Twitter for Nonprofits

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You don’t need me to tell you that Thanksgiving is almost upon us. While we prepare to stuff ourselves with all kinds of culinary goodness, it’s also the time to think about being thankful for what we have and sharing some of our good fortune with those who aren’t as fortunate. The season of giving is here. This week, we invited Camber Clemence from GiveWP to talk about what the season of giving means for nonprofits, and how they can leverage it to promote their cause. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Camber Clemence
Topic: Twitter for nonprofits
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: What is the giving season?

The giving season is marked by the season of kindness and gift-giving. It rolls around in October and lasts through December. It’s a significant time for nonprofits because most of them receive a majority of their donations during these months, the biggest day is Giving Tuesday. It’s observed the day after Cyber Monday. In recognition of our immense spending behavior leading up to Christmas, Giving Tuesday is a day of paying it forward and donating to others who might not have the same privilege as the rest of us.

This is also the time when nonprofits should be on their best behavior. To attract donors and encourage people to share their love, these nonprofits need to spread their message to a wide range of audiences.

However, it’s important to remember, as Madalyn noted, giving doesn’t necessarily mean donating money. Nonprofits need money, sure, but they also need help with other things like volunteering time to clean up or attending to an IT issue, or sorting the mail. Every little helps in some way or the other.

Q2: What should nonprofits consider when composing a tweet?

Thanks to Twitter’s ubiquity, it’s a great place to bring donors, volunteers, and nonprofit communities together.

So if you’re part of a nonprofit and helping with Twitter strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as who you’re talking to (audience), what you’re saying (your message), and how you’re saying it (tone, accessibility, hashtags).

Above all, remember that Twitter can be a noisy place. To make your tweets memorable, write as you would a story: Start with a good hook, use imagistic wording, and end with a clear and straightforward call to action.

Vivian from Nimble made a good point, too. You’re likely not the only nonprofit organization campaigning for your cause. As such, keep in mind that for people fairly new to your cause, what you say and how you say it might be the first time hearing about it. Be careful to make a positive impression so that people will be keen to seek out other organizations who do similar things, and get involved in your cause more broadly.

Q3: How can nonprofits encourage engagement on Twitter?

The easiest way to boost engagement, of any kind, is to share content that you know your audience needs and will appreciate. Ideally, the most beneficial type of engagement for nonprofits is retweets and quote retweets that’ll widen your reach, so tweet with that in mind. It’s also perfectly viable to ask for a retweet to help amplify your message.

Apart from actively engaging (responding to threads, liking, and retweeting) with your target audience on Twitter, follow standard Twitter etiquette. For example, using clear hashtags without stuffing them in your tweets, using accessibility tools like camel case, alternative text, and closed captions, and ensuring that the images you share are sized appropriately.

Importantly, as Jennifer told us, show your human side. If it works well for for-profit businesses and large corporate brands like Wendy’s, it sure can work for you as well.

Q4: What are some Twitter-specific marketing challenges that small nonprofits face?

Budget. It’s a challenge for marketing teams of all kinds, but especially for nonprofits who are often also short on other resources like people and technical know-how across a brand range of business nuances. The more a nonprofit spends on marketing, the less they have for their own cause.

A good way to alleviate some of the financial stress is to find skilled volunteers—people who have experience and the skills to deal with technicalities, such as IT, legal, operations, accounting and finance, and project management.

If you volunteer/work for a nonprofit, online tools are your friends. Use social media scheduling tools, online design tools, video makers, and other DIY apps to help you run your social media handles. As always, though, don’t ever automate your responses—that’s still got to be all human.

Fair warning from Jim, though: It’s natural to think that the rest of the world’s as enthusiastic about your cause as you are, but that may not always be the case. Before you go full-on, make sure you know your audience and what they want to avoid coming across as spammy.

Q5: What strategies can nonprofits employ to build a community on Twitter?

Rule 1: Share good content.

Rule 1.1: Reciprocate. Engage with your community just the way you want them to engage with your content.

