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Twitter for Nonprofits: Does Your Organization Really Need to Tweet?

Author: Tatiana Morand
January 15, 2020
🕑 10 min read

Your Facebook page is thriving, and you’re having a surprising amount of success engaging with members and supporters on LinkedIn.

You can’t help but wonder: is it time to jump on the Twitter train?

Twitter is often called the modern public square. It’s a space where people and organizations voice their opinions and views, and discuss and debate the most pressing issues of our day. Twitter users use the platform for breaking news and to see real-time reactions from public figures, influencers, and politicians.

For these reasons, Twitter is the perfect space for nonprofits to advocate for issues about their mission, to be a leading voice in their industry, and to build and cultivate a community. Here are a few things Twitter will allow nonprofits to do:

  • Reach new audiences in your sector
  • Keep up-to-date and contribute to the discussion of the latest news and events in your area of work
  • Build relationships with experts and like-minded organizations in your field
  • Share research and your organization’s activities with your supporters instantly

However, it won’t help meet everyone’s objectives or audience.

And if you’ve already built a strong community elsewhere, it may not be worth diluting your brand to build one on another platform.

So, in this post, I’m going to cover what you should consider before managing a Twitter for your nonprofit as well as sharing perspectives from real nonprofits who use it for their organization. We’ll explore:

How to Understand if Twitter will Support Your Social Media Strategy

Let’s dig a bit deeper to see if Twitter will help your organization’s broader goals.

(But a quick reminder: before you start, just make sure you have a solid social media strategy in place before you can decide if this social network is right for your organization.)

Ask yourself these questions before you begin to put any effort into Twitter:

1. What are your goals?

If your marketing and social media goals include brand awareness, public awareness on an issue, and thought leadership, Twitter is the platform for you.

It’s the easiest place to have ongoing conversations with your supporters and fellow advocates, as well as establishing key staff in your organization as thought leaders in your field.

2. What does your organization do?

No matter what your field or industry is, you will find thought leaders and users who care deeply about your issue on Twitter. However, two types of organizations will find Twitter to be particularly useful:

  • Advocacy-based organizations do well on Twitter since this is a platform that attracts lively debate and discussion. It’s a great space to inform audiences on your issue and mobilize supporters to act. “Our intent is to use Twitter as a gathering space between local elected officials, the media that cover them and the policy professionals trying to advance relevant ideas,” said Greg Brooks, president of Better Cities Project. “We don’t care about having a bazillion followers; we want a small community of the right people, and we’re lucky enough that two of the three legs of the stool, so to speak (the elected officials and the media) are broadly addicted to the platform. Eventually, that means moving part of the community off-platform — we know mayors reach out to other mayors for advice, for example, and also know that a lot of those conversations can’t/shouldn’t take place on Twitter.”

  • Research-based organizations also do very well on Twitter, since it’s often the go-to source for news.

3. Who is your audience?

Every successful social media strategy defines the audience it’s trying to reach.

And if some of your key audiences are thought leaders, elected officials, or journalists, Twitter is an excellent platform for you. These audiences flock to Twitter to be in on the latest news and conversations.

“We have built up a good following with local bloggers who are great at retweeting our messages. We also use twitter for advocacy and interacting with elected officials. We always see a big bump during disaster relief efforts as well,” said Erika Spence, Mission Storyteller at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

And who else uses Twitter? Pew Research released data revealing that Twitter users in the U.S. are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated, and have higher incomes than overall U.S. adults. It also found that individuals who are among the top 10% most active tweeters are more likely to be women and more likely to tweet about politics. If these sound like your audience profiles, then Twitter is the place to reach them.

“It can be a very helpful tool in increasing your reach and distributing your message,” said Brianne Deerwester, Communications Coordinator at Electrical Safety Foundation International.

“ESFI uses Twitter to engage with electric companies, electric cooperatives, insurance companies, homeowners, renters, and more to spread our message of safety to those users and their networks. We really find it to be effective in targeting those individuals who then share our content with their networks, growing awareness of ESFI and our safety materials.”

4. Do you have a social media budget?

It’s no secret that it’s getting harder and harder for nonprofits to reach audiences on social media organically. If you have a budget set aside to boost social media posts or create ads, you may want to know that you will get good bang for your buck on Twitter.

According to Twitter for Business, Twitter users spend 26% more time with ads than other social media users, and Twitter ads with video are 50% cheaper in cost-per-engagement.

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Get The Most Out of Twitter

If you’re new to Twitter, you may be overwhelmed to look at your empty feed. There is plenty of content that you can share to reach and engage with your Twitter audience.

  • Share news and timely content. Remember,56% of Twitter users use the platform to get their news, much higher than any other social network.

  • Share videos. It’s no secret that video is king on just about every social media platform. Tweets with video get 10x the engagement, and watching video is the number 3 reason people use Twitter.
  • Make your tweets retweetable. Share valuable links and media, tag people you want to take part in a conversation, and ask for retweets.
  • Be interactive. Live tweet at an event or conference, ask questions, and take part in Twitter chats. “It’s one of my favorite platforms, personally and with the org account I manage. The live chats (planned or spontaneously joining in) tend to assist with bringing in new followers and, as others mentioned, jumping into timely discussions that haven’t necessarily reached other platforms yet,” said Fetesha Downs, Manager of Digital Brand Experience at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.
  • Post personable content. Twitter is a fairly informal social network. Don’t be afraid to use humor, like sharing memes and gifs.

