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  • Writer's pictureJames Green

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Charities and Nonprofits

If you’re in charge of the social media strategy for a charity or nonprofit organisation, you may well have thought some or all of these at some point:

● I spend so much time working on our social media accounts but I’m seeing little or no return

It’s hard to find new donors these days, I think we might need to look at social media

● Other charities are using social really well, but I just don’t know where to start

I’ve tried boosting posts on Facebook but I don’t seem to get much return

● Google and Facebook Ads look great, but I just don’t have the budget for them

If any of those ring a bell, don’t panic. Our simple, practical, achievable framework will take you from feeling hopeful but not knowing where to start, to having a social media marketing plan that generates consistent content and results!

We’ll guide you through concepts like the customer funnel and retargeting, show you how to repurpose your content, and give you a tip that’s literally worth thousands of pounds every month.

OK, let’s get started!

🤨 Paid or free social media advertising??? 🤨

You might be worrying about whether you need to pay for social media advertising or if you can get results without spending. The truth is that there are pros and cons to either side.

Organic social media

Organic social media is what everyone thinks of when you talk about ‘social media’. It’s where you post content and engage with followers, but don’t spend money on ads or boosting.

The good news is that this is generally free, although you might have some associated costs for design software like Canva or schedulers like Buffer. But do bear in mind that organic social media does have an opportunity cost in terms of time. You really need to be engaging with your audience at the most popular times, and this job could fall to you or your volunteers.

Organic social media is generally slow to gain traction and you’ll probably only reach around 2-10% of your audience. You won’t have much control over this and your success isn’t guaranteed.

Let’s face it, all it takes is one sunny day in the UK and suddenly nobody is spending time on social media!

But organic social media for charities can be really useful for educating and entertaining your audience, and sharing your journey. Use it as a way to test new ideas and see what works with your audience. What images and words do they respond well to?

Don’t take it too seriously, be playful and have some fun with it. There’s still room for planning and designing organic social media, but try not to make it feel too curated. The worst case scenarios are either that no one sees your content, or that it doesn’t fit your brand - and you can always hit delete!

So stop stressing over how your Instagram grid looks - no one really cares except you!

That should give you the freedom to relax a bit...

Social Media Advertising

The other side of the coin is paid social media advertising. You can start with paid ads from as little as £1 per day, and scale it up to whatever budget you have available.

This has some real benefits, for instance it can deliver instant results and you can control the scheduling so that it goes live at the times when your audience will be online.

The number of people who see your content is only dependent on your budget, and you can tailor the audience precisely. Maybe you’d like to target people who have donated to charity in the last 12 months, or people who have viewed your volunteering page but didn’t take the final step to sign up.

So use this form of advertising for actual conversions - to generate email sign ups, donations, customers or attention. This is the content that you should spend time optimising, because you know that it’s actually going to be seen.

So what is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising uses targeted advertising on a range of social media platforms to bring your audience into the customer funnel (more on that later). A variety of ads are tested at scale to optimise ROI (Return on Investment) and grow your charity or non-profit enterprise.

Why should you use social media advertising? Well, here are a few benefits:

● It’s the most cost-effective and measurable activity to kickstart with any budget

● It’s highly targeted and customisable so you can find your perfect target audience

● It’s flexible so you can test different audiences and creatives with a low starting budget

● It can be integrated with your website and allows you to retarget visitors based upon their behaviour

🔍 OK, what’s Search Advertising then? 🔍

When you search for something on Google, you have probably noticed that there’s often two or three ads at the top of the page. This is search advertising, where you bid for the best placement on Google SERPS results when people search for relevant keywords.

This is premium space on the internet, because it’s a prime way to catch the attention of people who know what they are looking for and want to find it quickly.

Why should you consider search engine advertising?

The vast majority of internet purchases start with a search, and Google is the internet’s most popular search engine. So the people that you reach with this type of advertising already have a high purchase intent. This means they will be easier to convert than someone who hasn’t even heard of your cause.

Another benefit is that you can integrate Google ads with YouTube ads, because Google owns YouTube, so it can be useful to retarget people who are searching for your keywords on YouTube.

You can also integrate with social media ads and retarget visitors who are coming in through Google ads. That way if they don't convert (sign up for emails, make a donation, sign up as a volunteer) through Google ads, you can retarget and catch them through your social media ads.

Search engine advertising is also a way to hijack traffic and potential customers from your competitors. And while you do have to pay for search engine advertising, you only pay for the people who actually click your links instead of everyone who sees your ads.

