8 Social Media Mistakes Your Nonprofit Should Avoid

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by Rebecca Paredes

Social media is one of the best ways to engage with new and existing donors because it can lead to meaningful results. In fact, 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action, such as donating or volunteering.

However, we often see people make common social media mistakes that limit and restrict the full potential of different platforms. Below, we’ll walk you through these eight errors, what you should avoid, and how you can take your social presence to the next level.

1. Not Understanding Your Audience

To whom are you speaking? The answer is not “everyone.” Understanding who your audience is allows you to tailor your messaging, the times you post, and the type of content you publish. Start by looking at the following metrics:

Core Demographics

Understanding the age, genders, and locations of your followers can help you determine whether you’re actually reaching the people you want to reach. For example, if you’re a national organization, but your followers are very localized to specific areas, it could be a sign you need to revisit your brand awareness strategy.

The Types of Content They Engage With

If your engagement rates skyrocket when you post certain types of content and not others, use that data to inform your social media strategy. You don’t need to spin your wheels by posting just for the sake of posting if it’s not actually resulting in meaningful engagement metrics like comments, views, likes, or shares.

What Time They’re Most Active

This is an easy way to make sure your posts have the best potential to be seen by the greatest number of people. If your audience is most active in the middle of the day, the bulk of your social posts should publish during that time.

How to Find This Data

If your nonprofit has a business profile, you can dig into the analytics that already exist on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. If you use a social media management tool, like Hootsuite or Buffer, you have access to detailed social media analytics, all in one platform.

And if you’re starting from square one, searching for a topic on Google Trends makes it easy to see basic location data, related queries, and how interest fluctuates over time, for free.

2. Not Showing Your Personality

Brand voice is how you convey your nonprofit’s personality, which humanizes your organization and fosters greater connection with your followers. Reflect your brand voice on your social media pages in the specific way you write and deliver your messages. If you want your followers to feel excited about an upcoming event, jazz up your captions with fun language, exciting punctuation, and even emojis that feel true to your brand.

For example, let’s say your nonprofit is hosting a 5K charity run, and you want to promote the sign-up page. Here are three different ways you can show personality with the same message:

  1. Core message: “Sign up for our 5K to support the cause.”
  2. Excited: “You. Us. All your friends. Let’s race for a great cause! ????”
  3. Urgent: “Hurry! Register for the 5K today. Spots are filling fast!”

Remember that your voice isn’t limited to social media captions, either. Your brand’s personality should remain consistent in the other ways you engage with your audience, whether you’re posting a video on your feed or adding stickers to posts on Instagram Stories.

3. Posting Without a Strategy

A refined social media strategy is necessary to ultimately turn followers into donors. You want to post consistently, not whenever you remember to share a post on Facebook. You also want to post with an end-goal in mind. What action are you hoping to drive with your post? Is there a specific CTA included in that post?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed during your planning process, take it one step at a time. Think about what you want to post and what goals you want it to achieve. Here are some examples:

  • You want to host a Facebook Live event to promote an upcoming fundraiser. Once you pick a day and time, plan and schedule posts ahead of time to help promote it. Aim for at least one post the week before the event, one in the days leading up to it, and one same-day.
  • You want to celebrate a social media holiday because it aligns with your nonprofit’s mission, and you can link to your newsletter signup page. Schedule your posts out ahead of time, and include a link to your newsletter in each post.
  • You write a blog post and want to get as many eyes on it as possible. Plan to share the link when your audience is most engaged on social media, using the data from point number one

Free Download: Build Your Annual Fundraising Strategy Kit

4. Not Distributing Your Content

If you’re sharing great event photos on Instagram, but your Facebook is a ghost town, you’re missing out on an opportunity to put new content in front of a greater number of people. For every piece of content you create, build a plan for how it’ll be shared across channels.

Maybe an event flyer starts in an email newsletter, then gets posted to Facebook and Twitter that same morning. Or maybe you want to host a Q&A for donors on your Instagram account, so you promote it ahead of time on Instagram Stories, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to the way social media algorithms work, people tend to see new posts from the accounts they engage with the most. So, spreading your content out across multiple platforms can increase your potential reach and chance for visibility.

This concept also ladders back up to your overall social media strategy. If you know you want to get as many newsletter signups as you can, you want to promote that message widely and consistently. Content distribution makes that possible.

You also don’t want to post the same photo at the same time with the same caption across every social media account. You’ll overload your followers with white noise and minimize opportunities for meaningful engagement.

