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Written by Debra Askanase

February 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

Social Media for Nonprofits: Deepening Donor Relationships

If you work for a nonprofit organization, chances are someone from development has asked you to help them raise funds with social media.

Instead of planning a campaign, why not spend your time throughout the year using social media to discover, connect, and deepen your organization’s relationship with its donors? Long-term and returning donors want to be recognized, thanked, and most importantly, feel that they matter.  If you manage social media for nonprofits, here are five easy ways to connect meaningfully with your donors.

1. Create Twitter lists of donors and engaged stakeholders.

Twitter has a lists function that allows you to place those you follow into lists, both public and private. To keep track of your donors, maintain a few private Twitter lists, viewable only to your organization. It may take some time, but it’s worthwhile to create lists, and follow them on Twitter. Follow them, and connect online around something they are tweeting about.

Your lists should include:

  • LYBUNTs (donors who gave Last Year But Not This Year)
  • SYBUNTs (donors who gave Some Years But Not This Year)
  • Those who make very small donations yearly or regularly
  • Major donors

I also suggest creating at least one public Twitter list that recognizes your most enthusiastic fans. Take particular care to engage and tweet with the people on this list; they already want to connect with you and have proven their interest in your cause.

One way to find them is to use the “Users” feature in Agorapulse to search for those who have mentioned or engaged with your organization on Twitter (and also on Facebook). Once you’ve identified them, add them to your Twitter list.

NYCEAC Twitter users who care

2. Start a “thank you” campaign on social media.

NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network, is a dues-paying membership association of nonprofit technology users and organizations. Every November, NTEN hosts Member Appreciation Month. During the month, NTEN encourages members to use #ntenthanks to send online notes of appreciation to other NTEN members, and nominate NTEN members for member awards.

NTEN member appreciation month is on

This November, NTEN took the next logical social step in online appreciation: encouraging members to send each other #ntenthanks eCards. You can’t go wrong with puppies, cats, and lego eCards!

NTEN thanks ecardThere are so many ways to say “thank you” to your donors. Begin by bringing thank you into your DNA and hold an annual “thank you” campaign.

3. Interview your donors and stakeholders.

Whether in a blog post, a social media story, or a Twitter Haiku, sharing donor stories on social media brings forth the sentiment behind donations and shines a spotlight on your donors. The anti-hunger organization Feeding America regularly highlights volunteers, donors, and families that receive help from the organization through brief but powerful Facebook posts.

Feeding America Katie Stagliano

The nonprofit charity:water has always been a storytelling organization. They highlight fundraising campaigns and the people behind them regularly, using the #CWCampaignWeLove hashtag to aggregate the campaigns for readers. Here’s one from Instagram that brings you right in. When creating a donor story, think about the phrases, and the sentiments that would make your online fans want to say “me, too!” charity:water does this beautifully with its donor story, illustrated below.

charitywater campaigns we love instagram

4. Make a  personal and powerful video.

Donors appreciate organizations that take the time to mention them by name in a video or make a story about them. For charity:water’s fifth birthday, it famously created individualized video thank-you cards for donors. They are short, sweet, and very personalized. Check out the range of videos on the YouTube channel charity:water turns five.

Right before their 2014 #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign, the National Brain Tumor Society created a short video of their staff thanking the community champions who had pledged to support #GivingTuesday ahead of #GivingTuesday, naming all 100+ community champions.

GivingTuesday champions thank-you - video

You could also create an Instagram video (of 15 seconds or fewer), such as this one from the Surfrider Foundation to thank donors for their time and financial support.

5. Hand over the controls.

Fans and donors alike have taken over the controls of Instagram and Twitter accounts for a day at numerous nonprofit organizations. Ithaca College gives a student the Instagram reins once a week for its #HowIseeIC Instagram takeovers. During this Instagram takeover, an Ithaca College student snaps photos of his or her day, and shares it through the Ithaca College Instagram account using #HowIseeIC for identification.

@howISeeIC account takeover


Instagram management tool Agorapulse

Several years ago, TechSoup hosted Twitter takeovers, handing over superfan the Twitter controls for a day. Bring your donors closer – very close – with a Twitter or Instagram takeover. You’ll be surprised how responsible they are with your social media account, and the return you’ll get on this act of social media generosity.

TechSoupJereme Twitter TakeoverSocial media is really all about connecting, and truly engaging with a community. Your donors have already shown you how much they care about your cause with their wallets. Thanking donors online shouldn’t just be a “thank you” graphic or mention once a year. Bring it into your organization’s DNA by integrating it into your everyday activities through Twitter lists, by bringing their sentiments forward through storytelling, by recognizing their stewardship with a social media account takeover, or by connecting regularly online with them in conversation.

These ideas are just the beginning…where will you take social media for deepening donor relationships?

Ana Gotter

August 22, 2019

comments on your facebook page

Ana Gotter

August 14, 2019

Anna Sonnenberg

August 8, 2019

Debra Askanase

Nonprofit success | Trainer | Educator | Strategist.

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