And if you want to make sure you’re staying on top of social media, you can check out the tools we recommend here.

Know Twitter Best Practices

Once you have your content ideas in place, here are a few best practices to keep in mind to perform well on Twitter.

  • Tweet frequently. According to Pew Research, the more you tweet, the more engagement you will get. It found that the most active accounts have 70 times as many favorites and six times as many accounts followed.
  • Use hashtags. Tweets with hashtags get 100% more engagement, so be sure to use one to two relevant hashtags with your posts.
  • Follow leaders in your industry, and don’t forget to follow these nonprofit experts. Twitter is all about thought leadership. When you follow leaders, you not only will be able to stay on top of the latest in your field, you will introduce your organization to leading voices in your industry.
  • Create Twitter lists. Lists are an underused but incredibly helpful feature that will allow you to segment Twitter accounts into different feeds. Twitter lists are particularly useful if your organization has many areas of work.

Public Health Solutions uses this feature very well. You can see from their lists that they have segmented key areas and audiences, like “Public Health Influencers,” “Health Research,” “Food and Nutrition,” and even have a list for staff Twitter users.

Three Reasons Not To Worry About Using Twitter

If this post leaves you more overwhelmed than excited to start a Twitter account for your organization, that’s okay too — you don’t have to, we promise!

Here are three important reasons to focus your social media efforts elsewhere.

If you won’t reach your goals on Twitter and you are already performing well on other platforms

Twitter is not a promotional platform. It is a conversation-focused network to share and interact with news as it breaks. Take the time to understand if your goals and audiences will align with the appropriate goals and audiences we outlined earlier in this post.

If you have already built an engaged community and are checking off your marketing goals on other platforms, kudos to you! Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t worry about mastering another social media platform.

“I don’t see much engagement with Twitter for us, unless I’ve strategically tagged another group or company. As already said, you have to put the work in and engage with other people/orgs. I notice that our partners don’t always tag us in tweets and that is frustrating. I am also learning to ask directly for our partners to collaborate on posts and to alert them to when they are happening. We get more engagement on Facebook so that is where I put my effort,” said Lisa Hershey Zurer, Program Director for Jewish Engagement and Community Outreach at Yachad.

If you have limited resources

Twitter is an incredibly demanding platform, requiring constant vigilance. If you are not an active user, your infrequent messages will easily get lost. If you have a small team that does not have the bandwidth to manage a highly engaging platform, then it is not a good time to start an account.

If you just want to have a presence but not engage… that’s fine too

“We have an account but put zero effort into it, and I don’t see us focusing on it at all,” said Andrew MacDonald, Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at Opportunity International Canada. “It’s more there to just keep an ear to the ground should someone mention us (then retweet, like, etc).”

Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing, agrees. “The only benefit from having a semi-active Twitter account is looking more legitimate to onlookers who are already on your site and checking out your accounts, as well as being able to interact with individuals who already support you or who you want to start a relationship with.”

Does that sound like what you’re doing as well?

If so, no need to feel bad — you’re not alone. There’s a lot of pressure to be on every social media platform out there, but it’s perfectly fine to do so simply for the purpose of keeping an eye out rather than actively developing a strategy for it.

Five Organizations Using Twitter Really Well

If you do want to maintain a Twitter presence, here are a few nonprofits who are really getting the most out of the platform to inspire you.

1. is an organization dedicated to introducing students, especially girls and people of color, to computer science. Its Twitter account is full of video and images from the field, they tag partners frequently, and use plenty of hashtags. They engage with their partners who mention them by retweeting conversations they are tagged in.

2. Movember

Movember is a charity that tackles men’s health with a sense of humor. They use lighthearted content to amplify an important message. They can use a ton of user-generated content, as their biggest campaign is encouraging men to grow a mustache in November to raise awareness about men’s health.

Movember USA

3. Amnesty International

Amnesty International is one of the most well-known human rights organizations. As an advocacy organization, it’s no surprise that it’s thriving on Twitter. They post bold and unapologetic messages, share breaking news, engage in trending conversation, and often post high-quality videos about their issues.

 amnesty International

4. Salud America

Salud America is a public health organization focusing on Latino health. They partner with organizations to host wildly popular weekly health chats on Latino health issues, called #SaudTues. Its Tweetchats have an average of more than 8 million impressions in just one hour each week.

Salud America


ARROW is an organization that champions women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. They promote their branded hashtag “#SRHR4All” throughout their posts. They share breaking news on women’s sexual and reproductive health, and have consistent calls to action. They also effectively livetweet at events.


Twitter can be a powerful platform to foster thought leadership, advocate on your issue, and build a highly engaged community.

If that sounds like it’s in line with your organization’s goals, it may quickly become your favorite social media network.

But if your audience isn’t on it, or if you’ve already devoted enough energy to other platforms, then I’d recommend giving it a pass.

What’s your opinion on Twitter? Let me know in the comments (or tweet @WildApricot to tell me there!).

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