Social Media continues to expand nonprofit outreach in dramatic ways. Consider that “47percent of Americans learn about [charitable] causes through social media and online channels” 1 An impressive percentage given that most social media platforms are barely ten years old!

post it note How have nonprofits gained this foothold in a saturated media market? The answer involves an alternative media market of private individuals interacting on Social Networks. In other words, by embedding their story in the social networks of others.

According to the recent Digital Persuasion report, 56 percent of those that support nonprofits on the Social Web confirm that compelling storytelling is what motivates them to take action on behalf of nonprofits.”

In addition a recent report from Forrester Research asserts that, “half of all Internet users ages 18 to 23, and 43 percent of users ages 24 to 32, use social networks as their go-to Internet discovery resource.” This means that social media drives website traffic!

How does storytelling translate to posting on social media?

Here are six Social Media tactics to effectively engage followers and motivate action on behalf of your cause:

1. First, identify and inspire your home-grown advocates to share their stories. Target your supporters who have large followings on social media (“key influencers”) who will spread your message further across their networks. These individuals don’t have to be big Hollywood movie stars. An authentic story will still impact a reader who, in turn, will share the post with others. Posts that consistently enable sharing will in time create large communities.

Ask a passionate board member, committed volunteer, or grateful program beneficiary, for example, to post on your social media platform. Don’t forget to solicit the insights of your staff members, too, including your CEO. The storyline should emphasize why these people care so much about your cause.

2. Link social media posts back to your website. When an advocate is telling a story the Facebook post can be a shortened version from a longer story on a website blog. The social media post acts as an emotional teaser for visiting your website.

Save The Children’s Facebook page has multiple people telling their stories such as:

The Beneficiary


The CEO on the road:


3. Share a link to a partner story. In the example below, the link is to a video on CNN and recognizes a Save The Children partner. Even if this means you’re taking followers away from your page, it’s still effective. I shared this story on my own Facebook page immediately after reading it! Because I shared the link, others will see the video and learn about Save The Children, exactly what we want to happen with social media posts.


4. Time your posts (or not). You want to make reading convenient for your audience. Here is a recent infographic from Social Caffeine with suggested posting times: Facebook – Between 1 and 4 p.m.; Pinterest – Saturday morning; Linked In – before or after business hours; Twitter – between 1 and 3 p.m. Even with these recommendations, however, it’s important for you to track when your posts have the most traction. Not all constituents and followers are the same. Get to know what works best for your online community.

5. Use video and photos as often as possible to enhance your story. This is a “must do” with every post. Regularly appoint photographers at your nonprofit (most people have some skills around picture-taking) and create a shared photo file for your staff and volunteers.

6. Keep posts relevant. For every story, weave in information that matters to a donor. Although compelling ”hooks” attract the reader, tell the “story within the story” – describe the need, actions taken, results and/or specific impact of raised funds.

As children, we all responded enthusiastically when invited to hear a story. Just the thought of hearing a story induces relaxation in children and adults alike. And, now we know that storytelling on social media also inspires supporters.

Begin with the story and create an emotional connection to your readers. If you need help with your nonprofit’s story, read Nonprofit Storytelling and You: 8 Tips by Pamela Grow.

Then, follow the six suggestions above to increase exposure and drive traffic to your website.

Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the nonprofit sector. For more resources, please see her blog:


1Please see “ The Power of One” and the “2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report” for more information.

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