Why Social Media is Essential to Startup Nonprofits


by Mari Sapp

My life’s work is engaging others in a way that makes them feel human. I spent 10 years working in the nonprofit sector coordinating services for at-risk and vulnerable populations. These roles are essential to the vitality of the communities they serve.

Tax exempt nonprofits do the small-scale work of larger government entities in providing supplemental resources and person-oriented services designed to keep those facing personal crises like unemployment, hunger, and homelessness integrated within the community.

Community organizations that lack adequate funding, force leaders to choose what positions are essential to its daily operations.

As a small business owner and employee, I know how difficult it is operating with limited financial resources. I spent two years working for a small nonprofit stuck in startup phase for over 15 years – due to not having funding to scale up operations and strategically staff areas to drive its business strategy.

I failed to realize about the amount of work that went into operating a startup, coming from a fully structured and staffed organization with a hundred employees. I wore multiple hats, one being social media manager. I launched social platforms and developed content from ground zero. Fifty thousand dollars in social media fundraising later, a leader informed me that my role was not essential to the company.

Unfortunately, as I work more with nonprofits, I am finding this to be a shared sentiment. Startups focus solely on funneling all their financial resources into production. It is one thing to lack staff support but another to devalue work benefitting the organization then claiming is not essential to the business goals of the company.

Start-up nonprofits are underperforming because they are not acknowledging that social media is essential to their business strategy. Your social media’s purpose is to generate money through an online community of loyal supporters that will continue to invest in your work. Don’t get me wrong, in-kind donations are great and can help support production goals, but funding is going to help you realize your vision.

The growth and overall health of your organization relies heavily on community engagement, whether it is online or in person. No matter what area of nonprofit service I have worked in over the years, one reaction remains the same: Community members declaring, “I didn’t know this service existed.”

Nowadays, it is incomprehensible that community organizations providing vital supportive services remain hidden from the very individuals they promise to serve.

According to Sprout Social, there are now close to 4 billion total social media users across all platforms with adults spending over 95 minutes a day using social media.


There are three main reasons why social media is essential to your nonprofit:


  1. Information sharing

  2. Fundraising

  3. Volunteer advocacy


One of the primary goals of social media is creating brand ambassadors who evangelize your mission. The work you do in the community draws people to your organization. Community members will always inquire about social platforms because while they are standing in line to receive resources, they are online checking out your pages and sharing the information. This helps increase your brand awareness amongst your target audience.

Your target audience is key in prioritizing your resources and gaining a better return on your investment. Investors want to see the impact you are having on key stakeholders. They not only want to visually see the work you are doing but also the data related to your work. Social media is there to communicate valuable information about your organization that helps to establish a recurring donor base.

Finally, social media should be highlighting the work of volunteers who are the lifeblood of your organization. Volunteers save organizations tons of money, especially when resources are not available to fully staff. They help deliver your organizations goods or services to the community and are critical in driving your mission.

Volunteers are advocates for your cause, helping to bring people from different walks of life into your social network that you otherwise wouldn’t reach.

Nonprofits desiring to grow their operations and meet business goals need to invest more effort into developing their social media to help engage supporters, increase brand awareness, and generate income. Nobody gets a Ph.D. in social media. You do not need a full staff or spend thousands of dollars towards marketing to deliver quality content. There are platforms available to nonprofits to help support your social media strategy like Canva Pro, which is free to any tax-exempt organization – as well as volunteer platforms that offer free expert assistance in completing important projects like Catchafire, Taproot Foundation, and VolunteerMatch. Investing in your social media is the gift that keeps on giving. The more investment in areas that reap a return, the less individual work you will have to do in the future.




Mari Sapp is a brand narrator and owner of EDGI Media a brand narration and storytelling space for solo and entrepreneurs committed to the exploration of the customer journey. She strives to help small business owners understand the basics of branding while helping them build a key messaging framework for their business. EDGI specializes is creating brand narratives for small business websites, social platforms, and marketing materials.

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