Tips for Nonprofits on Using Social Media to Build Supporter Relationships | npENGAGE

Tips for Nonprofits on Using Social Media to Build Supporter Relationships

By on Feb 14, 2017


Tips for showing social love to your supporters

We asked some of our favorite nonprofit tech friends to share ideas for how organizations can use social media to build meaningful relationships with their  supporters—donors, influencers and activists—and what that looks like on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

But first, what is social love and why does it matter? Social love is thoughtful engagement (liking, retweeting, commenting, following) with your social media audience. In the age of digital engagement, social love serves to nurture the relationship with your people by demonstrating that their voice matters to your cause.

Here’s what turner4, See3, Boulder Strategies, ActionSprout, Fission Strategy and Beth Kanter had to say about demonstrating social love to your most ardent supporters:

Engaging with Your Influencers:

Beth Kanter, Master Trainer, Speaker, Author

Do your research first. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received requests that only fit my personal brand or are so off they are funny! After you’ve identified influencers, take the time to read their blog, posts, or what they’re sharing and really think about whether your cause or campaign is a good match.

Cultivate. Don’t ask them for something cold. Start by responding to comments on their posts or sharing their material. Try appreciation before asking.

Don’t have every touch be an ask. Don’t be that neighbor that is constantly asking you for a cup of sugar and not giving anything in return. Take the time for cultivation and make sure you are thinking about reciprocity in your approach—”give me give me give me” is a real turn off.

Make it easy. Influencers are busy. Once you are ready to ask them to do something, make it super easy. Give them a boilerplate they can revise or images they can share. Don’t just ask them to help with providing some support materials. Don’t overwhelm them either. Don’t include everything in your ask email—have a nice mini-site to direct them to.

Say thank you. If someone does a favor for you, it is polite to say thank you.

Engaging with Your Activists:

Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, turner4D

Showing a little bit of social love to your activists is the key to keeping them engaged in your campaign. While sometimes that may mean a retweet or a share of one of their posts, other times a simple comment or like is enough. That way, even if their post does not rise to the level of being share-worthy, you can still show your appreciation for their willingness to speak out. This is very important, because while it is always a best practice to reinforce social engagement, sharing or retweeting every person who engages with you may dilute the effectiveness of your own brand presence. Having the flexibility to show some love without diluting your impact is one of the greatest assets social media offers to your campaign.

Using YouTube:

Bridgett Colling, Director of Content Strategy, See3

Showing social love on YouTube is all about collaboration. By combining forces with other nonprofits or YouTube Creators who care about your cause and creating a video together, you can extend the reach of your message to new audiences and move these people to action.

YouTube recently released a new feature called donation cards, which allows people on YouTube to donate to nonprofits without leaving the video they are watching (on most devices). Nonprofits can use donation cards on their own videos to drive more viewers to donate, but these cards are even more effective if you can use them in partnership with popular YouTube Creators who already have a substantial reach to a wide audience.

YouTube Creators–people like PewDiePie, Franchesca Ramsey, and Tyler Oakley –all have massive audiences they can leverage to help drive viewers to causes that they care about. When trying to connect with a YouTube Creator, it’s helpful to explore their past videos and think about how their interests can connect with your cause. For more helpful advice on connecting with YouTube Creators (and how to use donation cards), check out YouTube’s new guide for nonprofits with insights on effective ways to partner with their channel’s biggest influencers.

Using Facebook:

Nick Passanante, President of BOULDERSTRATEGIES

The question on many people’s mind is: with the constant flurry of social buzz dominating news feeds, how can we ensure our campaign gets more social love? I’ve outlined some key recipes and content strategies to improve engagement so you can”pick up” more likes and shares, and effectively deliver your message to your audience.

  • Timing. You never want to be late — especially when you post content on Facebook. Everybody’s audience is different, so to know that optimal time click the insights option on Facebook and see the time that most of your audience has engaged with you. Post regularly (at least a couple of posts a day) at different times to get a read for you audience and use different tools — like! — to help figure out what’s trending at the most opportune moments!
  • Geo-Target.  Geo-target your audience so that you’re spreading a more relevant and timely message. On Facebook you have the option to make a post visible to those in a certain geographic location. Take advantage of this feature and spread targeted messages to different audiences.
  • Images & Graphics.  Posting a block of words can be unflattering. Change things up and post some high-quality pictures and share graphics with a a clear call-to-action. If making graphics is too much a strain on your organization, consider using easy-to-use sites like Canva or Piktochart to make graphics in no time. A picture is worth a thousand words so consider using images to convey your message over a block of words. These three surefire recipes will make a difference in engagement, but ultimately, to get more eyes on important messages and content, consider boosting posts. But be advised, no amount of money can buy you love!

