live dashboard that showcases the impact they create with every piece of litter tagged.
Uniformity and Relevance are maintained through posts on Litterati’s social media pages (Instagram and Facebook) which are related to litter, ocean cleanups and the importance of taking action to remove litter from the planet.
Values and Emotions are evoked by Litterati when they question their audience about the impact of their behavior on the planet. This arouses a sense of global citizenship and affiliation with Litterati’s cause.

2. Enhance visibility by encouraging user-generated content

There are four types of content:

  • Paid – paying for publicity e.g. newspapers or radio

  • Earned – content earned through word of mouth e.g. testimonials, reviews

  • Shared – user generated content and social media engagement

  • Owned – content you’ve created and have control over

Shared and earned content are the outcome of a passionate community of advocates for your cause, but owned content can motivate this engagement. Social media communities also give nonprofits valuable insights into the impact of their activity on their audience in real-time.

Letters of Love send colorful, vibrant postcards to refugees in Syria, written by volunteers in live sessions or online. Everything from the composition to the delivery of the letters is shared on social media. This way, Letters of Love not only showcase their impact internationally, but also inspire volunteers to remain involved.

3. Use social media influencers and brand ambassadors to increase credibility 

A brand ambassador is an expert or representative of a market who, through their association with your brand, raises your organization’s credibility.

Influencers can be broadly categorized into micro-influencers (local bloggers), celebrities or renown experts. Selecting the influencer that best fits your audience will depend on your desired outcome. For example, local ambassadors at schools or universities could be used to create network effects from the grassroots for an education-based nonprofit.

Niine, is a menstrual hygiene nonprofit that aims to bridge the gap between the 18% of Indian women using sanitary pads and the remaining 82%. Niine is affiliated with celebrity influencer, Akshay Kumar, who extended his support to their social media movement, #18to82 (or ‘The Niine Movement’). With a social media following of over 20 million per channel, Akshay Kumar’s promotion of the campaign attracted awareness on a national scale. This collaboration between influencers, nonprofits and audiences not only attracts visibility to the campaign, but also adds credibility to the brand and cause as a whole.

4. Use cross-promotions to expand your audience

Co-marketing with other organizations builds credibility and creates new brand evangelists (people who go the extra mile to connect with your brand).

Toybank, who promote the ‘Right to Play’ for all children, host a monthly cross-promotional gaming event with a popular café (Qtube) in Mumbai. This event is advertised on the social media channels of both organizations and aims to attract Toybank volunteers by demonstrating the benefits and importance of play in a child’s life. Toybank also collaborates with large organizations to cross-promote play sessions, toy collection drives and fundraising.

5. Build a community

The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network

This quote highlights the importance of communities for nonprofit organizations. Organizations can begin to do this through storytelling strategies to spark interest about their cause with their target audience.

Niine promotes ‘The Niine Movement’ at schools and colleges to educate their audience about menstrual hygiene.They expel stigma by facilitating regular conversations, and engaging their community through talks, radio shows, guest lectures and competitions among business school students. These community building activities give a multichannel dimension to the usual social media strategy, giving the nonprofit more points of contact.

Regardless of which strategy you implement, there are fundamental principles of engagement that should span across any social media content. The iPACE model – Information, Product/Service, Awareness, Convenience and Engagement – acts as a checklist to ensure your content evokes the most interest from your audience.

To illustrate how the iPACE model works, let’s take a look at Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Education, an organization who has leveraged social media to promote tolerance through leadership programs for children in their formative years.
Information – with uncluttered messaging, users can quickly navigate through BTC’s social media channels and website to get the information they need.
Product/Service – BTC’s social media channels and website clearly highlight the leadership programs and workshops on offer.
Awareness – through regular cross-channel updates, BTC’s target audience (children and adolescents) are able to keep informed on available programs.
Convenience – BTC makes it convenient for users to register for programs online with appropriate call to actions and unobtrusive reminders to register.
Engagement – BTC constantly engages with their community to build an ongoing connection and reinforce their vision of tolerance.

Social media can be more than just a channel. These 5 strategies help nonprofit organizations manage their social media content effectively to voice and enhance their impact. With effective keyword strategy, user-generated content, cross-promotions and influencer advocacy, you can unlock the potential of social media to maximize your organization’s impact.


* All nonprofits mentioned in this article are past 180 Degrees Consulting clients.


Shruthi Sharma is a Global Business Development Director at 180 Degrees Consulting. She is currently a post graduate student, specializing in marketing at SDA Bocconi Asia Center. She founded the 180DC SDA Bocconi Asia branch, while also serving as Marketing Director. She works in the healthcare sector and has been involved with multiple nonprofits including Make a Difference, Toybank, and Toastmasters International.