As any marketing manager will tell you, a robust social media presence is essential to nonprofit success. After all, it is much easier to reach people via Facebook or Twitter than it is to cold call your way through a phone book.

And analytics tell us that this strategy is working. A picture of a nonprofit event earns 50 likes. Your announcement of a new fundraising event is retweeted 67 times. And after all is said and done, the boost to your nonprofit is negligible.

The theory behind marketing is that increased visibility equals increased desire to consume. In a nonprofit’s case, this means a drive to donate. But getting people to give up their money for a theoretical product like donating is much harder than it sounds. At the end of the day, likes don’t pay for anything.

So how can a nonprofit successfully get armchair activists out of their seats?

First, an engaging message is needed to drive interest. With social media being checked at all times during the day, it may seem that your message is being digested. Instead, it’s quickly looked over at a bus stop, in a meeting or even while driving. Without a meaningful message, your nonprofit’s voice gets lost in a sea of other attention-grabbers.

Second, keep it simple. It seems like easy advice, but every new campaign starts as a little thought and can quickly blow out of proportion. What began as a simple flyer handout now involves a hot air balloon, an army of 30 volunteers and the best quality paper on the planet. That sort of spending makes no sense for a paper campaign, and a convoluted social media request is equally ineffective.

What makes a great social campaign is a clear direction. What do I do? Who am I helping? Where do I go to help? This simple strategy is the reason that websites like Kickstarter.com are so successful. An individual simply says, “I am making this for this reason. I need $XX to make it happen. If you donate, you get a prize.”

Brilliant. Effective. It taps into latent philanthropic urges without requiring people to go farther than their desk.

To increase volunteers, showcase the ones you already have. Run a weekly Facebook bio of one of your main helpers and tell a bit about what he or she does. People are busy, and sometimes volunteering can seem overwhelming when it’s much easier to go home and watch TV. By telling potential activists that you don’t need a daily commitment, you make it much more likely that an individual or even a business will reach out.

Finally, you simply need to ask. An informative social media presence is great. It tells the world your nonprofit’s story. But if you never ask for what you need, it will never appear. Running a new event and need helpers? Post it on your wall complete with times and see who shows up. Need new technology for your office? Create a wish list on Amazon and share it with your digital community.

These strategies won’t get every Facebook fan or Twitter user to do more than share your pages. But sometimes that single share or retweet is all you need to reach the next great donor.

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