If you only take one tip away from this guide, make it this one!

Nonprofits and charities can apply for a $10,000 monthly spend in the form of a grant from Google. Every charity/non-profit should be doing this - after all, it’s free money!

So when you’ve finished reading this guide, head straight on over to to check if you’re eligible and apply for the grant.

(Unfortunately this offer doesn’t apply to non-registered charities or social enterprises - sorry!)

👂Ever get the feeling your phone is listening to you?👂

Here’s a situation that you’ve probably encountered.

You’re in a coffee shop or a bar, chatting with your mate Dave, and he’s telling you about how he’s planning to buy a new Ford Focus on finance. Within a few hours, adverts keep popping up on social media for buying a Ford Focus on finance. It’s like your phone is listening in on your conversation - scary stuff!

Nope, to steal someone’s favourite phrase, it’s just fake news!

What you’re actually experiencing is a mixture of human bias and the social media algorithm connecting the dots.

The average Joe in the UK will see around 10,000 ads in a single day. Let that sink in for a minute - 10,000 ads every single day.

There’s no way that you will actually remember seeing all of these, but some will grab your attention. That might be because they’re amazing, or equally it might be because they’re terrible. But because you were just talking to your friend about buying a Ford Focus on finance, that particular advert will stand out more than the rest.

You’ve probably seen that advert before and scrolled right past it. It’s discussing the product with your friend that makes the difference because it pins it right to the front of your mind. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly you keep on seeing that same car in car parks and on the roads.

You don’t notice it, until you notice it!

The other factor in play is the social media algorithm. Your mate Dave has been looking at car finance deals on the internet, and his movements have been tracked by the Facebook Pixel. If you have a similar profile to Dave, the same age, same location, similar interests, you’re likely to be shown adverts for the same products that he has been viewing. You’ll be picked out as being part of the lookalike audience for car finance ads.

This is the way that retargeting works. It feels spooky because it’s on your personal mobile phone, but if you saw the ad on a billboard, you wouldn’t think it was so spooky!

What is retargeting and how does it work?

Retargeting is the backbone of every successful e-commerce site in the last decade. And you can harness its power to grow your non-profit or charity. Here’s how it works:

A prospect visits your site and browses through several pages. If you have the Facebook Pixel installed on your site, it will track which pages they visit, how long they stay and so on.

They then leave your site for whatever reason and later that day they start browsing social media. At this point, the Pixel will show your retargeting ad and they click on it, taking them back to your site. But this time you direct them to a specific page that will hopefully result in a conversion.

Ideally your ad will retarget those who are closest to making a decision. It’s a process that's used a lot in retail, which is why when you suddenly get bombarded with ads for trainers after you’ve just been browsing for a pair of trainers.

An absolute must-do: Set up your Facebook Pixel

I mentioned the Facebook Pixel above, and you might not be sure what that is.

Basically, it’s a tiny piece of code that sits on your website and tracks your visitors and their actions on your site.It allows you to optimise delivery of your ad to people who are likely to take action, and create custom audiences from your website visitors and their specific actions.

You can promote ‘Dynamic’ ads to show visitors the products or pages that they viewed on your website, and create a lookalike audience for ads that are based upon followers, website visitors, or email subscribers.

Even if you don’t intend to use paid ads on Facebook right now, I would really encourage you to install the Pixel right away so that it can start to build up data. Then when you do decide to use paid ads, you will be able to access the data and build a more targeted audience.

👀 What is a lookalike audience? 👀

If you have a database of customers, email subscribers or similar, you can upload this to help Facebook create your audience. Using your existing data will allow you to create a lookalike audience of similar people who are likely to be interested in your message

You may have your own assumptions about what your target audience looks like, but the data will give you a much more accurate picture. So let the algorithm work for you, picking out the age, location, interests etc that you should be targeting.

This is incredibly powerful and can seriously rocket power your donors, volunteer sign ups or email subscribers.

So now that you know how this all works, let’s pull it together into a simple strategy to help you dominate social media advertising.

🔥 Our Social Media Strategy 🔥

We employ this strategy with all of our clients, whether they are commercial enterprises or nonprofits. And there are two simple steps:

First, you need to hunt out high quality attention online.

Then you need to convert those clicks into customers, donors, volunteers or whatever you are looking for.

How do we do that? With the customer funnel.

What is the Customer Funnel?

This is a simple but powerful way to increase your conversion rate. As your potential customer moves through the funnel, you build a relationship based on awareness, trust and loyalty.

