How Should I Use Each Social Media Channel For My Nonprofit?

Photo by Gigi Ibrahim

If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance you’re using social media to create awareness for your cause and have maybe even conducted a few online fundraising campaigns. For you, this blog post might simply be a confirmation for how you’ve been approaching each channel, or a place where you can add your brilliant ideas (see end of post).

Now, if you’re still trying to figure out which channels to use for your org (which is perfectly fine, by the way), this post provides food for thought.

The Difference Between Various Different Social Media Channels

When you consider Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, Pinterest, Email, and other platforms, there are several ways to look at how they differ from each other. What follows are my observations about Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in the context of common NPO goals. (In the interest of space, I’ll cover WordPress, and Email next week.)

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that these observations are generalizations and are based on my relatively limited experience working directly with about 250 different small and medium-sized nonprofits.


Who: Facebook is where most of your constituents are. It’s also where most nonprofits have some type of presence.

What: Facebook is where you post photos, videos and short short text updates to engage your core fans who in turn share that content with their friends.

On Facebook, the name of the game is virality. Every time your fans interact with your content, a story is created in their News Feed that their friends can see. When friends of fans become aware of your content, awareness expands and you acquire new fans.

Why: Your primary goal with Facebook is to increase awareness for your cause by getting your core fans to talk about you.

Washingtons: Facebook is best used as a way to build your email list of potential donors, and engage current donors by reporting outcomes and posting remarkable content. Sure, you can put a donation button in a custom tab, but keep in mind that Facebook’s strength is about sharing with friends, not getting donations.

A smart move is to encourage donors to share on Facebook after they donate (don’t ask them to share how much they gave).


Who: YouTube is the second largest search engine that your constituents use. It’s also where many nonprofits have a channel (47% according to NTEN).

What: YouTube is where people can find you and hear your story. Mostly, people find content on YouTube by searching for videos, either directly on YouTube or via Google. Users can also subscribe to your channel and be notified (even by email) when you publish new videos.

On YouTube, the name of the game is remarkable content (as with all channels), but it’s also about search.

Why: Your primary goal with YouTube is to get found via search and tell your remarkable story in a million words (if a picture says one thousand words, video says one million). Video conveys the “human” in your org.

Washingtons: Google’s nonprofit program allows you to overlay videos with CTAs that contain links to your petition or donation campaign (use UTM tags to track clicks).


Who: Twitter is where the advocates and bloggers are. And according to NTEN, 57% of nonprofits are using Twitter.

What: Twitter is a micro-blogging platform where you can find (and share) interesting ideas, people and content.

Why: Your primary goal on Twitter is to nurture mutually beneficial relationships with key partners and advocates. It’s where you can build and nurture a network of bloggers in your cause.

To do this, you’ll use your Dale Carnegie people skills to introduce yourself to people and establish trust by sincerely promoting their agendas. You might also regularly participate in relevant hashtag chats.

At some point, you will cross a threshold and become part of the group. This is when, quite naturally, based on the laws of reciprocity, they will consistently promote your agenda.

Washingtons: Twitter can definitely be used as a channel within a comprehensive fundraising strategy. Once you build up a vibrant network, you can use it to increase the reach of a campaign well beyond your Facebook fanbase or email list. You can also use tools like HelpAttack to build fundraising into tweets.

Yes, you can use Facebook to do that

If you’re reading this thinking that you should stop using Facebook to nurture your peer and advocate network, and start using Twitter, please stop.

Instead realize that you’re probably smarter than me and have simply figured out an approach that works perfectly for your situation. If you haven’t figured out how to best use these networks for your situation, then please consider this blog post as a framework to begin with.

Be smart and measure

You will eventually figure out what works best, based on smart goals, a clear understanding of your objectives, and the results you’ll track along the way.

What purpose have you found for each of these networks?