The greatest thing about being a nonprofit on social media is that you’re not competing against other organizations to see who’s better. Take advantage of the fact that you’re all campaigning for the same cause (or similar ones) and bring your audience together. Chances are someone who’s invested in your community might also be interested in investing in another cause. When communities connect, messages spread wider, and the spotlight grows bigger.

Use Twitter’s inherent features to your benefit. Create private lists of donors you want to engage with, create public lists of similar causes that your audience can subscribe to, and participate in Twitter chats and spaces to reach more people.

As Madalyn emphasized, it’s crucial to be around for your audience. Communities form when there are actively engaging conversations. Create those scenarios often. Show up and keep showing up. Assure your audience that you’ll be there for them.

Q6: What should nonprofits consider when they share their cause and/or mission on Twitter?

Consider the setting. If you’re about to respond to a tweet or an existing conversation, consider whether your message is relevant for that conversation. Just because people like to support a nonprofit cause doesn’t mean they’ll appreciate you jutting into a discussion where your message isn’t appropriate.

Think about your audience and your calls to action (CTAs). As a nonprofit, your purpose on Twitter would be to attract new donors to support your cause and engage with existing donors. With that in mind, remember to send them to reliable links with clear action texts/buttons so that they’re reassured that you’ll never mislead them.

Another important piece of your donation campaign should be easy-to-navigate systems. Don’t make it hard for your potential donors to sign up. Ensure that any forms, surveys, payment gateways, and fundraiser pages are all easy to access, clear, and straightforward.

Of course, as our guest pointed out when you direct donors to your website and collect your funds directly through your own systems, you’re less likely to lose them due to any malfunctions of third-party systems. GiveWP’s WordPress plugin is a good way to collect funds directly through your WordPress website.

We all know nonprofits don’t have the same purpose as for-profit businesses. However, as Jeremy pointed out, a nonprofit being pushy (even for good reasons) is pretty much the same as a business being overly salesy. Instead, opt for genuine discussions to spread your message.

Q7: How can nonprofits utilize Twitter to connect with, and grow, their volunteer base?

Step one: Create lists and add your volunteers to those lists. It’s an excellent way to keep everyone together and build a community.

Once you start building out an active community, start engaging with them and sharing content that encourages them to engage back with you.

Most importantly, include behind-the-scenes content in your regular posts. Show volunteers working, and if you have a physical space, show your local community interacting with your cause. These posts humanize your organization and help people connect with your cause more.

We often talk about the value of user-generated content (UGC) for brands. As Theodora put it, for nonprofits, it’s their volunteers. Encourage them to talk about their volunteering experiences on social media. They’re your biggest advocates, so make sure you set up a comfortable environment for them to share and be part of.

Q8: How can nonprofits optimize and improve efficiency of their Twitter strategy?

Before you dive headfirst, recognize and acknowledge any lack of resources you may have as a nonprofit. This will help you prioritize and delegate activities effectively.

If you’re short on time—and let’s face it, everyone is—look for ways to repurpose existing content. This might mean retweeting or quote retweeting old tweets, resharing older/evergreen blog posts and articles, retweeting a thread of information or resources, etc.

As we’ve already established, you have to be there for your audience. Consistently. The best and easiest way to ensure you’re consistent is to schedule your posts in advance. Use social media management tools to make life easier.

Analyze like you’re crazy. This is important for everyone, and even more so for nonprofits who don’t have the time to waste resources on things that don’t work. Regularly check your statistics to understand which types of content work better and what your audience likes to engage with more. Knowing this can drastically improve efficiency.

Well, that’s all from me, folks. Thanks for reading through, and for more insights from our chat with Camber from GiveWP, have a look at this Twitter Moment that Joana out together for us. If you think this summary is pretty good, you’ll love the real-time chat. Join us every Thursday at 1pm ET on #TwitterSmarter. Afterward, we also hang out on Twitter Spaces at 5pm ET to continue our chat. Catch you there!


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About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all the things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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