So we start by pumping high quality traffic into the funnel. You’ll get this from either search engine or social media traffic, which is targeted through either purchase intent or interests and behaviours.

This traffic feeds into the initial stage of the funnel, which might be something like a blog post on your website or an entertaining video. Luckily, as a charity or non-profit enterprise, you have a ready source of interesting content to share in these formats.

Next you need to persuade these visitors to move on into the next stage of the funnel.

Don’t worry about the final conversion at this stage, just stay focused on the next rung on the ladder. All too often businesses will worry about whether their search engine or social ads will convert to sales, but that’s the wrong approach.

‘Sell sell sell’ doesn’t sell.

You need to coax, persuade, nurture.

Unless you have a fantastic offer or product to promote, your ads don't need to sell. You’re looking to build a long lasting relationship with someone and that takes a more subtle approach.

Once you’ve identified your serious leads, the final stage of the funnel is to convert those leads into sales (or donors, volunteers and so on). It’s much easier to coax them over that final step if you’ve correctly identified your leads in the first stage of the funnel.

This isn’t going to have an immediate impact, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ll need to constantly optimise and tweak your funnel, ads and landing page over time.

Anyone who falls out of the funnel at the leads stage can be picked up through your Facebook Pixel and retargeting. And you can also use it to pick up people who donated to your cause a number of months ago.

Picking the right content

The good news is that as a charity or nonprofit, you have a valuable story to tell. At each stage of the funnel, sharing your story will help to convince your audience to move one step closer to converting.

It’s really important to create bespoke content for each stage of the funnel. The content that will convince someone to take the final step towards becoming a donor or volunteer is not the same as you would show someone at the start of the funnel, who may not even be aware of your cause.

It’s also really important to create ‘evergreen’ content which won’t date, and individual campaigns for different stakeholders. Create bespoke landing pages for each sub-section of your audience which they will see when they click on your ad, so that it follows through with a consistent message.

Creating these customer funnels and ad campaigns with great ROI will turn your advertising from a cost to an investment. Advertising will stop being something that you look to trim when costs need to be cut, and start being a valuable way to boost the performance of your non-profit or charity.

How to repurpose content

This is a powerful way to cut down your advertising costs in terms of time and money.

First you need to select one hero piece - this could be a well shot video, an info-packed PDF, an interesting blog post, or an attention-grabbing case study. Case studies are a great tool for non-profits because you have so many people whose stories you can tell: a volunteer, someone you’ve helped, a staff member, even yourself!

That story is your hero content, and will form the centre of your campaign. Then every few days or once a week, you can repurpose it into:

● Blog posts

● Email campaigns

● Ad campaigns

● Social media posts

● Podcasts

● Short videos

● Infographics

You can use this repurposed content to lead people back to your hero content, which will then direct them on to the next stage of the funnel.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by World Barbecue Day or whatever is trending on social media today. Stay laser-focused on sharing relevant, interesting content that brings people to your hero content.

It’s not all going to be selling - remember, you don’t want to be ‘sell sell sell’ all the time. Just keep on giving your audience pieces of the picture, reminding them of your story and leading them to the next stage of the funnel until it’s the right time to convert.

Remember what we said earlier: You don’t notice it, until you notice it.

How to pick the right social media for charities

Don’t feel that you have to be present on every social media platform. If you have the capacity then sure, you can distribute at scale across the broadest possible range.

But if your resources are limited, pick one or two platforms that you feel comfortable with and understand how they work. Focus on the platforms that you can manage especially if you’re doing your social media advertising in-house.

It’s also really vital to optimise your content for each platform, the days of sharing the same photo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are long gone.

One-to-one engagement is key to growth on social media so if resources are tight, focus on creating a real connection with one individual per week and making them really care about your cause.

One person a week is 52 people each year, and if you can get them to share on their platform, that can be the key to getting your message out there.

This all takes time and effort, so don’t expect fast results and huge gains.

Some ideas for organic content

● Stories from your volunteers, recipients, families, staff, donors

● Answering FAQ (frequently asked questions) on Your Cause

● Top 10 reasons why Your Cause can’t be ignored

● 13 surprising facts about Your Cause

● What YOU can do to help Your Cause

● Learn more about how this business is helping Your Cause

● Join our 30 day challenge

● Shop with this brand to help Your Cause

Stories are a very powerful asset to your charity or non-profit enterprise. They will really help to get your message across and grab the attention of potential leads.

