Social Media Mistakes Charitable Organizations are Still Making

Every business needs to be on social media, and that includes nonprofits. The goals and techniques may be different, but they still need to market, and that means reaching people where they hang out the most: online, via platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Twitter. LinkedIn is also an option for acquiring corporate sponsors.

However, some charitable organizations do not realize how to leverage social media properly. They think that because they work for a good cause, their mission will do the work for them. This is not always true. They still need to convince potential donors why they deserve their money, and they need to let others know that they exist, so here are a few mistakes nonprofit companies find themselves making that would be wise to avoid.

Always asking for donations

People are often hesitant to part with their money, even if it’s for curing cancer or finding “forever homes” for abandoned animals. They want to do good in the world, but you don’t always know who is trustworthy, and numerous advertisements bombard them every day asking for donations. What sets you apart from them? Why should they believe you? If you come across as desperate, people will turn away.

When you establish your social media strategy, determine what your goals are. Raising awareness? Encouraging new volunteers? Raising money? Assessing interest in something through likes and comments? Social media is useful for linking to online donation pools, but you need to do more than that. People need to see the work you are doing. They need evidence that other people are donating to and volunteering alongside you. Maybe people would also like to give their time, so show them that there are opportunities for doing so.

Being depressing

Nonprofits (should) aim to fix problems in the world, so some find it tempting to broadcast just how dire specific predicaments are to incentivize people to contribute. It seems like a logical tug on the heartstrings-if you post a picture of a sick dog in need of help, wouldn’t people come running?-but they are not always the most effective calls to action. Focus on positive things instead. Share uplifting stories and heartwarming results. Maybe you could post a picture of that dog after adoption to showcase what your work is capable of-and people will connect the dots.

Forgetting pictures

Social media is an extremely visual-heavy space. Pictures are much more eye-catching than text, so be sure to use lots of them (but appropriately) when you post. Maybe you can post an infographic, a photo of your organization at work, or a snapshot of your colleagues in the office. It is one thing to tell your audience something, but it’s another to show it.

Posting more than you need

Remember not to over-share. None of your followers want to see an excess of content that overwhelms their feeds, and people will not follow you if they think you look like spam. Avoid too much promotional material and share at a reasonable frequency (pay attention to the times of day when you get the most interaction as well).

You should also share more than your own posts. User-generated content is an excellent way to get followers engaged, so re-post (with permission, if necessary) what they send to you. Maybe you can re-share pictures that the people you help put on their own profiles. If you provide benefits to children, you could post a photo of a drawing they create. Your followers want to feel seen and heard, and social media is an advantageous tool for making that happen.

Ignoring followers

On that note, be sure to engage with your followers. Interaction needs to be two-way, so do not post what you hope will attract the most attention and then let it sit. Answer inquiries and comments, thank followers for kind acknowledgments, and ask questions. No business should neglect its social media audience, so nonprofits need to remember to be personable and active. Why would people donate to or volunteer for an organization that fails at communicating?


If you want to reach as many people as possible, then you need to post different content on respective platforms. Do not share the same material, word-for-word, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. People will not follow you across channels if they are identical to one another.

Some platforms are more suitable for certain goals, too. What you share on Pinterest is not necessarily appropriate on Tumblr. Typing up a long, heart-wrenching story is better for Facebook than an Instagram caption. When you keep platform demographics in mind, you are more likely to get the results out of each that you desire.

Charitable organizations should take advantage of social media, but they need to have appropriate strategies in place. If you are part of a nonprofit, what social media mistakes do you recommend avoiding?

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.