Choosing the best networks for your nonprofit

publication date: Apr 16, 2013
author/source: Karen Luttrell

For small nonprofits, keeping up with the ever-expanding array of social media services can be daunting.  Better to choose a few networks, and use those networks well.  To choose, you need to know who you’re trying to reach and why.Karen Luttrell photo

It also helps to understand user demographics and the strengths of each social network.  Thoughts on six major networks to consider in your strategy follow.


Facebook is the most effective social networking site to get the word out about a charity, according to a recent survey of social media users.

This network offers a large audience – 67% of Internet users are on Facebook. It’s also one of the most-used social networks for fundraising, particularly individual giving and event fundraising. The large audience, easy content sharing, and low-cost, targeted advertising options make Facebook a must for most.

Working to build awareness, to keep supporters engaged, or to build your online fundraising program? Consider building your presence with Facebook Pages.


YouTube boasts 1 billion unique visitors each month. That’s not surprising. Video is such a rich format for storytelling. It can make your donors proud to support you and to promote your organization.

But did you realize that YouTube has become the world’s second largest search engine? People search YouTube for answers. Type “how to end poverty” into the YouTube search bar and discover Bono and the World Bank President discussing the issue or a Google TechTalk about the role Silicon Valley has to play in ending poverty.

YouTube gives us the chance to experience speeches and events on our own schedule, at our own desk. That can be incredibly powerful for organizations building awareness of complex issues.

Look into the YouTube Nonprofit Program for additional functionality like a donate button and the ability to use call-to-action overlays in your videos.


Twitter has a much smaller user base than Facebook –just 16% of Internet users are on Twitter.  But it’s a great tool for driving traffic to your other online properties through links. It can also help you promote events and connect with journalists.

Twitter hasn’t been used for fundraising as much as Facebook, but it has potential. Use Twitter to drive traffic to your campaign pages or videos, or for corporate fundraising partnerships and cause marketing promotions.

If you’re including Twitter in your strategy, be sure you’re up to speed on how to use hashtags and Twitter chats.


Consider a LinkedIn company page if your nonprofit is large enough to focus on staff and volunteer recruitment. Coaching your board members to post their volunteer work on their profile will help you tap into their networks.  Professional associations are most likely to find LinkedIn useful, and they may benefit from running a LinkedIn group.


Pinterest has grown rapidly, with 15% of Internet users now on Pinterest. It’s popular with adults under 50, particularly women. says it’s one of the top 3 networks for referring traffic back to websites.

Pinterest has special potential for organizations with meaningful visuals. An animal shelter might use Pinterest to showcase pets for adoption. Or you might use Pinterest boards to promote the products in your cause marketing program during an awareness month.


Google+ doesn’t have enough users to be a first choice for small nonprofits. But keep your eye on the communities feature Google rolled out late last year. Also, some nonprofits are making good use of Google+ Hangouts. TechSoup Canada hosts educational meetups to help nonprofits explore technology. They use hangouts to connect people who can’t attend in person.

There’s a network to help, whether your focus is awareness, donor retention, individual giving, cause marketing, or recruitment. Just don’t pick too many goals, or networks, to tackle at once.

Still not sure which networks to use? If you prefer to keep it simple, and humorous, use this classic flowchart to decide where to post your status updates.

Karen Luttrell helps charities raise more money, find more volunteers, and fill programs using strategic communications and inspiring writing. She has been leading nonprofit digital marketing initiatives for 13 years. She volunteers as VP Communications for the Professional Writers Association of Canada Toronto Chapter and manages their social media.

For more information, email Karen or visit

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