You’ll notice that some of these suggestions mention numbers. People respond well to unusual numbers, think of Buzzfeed headlines and the way that they grab your attention.

🎯 Choosing your Ad Audience 🎯

The best and most accurate way to pick your audience for a Facebook ad campaign is to let the Facebook Pixel do the work for you. Just keep on giving your audience pieces of the picture

But if you haven’t got around to installing your Pixel yet, you’ll need to select your ad audience yourself. When you’re doing this, it can work out better to pick a broad audience rather than trying to select the demographics who might be specifically interested in your particular cause. The Facebook algorithm will then work out which people to show your advert to.

Clicks actually get cheaper when you pick a broader audience. Because you’re bidding in an auction, a more niche audience can work out to be more expensive on Facebook and Instagram. You may feel that you need to create a hyper-specific audience, but it can be better value for money to go broad.

You can target people who are interested in charitable organisations or volunteering, or even people who have clicked to donate to charity recently. For a relatively small sum, just £20 or so, you could reach 15-25,000 people and maybe generate up to 200 clicks through to your website.

Remember, these are people who are now interested in learning more about your cause and have reached the first stage of your customer funnel. So optimise your landing page and really work on converting them to the next stage.

Adding in other forms of advertising

Once you’ve built your customer funnel and feel confident in the system, you can bring on board other forms of advertising and promotion. Try experimenting with:

● PR in newspapers/magazines


● Affiliate marketing

● Podcasts

● Live events

● Influencer marketing

But always remember that all of your promotion work should be aiming to feed your potential audience into the customer funnel. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by other distractions along the way.

🔥 Our Foolproof Funnel for Charities and Nonprofits 🔥

This simple funnel will help you to engage your audience, identify leads and boost your results.

● Publish an engaging video to shock, educate or entertain your audience

● Run an ad aimed at your desired audience using clips from the video

● Guide your potential audience to your website landing page so that they can learn more

● Retarget video viewers and website visitors with a direct ad encouraging them to donate, volunteer or subscribe to your email newsletter

● Maintain your email database for future communications and campaigns

● See what worked, repeat what works, test something new

Email lists are often overlooked because it can take effort to build and maintain a list. But we’d really encourage you to put in the effort, because that permission to contact someone with details of a new campaign or event is absolute gold!

🧰️Your Toolbox 🧰️

This is a selection of tools that we use for social media marketing campaigns. Many of them have free trial periods you can use to set up an initial campaign and see how you get on.

Acuity Scheduling to book in 1-2-1 calls with volunteers/stakeholders

Vyper to create viral giveaway competitions

Active Campaign to create automated email sequences and manage email database

SEMrush to see competitors’ ad strategy and your own SEO keywords

Instapage to build landing pages

Typeform to build quiz lead magnets

📋 Your To Do List 📋

We’ve nearly reached the end of this guide to social media marketing for nonprofits and charities. I know that it can feel like there’s a lot to take in, but hopefully you’ve taken away some useful tips from it.

Here are a few simple to-dos that I’d like you to take away from this guide. Work through this list over the next 2 weeks and you’ll be well on your way to dominating social media marketing!

● Set up your FB Business Manager and and account - click here to get started

● Set up your FB Pixel - click here to find out more

● Apply for Google Ads grant - click here to check if you're eligible

● Film three videos on your phone (share your mission, the story of someone you are helping, and introducing someone who has volunteered)

● If you have the budget and/or contacts, create a branded video to use for an ad. If not, you can use one of the videos above

● Build an ad campaign in Facebook Ad Manager with your video. Don’t boost the post, set up a campaign - Facebook have free tutorials to help you get started

● Choose or create one piece of hero content, this could be one of the videos mentioned above

● Create 20 assets from that one video - refer to the list above of ways to repurpose content

● Create a retargeting ad directing people to a landing page to encourage conversions (donations, emails, volunteers, leads)

And finally...

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide to social media marketing for non-profit organisations and charities. By now you should understand why you need to be using social media marketing, how to use retargeting and the customer funnel, and you’re ready to get started on your to-do list.

If you’ve read through all of this guide and you still feel like you’re struggling, please do get in touch to book your free social media marketing consultation for charities and non-profit organisations. There’s no obligation, we’re happy to just talk through your needs and help you to come up with a more bespoke strategy that suits you.

If you feel you need a little extra help, we can also discuss working with you as your dedicated ad agency for your social media marketing requirements. Or if you decide you would prefer to work on it yourself, we can also offer coaching sessions to help you to feel more prepared for the task.

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