Drew Bernard, Co-Founder ActionSprout

Have you ever been in a relationship with a person that seems to always take but never give? When you run into them at a party, at the office or on the street, they instantly start telling you about things in their life. When you go out to dinner, they let you pick up the check, every time. When you say anything about your life, the conversation somehow ends up about them.

If you have someone like this in your life, you have probably gotten pretty good at avoiding them. When you walk by them and hear them talking, you certainly don’t jump in. In fact, you probably quicken your pace to avoid getting sucked in.

What if I told you that on Facebook, your organization may be that person? Check out these signs that your organization is a love sponge:

  • You only post content that tells the story you want people to hear.
  • You seldom ask yourself if your community values the content you post.
  • You don’t monitor what content is doing well and what topics your Facebook community cares about and engages with.
  • You seldom respond to comments on your posts, and when you do, you speak as “the organization” not as yourself.
  • You think more about your Facebook Fan count than you do the number of people you’re engaging with in meaningful ways on the platform.

If any of these things sound like you, it’s time to step back and rethink what you’re doing on Facebook and whether you really care about the community members that are engaging with you.

Using Twitter:

Adriana Dakin, Senior VP of Strategy and Research, Fission Strategy

Every day is a great day to show gratitude to your supporters. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just an ordinary Tuesday, here are tips to show your audience that you care:

  • Start making a list of the individuals, organizations, and companies you appreciate the most … just off the top of your head … and find their Twitter handles.
  • Look at and search your Twitter handle or hashtags you’re most engaged in to see who the top contributors are … for a more scientific look.
  • Use (if you’re lucky enough to have an account) to find high Klout influencers from your list who are doing great work in the world … for a way to connect with movers and shakers who care about you and vice versa.
  • Check’s Reach tab to see which of your top followers on Twitter are people you care about.

Try incorporating visuals or images that include text overlay that reinforce your appreciation and your brand– try even a simple “Thank You.” No designer handy? Try — a tool we at Fission Strategy enjoy using when we need to create quick social media share images. I suggest choosing an image of a heart that ties into your work. For example if you’re a conservation organization, find a photo of a heart found in nature, like in tree bark, as we did for Boreal Manitoba.

Jeanette Russell, Senior Product Marketing at Blackbaud

Show interest in your donors by following them on Twitter before you ask them for another gift. It’s an incredibly easy way to let them know you’re interested in who they are (especially if they share your message with their social networks). Simply retweeting or favoriting a donor is an easy win because it’s easy to do, it’s real engagement, and it reminds them why they gave to you and why they should give again.

If you’re like most groups, finding this information is doable, but a hassle with many systems. Ideally, you should be able to run a report that shows which donors you follow and which donors follow you. 

Understand Your Supporters Better with the Audience Insights Report

Find your people on social by requesting our free Audience Insights Report. We’ll match up to 5,000 of your emails to show you who you follow, who follows you, what networks people in your CRM use and lot’s more.


Jeanette is a nonprofit marketer at Blackbaud who is dedicated to scaling social good through nonprofit technology. During her 20 years in nonprofit sector, she’s worked with thousands of nonprofits and brings a deep understanding of organizing, fundraising and modern engagement.

Her expertise is rooted a decade national organizing on environmental campaigns. Passionate about social activism, Jeanette writes and speaks nationally about how technology empowers everyday advocates to take greater roles in helping cause deliver their mission. As a digital pioneer, she’s spent nearly a decade evangelizing digital engagement platforms including Salsa Labs and, which was acquired by Blackbaud in 2016. Jeanette has served on the advisory board of JustGive, Board Director of the New Leaders Council (MT) and Co-founded the National Forest Protection Alliance.

She lives in Montana, California and Wisconsin with her husband of 21 years. She loves wilderness, mid century modern, yoga and cats of all varieties.

Comments (3)

  • Sarah Falk says:

    Hi, This is really helpful. I am on the board of the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House and we are trying to expand our Social Media presence. These tips are really going to push us to the next level.

  • Jeanne says:

    Thank you

  • Ruth Macfarlane says:


    Is the request for an Audience Insights Report still available? The links don’t work anymore. If it is, could you point me in the right direction?


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