Instead, tailor your content for each platform and look for opportunities to make each post feel unique, even if it’s sharing the same core message. Here’s how:

  • Use different copy in the caption
  • Share different photos from the same event on different channels. For example, maybe Facebook gets the full album, but Twitter and Instagram get one or two select shots
  • Post on social media channels at different times. Use your performance analytics to see if your Twitter audience is full of night owls, but your Facebook engagement tends to spike around lunchtime
  • Use different tools to share your message. If you’re promoting an event, you might tweet a link to the event page, but use Instagram Stories to talk about event details and leave them highlighted on your bio

5. Not Engaging With Followers

Don’t be afraid to be social on social media. You build meaningful relationships and brand credibility by engaging with your followers, which means you should respond to comments and messages.

Post content that invites conversation, too. If you share a link to an industry news report, ask followers to share their thoughts in the comments. If you’re running a new campaign, invite followers to ask questions (and take time to answer them).

How quickly you respond to followers depends on your bandwidth. HubSpot reports that 64% of customers on Twitter expect a response within one hour, which might be somewhat unrealistic for everyone but the principle remains the same—respond as quickly as possible and don’t leave your followers hanging

If you’re fielding a high volume of questions, it’s worth noting that some social media management tools, like Buffer, have built-in features to help automate replies. No matter the scale of your nonprofit, it’s a good idea to make sure that whoever is in charge of engaging with followers knows your brand voice and tone like the back of their hand.

That way, your organization sounds cohesive in message and response across all platforms. One way to do this is to create a set of canned responses and talking points based on commonly asked questions, and distribute them among your social media team.

6. Ignoring User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) refers to photos, videos, and messages created by your followers. If you’re not using UGC on social media, you’re missing out on free content.

UGC creates a sense of community among your followers and invites engagement because people want to see themselves reflected in the organizations they support. This is especially valuable if you’re working in a community organization that hosts localized events.

If people see their friends and familiar sights featured on your social media accounts, they may be more inclined to engage with your nonprofit and learn more.

Use UGC in a way that makes sense for your brand. Here are a few places to get started:

  • Share tagged posts on Instagram Stories
  • Create a photo album of volunteer-submitted photos on Facebook
  • Retweet messages from your donors on Twitter
  • Periodically search for your nonprofit’s name or any related hashtags on social media. If someone has shared a photo but didn’t tag you in it, ask them if you can share it (and credit them)

On a related note, you can also share and engage with posts that your fundraisers may be sharing of their campaigns on Facebook. Download our guide below to get more tips on how to empower and activate your fundraisers to raise more and evangelize your cause:

Download Now: Classy + Facebook—A Guide to Boosting Fundraiser Retention

7. Not Optimizing Your Social Profiles

Your nonprofit’s bio is prime real estate to help promote your campaigns and upcoming events. Whether you’re running a new fundraiser for the month, seeking donations, or recruiting volunteers, update your social media bio with all the relevant information.

For example, let’s say you’re hosting a big fundraising event. On Twitter, update your cover photo, profile photo, and website to promote the event details.

With Instagram, update your bio to include relevant info for anyone who visits your page, and use highlights to collect Stories that tell followers more about the event. Across all social media accounts, update your website and “About” bio to include the event link.

Free Worksheet: The 10-Week Social Media Event Promotion Plan

If you’re adjusting your profile and header photos you’ll want to make sure your images are high res and scaled properly. Here are the dimensions for each core platform, all in one place:


  • Profile photo: 170×170 pixels on computers and 128×128 pixels on smartphones
  • Cover photo: 820x 312 pixels on computers and 640×360 pixels on smartphones


  • Profile photo: 400×400 pixels
  • Header photo: 1500×500 pixels


  • Profile photo: 110×110 pixels

8. Doing Too Much All at Once

Don’t stretch yourself too thin. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to social media, and there’s no reason you need to have a profile on every network if it simply doesn’t work for your nonprofit. Similarly, you don’t have to post every day if it’s not sustainable. Focus on small, strategic actions that you can stick to consistently.

If you’re stretched, one strategy that can help is to identify which channels are your top two performers and put all energy behind them. Put the others on the back burner until you can give them their time to shine.

Free Download: The Nonprofit Digital Marketing Checklist

One final note: Always have a plan. Knowing what you’re posting, when you’re posting it takes a lot of the decision fatigue out of your strategy and can help avoid these common social media mistakes, whether you’re managing one account or five. If you’d like more best practices for social media, be sure to download our guide below. You can do this!

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