Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.

Nonprofit social media benchmarks 2021

Nonprofit social media benchmarks 2021

In 2021, we expect to see the digital landscape continue to change as our ways of communication and connection settle back into a new normal. For that reason, we can expect social media assume an even more central role in nonprofits' ability to build, engage, and leverage their communities.

Between April and July 2020, TechSoup, in partnership with the digital marketing and technology agency Tapp Network, built its first Nonprofit Digital Marketing Benchmark Survey. The goal was to gather data on how nonprofits were responding to dramatic changes in the marketing landscape and provide helpful insights and recommendations.

From paid advertising and email marketing to social media and content, we've uncovered data your nonprofit can use to measure its digital marketing efforts. In this first installment of what will be a four-part series, we'll take a look at some key insights in the area of social media practice.

Social Media Benchmarks

Social media plays a crucial role in your organization's ability to build a narrative, activate its member base, and build personal relationships. When tied in with your content marketing, it can be a powerful tool for finding new audiences aligned with your organization's mission. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we hear from nonprofits, followed by some relevant data and best practices we suggest.

How often should I post? This question is asked almost every time the topic of social media comes up, and it's definitely an important one. Our data showed that 34 percent of nonprofits post once or twice a week, while 48 percent post three or more times a week.

So what is the right answer for your organization? It depends on your data. Benchmarking helps you understand that posting once a week might be limiting your exposure to your audiences compared to other organizations. But it's more important to test how your posts are performing. Start by creating a content calendar that allows you to monitor when your posts see the most traffic and adjust the frequency of and times at which you post.

Here's a great example from the social media scheduling software Agorapulse. It tracks every post and the level of engagement to create a visual calendar of when your followers are more active with respect to your content.

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What should I be posting about? It can be challenging to understand exactly what an organization should be posting on social media, so we decided to ask. In our sample, 61 percent of surveyed nonprofits said their primary topic was "organizational "announcements," while 25 percent stated they mostly post "informational" content.

When it comes to the right balance, there's a tried-and-true rule that many marketers follow. According to the 80/20 rule, 80 percent of your social media posts should inform, educate, and entertain your audience, while only 20 percent should directly promote your organization. Armed with this rule of thumb, and depending on the current approach at your nonprofit, you may want to consider developing more content that directly speaks to your audience's needs and interests.

[Ill. 1.1]

Should I use Facebook fundraising? With so many options, we have all wondered whether Facebook is a good platform for fundraising. As it turns out, 57 percent of survey respondents who use Facebook to fundraise reported their fundraising efforts to be "somewhat" to "extremely" successful, while 17 percent reported that their efforts were "not successful at al," and 26 percent said "not very successful."

In today's digital world, breaking through the noise of social media entails harnessing the first-person narratives and storytelling of those who believe in your mission. And one way to do that is to give your supporters the opportunity to share why your mission is important to them.

Using a platform like Facebook makes it easy for individuals to share their stories and make and appeal to friends and family for support. And leveraging a more personalized approach like this often results in a stronger and more compelling case for others to support your mission.

3 Best Practices for Nonprofit Social Media

Based on our findings, here are three best social media practices we believe will create the most impact for your nonprofit:

1. Avoid content fatigue. Diversifying the types of content you post within a thirty-day period can help increase your overall engagement. Avoid posting the same type of content, like an invite to an event or concert, a request for donations, impact video, and so on.

At Tapp, we use something called "content buckets" to avoid this issue. In our content calendars, we identify the type of content we're creating to ensure that we have a diverse use of content types to avoid this issue. Here are some examples.

  • Video
  • Quizzes
  • Polls
  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Related national news

2. Schedule your posts ahead of time. Take the time and build your content ahead of time. Map out at least two weeks' worth of copy and graphics and a scheduling platform (HootSuite or Agorapulse) to automate your posting. This will save your organization time and money. A benefit to using these platforms is the ability to monitor how engaged your followers are for each post.

3. Engage and respond to your audiences regularly.

When you post something, you're starting a conversation. It's important to consistently reply and engage with your followers who took the time to make a comment or share your posts. This will help with building and maintaining the relationships you've already built on your social media platforms. 

While social media is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, it's only a piece of the whole. Be sure to download our 2020-2021 Nonprofit Marketing Benchmark Report to get all the insights you need to build a strong strategy for the year to come.

Witt Godden is director of strategic marketing at the Tapp Network, a purpose-driven marketing and technology agency.