5 Stellar Examples of Nonprofits Using Social Media For Development

Chanell Turner

By the end of next year, 33 percent of the world’s population is projected to have a social media account. These channels will be a critical inroad to organizations that want to reach and engage audiences.

Additionally, in 2016, 43 percent of millennials were most inspired to make charitable donations through social media versus other channels. This generation and younger groups are more socially engaged in general than previous generations. As their careers develop and income grows, they’ll be a more and more important base for nonprofit giving.

That means nonprofit marketers must leverage social media if they’re going to continue to engage support and grow their missions. How can you do it well? For some inspiration, here are five nonprofits that got creative, nailed it, and saw stellar results.

1. charity: water

If anyone has figured out how to engage social media audiences across multiple platforms, it is charity: water. Their mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to developing countries. To compel support, they use their social media channels to tell the stories of the people and communities their mission serves. Furthermore, they thank their existing supporters and use social proof to get new supporters on board by showcasing those who fundraise for the organization by “donating” their birthday to raise money for the cause.

In 2015 on World Water Day, the organization used #748million across social channels to bring awareness to the number of people in the world without access to clean water. The single-day campaign took the digital offline as well. More than 20 Instameets were organized throughout the world to bring supporters together in person. Altogether, more than 30,000 people engaged in the campaign in just 24 hours.

Biggest Takeaway: Create urgency. Campaigns that last for a limited time period galvanize donors around a shared goal and deadline. To maximize the campaign’s timeframe, ensure you have a plan that not only includes social media, but also reaches your donors on other channels like email and your website.

charity: water

2. The Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was an early adopter of social media. They have an active following on Twitter and other social media platforms, but their bread and butter is Facebook. In 2013, nearly 5 percent of their donor funding came from this platform — $200,000 in a year.

To put up numbers like these, HSUS employed two critical tactics. First, each person that comments on any of their platforms receives a personal response from the organization. Second, they include donation forms within custom Facebook tabs with lower donation amounts to encourage people to give what they can afford. These forms are also easily shareable so donors can tell their friends about their contribution and invite them to get involved too.

HSUS has also expertly utilized their Facebook cover photo, combining a compelling video clip with a simple call-to-action. Since it’s the first and biggest thing you see when visiting their page, it’s a great way to hook visitors through storytelling and encourage them to act.

The Humane Society Cover Photo

Biggest Takeaway: Make action easy. On-page donation forms, active community managers, and clear calls-to-act reduce the steps supporters need to take to engage and thus, make it more likely that they will.

The Humane Society Donation

3. World Wildlife Fund

Even though Snapchat made its debut in 2012, it’s still one of the newer social channels. And many organizations struggle to figure out ways to leverage it to connect with its primarily younger users. But just two years after Snapchat launched, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) nailed it with their Last Selfie campaign.

To bring awareness to the plight of endangered species, the organization posted photos of endangered animals on Snapchat with #LastSelfie and a phone number people could text to donate. Snapchat was the perfect platform — the photos “self-destruct” in 10 seconds, which symbolized the animals’ extinction from the Earth. WWF also took the campaign cross-platform, encouraging Twitter influencers to share the Snaps to create a viral impact.

In one week, the #LastSelfie snaps were posted on Twitter by 40,000 users —ultimately seen by 120 million Twitter users in one week. WWF reached their monthly fundraising goal in only three days. The organization has continued to employ emotional appeals in their photos to encourage donations on social media. They do a great job of instilling a sense of urgency without overwhelming followers, which increases engagement.

World Wildlife Fund

Biggest Takeaway: Go cross-platform. Engage with supporters on more than one social channel, and have a specific strategy for each. For example, Instagram is great for very visual content, Twitter is perfect for quick updates, and Facebook is an excellent community building tool. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of posting on all these platforms, try a marketing automation tool to make the job easier.

4. One

One is an advocacy organization for people living in extreme poverty and preventing diseases, particularly in Africa. They’ve created several viral campaigns, and this year, they are focusing on girls’ education with their #girlscount campaign.

The marketing cornerstone of the campaign is their work to have celebrities, well-known advocates, and everyday supporters of their campaign make individual videos of them reading a number one to 130 million (that’s the number of girls worldwide without access to education). The end goal is to create an epically long video created from all that user-generated content.

Along the way, they are expanding influence by having famous people “claim” their number on their own social media accounts. In turn, this encourages their fans to participate. They also created a viral social quiz about African geography. This resulted in more than 340,000 petition signatures in support of their campaign in just one week. Furthermore, they use engaging tweets to drive followers to a landing page where they can donate or sign a petition — providing options for action.


Biggest Takeaway: Social proof matters. Supporters want to show the world what they care about. Give them easy ways to do so by creating a catchy, but relevant hashtag or requesting user-generated content like a short video.

5. Community Foundation of Louisville

It’s not just the big, household name nonprofits that are finding success on social media. In one day, the Community Foundation of Louisville raised $4.6 million for local nonprofits. They found the greatest success with one of social media’s newer features — Facebook Live.

With Facebook Live, users can live broadcast a stream of just about anything they want. The Community Foundation of Louisville went live at least once an hour on their fundraising day. They shared a variety of events, rallies, and interviews from around Louisville. Prizes were also awarded “on air” for nonprofits that raised the most money during certain time periods.

And most importantly, the marketers behind the event made sure to interact with both in-person participants and those commenting on the live feed.

Community FOundation of Louisville

Biggest Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try something new — but don’t do it without a plan. With careful planning and team effort, your nonprofit could be the first to take advantage of social media’s newest trend.

  • Ileana

    Great article. The Charity: Water really knows how to engage to their readers. The way they use their social media channels to tell the stories of the people and communities their mission serves is really great and outstanding. Even other nonprofits social media examples are great. Learn more about how to boost social media engagement https://blog.datacaptive.com/10-easy-hacks-boost-social-media-engagement/

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