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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.