Social media can be a godsend for small nonprofits with tight budgets. It’s a great way to raise funds and increase awareness without the cost of traditional advertising. Having a strong plan of action can mean the difference between success and failure. Whether you’re just starting out or already have an established social media presence, here are four items that every nonprofit should have:

1. Documented Strategy

I recently polled over 9,500 nonprofit organizations nationwide to find out how they’re using social media. One of my questions was “Are your social media strategies, policies and/or goals documented?” Over 67% of respondents indicated they had no documented strategy.

Documented Strategy

Documenting your social media strategy doesn’t have to be a huge task. It can be a simple, short document that states the following:

  • Where you post (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest?)
  • What you post (Photos? Videos? Text? Links?)
  • When you post (What time of day? Which days of the week?)
  • Why you post (To generate donations? To educate on your cause?)
  • What do you want to happen? (Website traffic, donations, shares/likes?)

Undergoing the exercise of defining what you’re doing and why (even if you’re already doing it) will help you hone in on what’s most effective and hold you and your team accountable for reaching your goals.

Missing Sign2. Defined Personas

As you’re putting together your strategy, it’s important to understand who it is you’re trying to reach via social media. Defining user personas is another excellent exercise that will dictate what content you post and where. For example, Instagram users have very different demographic details than Pinterest users.

First, define who you want to reach:

  • donors
  • volunteers
  • board members
  • employees
  • influencers / community members

Then, assign demographic details to each. You might include:

  • gender
  • age
  • race
  • income
  • family status
  • interests

Be sure to check your existing pool of donors, volunteers, etc. to see what traits are most common. For example, you may define your ideal donor as an African-American female in her mid 30s with a household income of $50k. If you cross-reference this persona against the 2013 PewResearch Social Media Update report, you may find that Instagram is a social network you should concentrate on. You can also tailor Facebook ads to these personas.

3. Documented Usernames/Passwords

According to the results of my social media survey, most nonprofits have only one employee responsible for administering the brand social media accounts.

How many employees

Having your usernames and passwords documented and safely archived can protect your organization against staff turnover, sick days and vacations. It can also let available employees react quickly to crisis situations. Getting locked out of an account forever means having to create a duplicate brand account, which can confuse users.

4. Donor Social Media Accounts in your Database

One last bit of data from my survey: over 80% of respondents are not tracking the social media usernames/URLs of donors in their donor database.

Tracking Donor Social

Knowing where your donors live online can boost your acknowledgement efforts. For example, if you receive a donation from an active Twitter user, you might consider tweeting them a thank you. Knowing their username will allow you to do so quickly and efficiently. Millennials especially appreciate online recognition, and may give into the temptation of sharing the gift acknowledgment with their entire network, thereby boosting your reach. You might even consider adding “social media” as a communication preference.

How about you? Are you already doing anything I suggested above? Let me know in the comments!

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Steven Shattuck

Steven Shattuck

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang
Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition" and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member, and sits on the faculty of the Institute for Charitable Giving. He is the author of Robots Make Bad Fundraisers - How Nonprofits Can Maintain the Heart in the Digital Age, published by Bold and Bright Media.