ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 12:01pm
posted by
Isaac Kiehl,
Communications Coordinator,

When starting out with social media as a nonprofit, it can be a tricky and confusing process. It’s not like the for-profit sector where you have a goal to gain customers through deals and offering products/services. It’s about your cause.  You now have supporters, donors, partners, and those directly affiliated with your organization to think about and cater to. Besides a website, the musts of nonprofit social media include a Facebook page and Twitter account. They provide an easy way for others to show their affiliation and support while being able to directly engage with the nonprofit. Your cause and organizational updates are able to become clearer and more regular through your messaging. I personally began employment at my first nonprofit, ICAN, a year ago, and this is how I’ve been able to make my social media mark on the brand.

The Facebook and Twitter pages had already been set up, but they were scarcely used. I re-evaluated the mission and audience of the organization and found a healthy mix.  As I began to post on a daily basis, I started including real-time photos and posts about events, donation thank you’s, and basic organization updates. Eventually, I began adding in “behind the scenes” posts about staff to make our brand include more than just the faces of those we serve, but also those who were providing service. Within a year, both the Facebook and Twitter followers more than doubled, and engagement increased almost 300%. I was surprised at how easy it was to post real-time happenings and how the engagement increased. When we switched from having our Facebook posts being automatically tweeted verbatim on Twitter to a tailored message for both platforms, Twitter engagement increased as well. It’s been well worth the extra 30 seconds to post a message twice, but customized for each.

As these channels grew I knew we had the ability to create more messaging with media on YouTube. We have a camera and FlipCam (R.I.P.) that we use to record videos of events and presentations to our youth and highlight them on our channel.

Personally, I’ve been into Foursquare, and once they released brand pages, I immediately created one for the organization. ICAN only has one location and we don’t have “deals” to offer, but I was able to take our business partners and leave “tips” about them and their involvement in our organization, along with links back to our website and social media. This is a way to creatively use social media to your advantage, when you initially might not have thought it to be a tool for your brand.

I admit that everything is not running at 100%, because we do have Google Plus and Instagram accounts that are going almost untouched. We haven’t figured out the final messaging to use, but it’s just another opportunity to get creative. That’s what social media is about…using the various channels for something different and creative that brings a unique experience to your audience. There’s really nothing to lose! In a worst case scenario,  you might not get any engagement on a certain social media platform.  But, instead of letting that get you down, just focus on those social media channels that DO work, and you might be surprised at how much of an impact you can make!

Isaac Kiehl is Communications Coordinator at ICAN, a Chandler-based nonprofit youth program, and manages the ICAN website and social media. Isaac also composes all copy and design of print communications for the organization. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2011 with a BIS concentrated in Technical Communications and Film & Media Studies. Isaac also posts news, videos, photos and more at

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You make some nice points. So many of these tools are immediately associated with for-profit ventures, yet they can absolutely be beneficial for any non-profit -- you just have to be creative and find what fits. Great use of Foursquare!

First off, I'd like to start by saying, thanks for an awesome post!
I found your strategy of updating the already set up accounts interesting. The "behind the scenes" posts sound like something different and as a facebook/twitter follower of some organizations, the idea was refreshing. It is always nice to see the face behind the job that is being done.
I also really enjoyed the fact that you take the time to post individually on each account that ICAN holds. This is more personal in my opinion, and I think it really does help your fan base.
I would be curious to hear how you have gotten creative with the Instagram and Google+ accounts. If there are any updates, please share them!

This blog caught my attention because I recently became the social media intern for a nonprofit here in the Valley. I am a Nonprofit major at ASU, so I am thrilled to be employed by a 501(c)(3) organization, however, I am finding it very challenging to attract followers on platforms such as Facebook & Twitter. Seeing that you have had success in using social media to advocate for your organization, gives me hope,even if it took a years time. A 300% increase in engagement is amazing!!! If I have learned anything from this blog post it is that I need to have patience! Thus far I have been using social media to highlight donations, clients and volunteers to display the organizations appreciation. Prior to reading this I didn't see a reason for using Foursquare to promote the organization, but your post had changed my perspective. Thank you for sharing your expertise, it is much appreciated! :)

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