Working with a non-profit is something every individual must do at least once in their career – either professionally or as a volunteer. There is so much you learn about humanity, love, support, selfless service and camaraderie. There is also so much content, so many stories readily available in a non-profit, something that a social media marketer dreams of.

There are numerous challenges as well, such as working with constrained budgets, lesser scope for experimentation, wearing multiple hats, short deadlines and higher accountability.

My stint with a non-profit included social media management. However, my work as a part-time communications consultant kept my hands full and I could not do as much as I wanted on social media. Even so, some thoughts would rise up in my mind repeatedly while managing the platforms.

I offer these as tips that I believe can help a non-profit achieve more through its social media presence.

Tip 1: Equip the field staff with digital tools.

A non-profit’s customers are its donors. The donors want to see how their hard-earned money is being spent by the organisation and the difference their contribution is making. Since the major work with the service recipients is done in rural or remote areas, the marketing teams at the headquarters do not get direct access to the many stories of change.

For these to surface, field staff must be equipped with the right digital tools such as a basic HD digital camera and smartphone to capture videos and photos, annotations, note-keeping and audio recordings.

 Tip 2: Train the field staff.

It’s important to train the field staff on the digital tools provided. But more importantly, it’s important to train staff on their role in the “marketing” bigger picture.

In fact, every employee of an organisation should be equipped to market his or her organisation, to some extent. For a non-profit, it is even more important for individuals at the ground level to understand the importance of the stories they capture and the role these stories play in raising funds for the cause.

Without these real and impactful stories, your social media presence will lack emotion. Without touching hearts, you cannot hope to raise funds from individuals. Unless the field staff appreciate the value of reporting stories, they will not take time out from their packed schedules and make the effort. Remember, non-profits are often under-staffed and people serving in rural areas don’t have it easy in any way. Furthermore, work isn’t as process oriented.

Make it easier for them by giving them templates for interviews, video recordings, permission forms, etc. Provide guidelines to get better narratives on video and audio, useful pictures and information.

Train the staff on using email as a communication channel versus WhatsApp for better quality of multimedia. Without incentives, education and directives from the top, people will only use the channel that seems more convenient.

Tip 3: Always be on the lookout for marketing opportunities.

Social media’s role is to also give people a peek into an organisation’s culture, work, people and environment.

Any internal celebration, employee story, service recipient story, infrastructural change, process improvement, news around the cause or organisation or domain, award or media mention – all are marketing opportunities.

Everything that happens in a non-profit is possible because of donor funds. Therefore, when an organisation is recognised or has improved itself to better serve people, it’s a reason to share the information with donors and other stakeholders.

Involve people across teams, create a sense of participation, and publicly acknowledge the efforts of employees in making your social media presence more impactful.

 Tip 4: Use free and paid tools for effective management.

Non-profits will typically have small teams (with respect to the amount of work) wearing multiple hats. As a result, you may run out of rope when it comes to doling out roles for social media marketing. It’s a safer bet to use tools – free or paid (include them in the budget) – to get tasks done.

Buffer or Hootsuite have been my choices for social media scheduling. I’ve used Later and Repost for Instagram. Canva for image creation. Keep in mind, free tools come with limitations.

Google Analytics and Google Data Studio are free tools that you can use to track social media marketing performance and create and schedule reports.

Tip 5: Educate on privacy concerns. 

While many non-profits educate their staff on privacy concerns, social media marketers need to be doubly careful as the wrong communication can turn ugly, very quickly, on a public platform. It’s important to get written permission from the service recipients or the caregiver, if he or she is a minor, before any recording in any form and then using it for marketing purpose including social media.

If service recipients are hesitant about sharing their names and other personally identifiable information in the story, the specifics can be changed with a disclaimer. Audio can also be shared instead of video. Fuzzing out faces is also an option when the service recipient is willing to share their story in person but not show their face.

Marketing needs must not supersede the right to privacy at any time. Even if a service recipient gives permission, the content should be used with sensitivity and care.

Social media is a powerful tool for non-profits to get visibility, reach out to influencers, increase reach and get leads for donors, partners, and more. Having a strategy and an implementation mechanism in place will help non-profits make the most of their social media assets.