User-Generated Content Marketing for Nonprofits

What is user-generated content?

It’s content created by your biggest advocates and posted on their personal social accounts. It could be photos, videos, or stories that show and support the happenings in your organization.

Why would you want user-generated content?

Even if you have the best photography team ever (and most of us don’t have that resource), they can’t be everywhere. User-generated content is gold for any nonprofit. There are many great ways to use it to bring in new people and showcase what your organization is doing. Here are some reasons you would want user-generated content:

It tells your story.

What better way is there for others to see what your organization is doing than to see it in action? Every organization is about the people, so let people tell your story, then share it for all to see.

It adds a human element.

Again, an organization is all about the people. Your volunteers, your team, and your advocates are your organization. People like to see what other people are doing. Those smiling faces and people building a community around your cause are priceless.

A different perspective.

The people volunteering and supporting your organization will see things, experience moments, and have perspectives you never will. You can show people actively involved, adding it to your ongoing story.

How should nonprofits encourage people to create and share content?

The simple answer to this question is to ask for it, like it, and share it.


The detailed answer to this question is a little more involved, but will make it easy for people if you do a few simple things.

Be where your people are.

What social platforms are you using? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to be on every social platform. That’s near impossible and you wouldn’t be able to do it well. It is good to be on the main social platforms though. People can’t tag you on a post if you’re not on their choice of social media.

I love and mostly use Instagram. I try to tag any brand, business, or organization related to my media, but if I can’t find you, I post without it. It’s a missed opportunity.


You increase your chances by 100% of getting something you ask for. Encourage people to share by asking them to share. “We would love to see your photos!”

Use a common handle on all social platforms.

Yes, I realize this is very difficult; in some cases impossible, especially if you have a common organization name. Having one easy to remember handle, preferably without underscores, is ideal. It’s much easier to promote and market that way.

Use a unique hashtag.

This will make it easy to find shared content, especially on Twitter and Instagram. This is especially handy if your social handles are different. Using something unique and easy to remember will make it easy for people to share and easy for you to find.

Ask your team to share.

If you’re running a nonprofit, your team members are your strongest advocates. They know more about what you’re doing and your mission than anyone else. Ask them to share posts on social platforms they use regularly.

Ask volunteers to share.

This is a great resource, as volunteers are your biggest advocates and influencers. If they’re posting, you can share their posts and their followers will see the posts too.

Have a contest.

Depending on the type of nonprofit, this could be a good idea. Contests with giveaways can come across gimmicky for a nonprofit. Be sure any photo or video contest is in line with your mission and ties is with the good you’re doing. Running a contest for the best photo getting a shout out is simple and all you may need. Most people already have an iPad anyway.

Use a theme.

anns-letter-jacket-donated to Project Warm UsUse a theme to encourage people to take photos of what you would like to see. This is a great way to see your organization through the eyes of your followers.

One nonprofit collecting warm items for the homeless asked people to photograph a donated item that was hard to part with. They got some great items that had a story behind them to share, encouraging others to give. One person donated a letter jacket from high school. After posting that, several letter jackets came in. As it turns out, many people had those in storage and decided there’s a better use for them.

Utilize offline media.

If you have banners or any traditional print materials, it’s a great idea to include your social handles and / or hashtag. If people see those frequently, they’re more apt to tag you on a post or check-in. I like to add this info on promotional items too such as reusable shopping bags, t-shirts, and anything I can find to add it to.

Social links from your website.

This seems like a no-brainer, but there are many sites that either don’t have social links in a prominent location, or have them at all. Your website is the front door to your organization. I’d challenge you to find anyone new to your organization that didn’t find you, or at least check you out by visiting your website first.

How do you find and use the content?

Now that people are sharing lots of great content, how do you find it? How do you use it effectively to promote your mission and vision?

Look for content tagged on all social accounts.

Look on each social platform you’re on to see what people have tagged you on. This is usually in the notifications or news feeds.

Social listening via hashtag.

If you use a hashtag, search your hashtag on applicable social platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. If people don’t know your social handle or know a hashtag, most people will hashtag using your organization name. Always check for your name regularly.

Share and forward.

This is the easiest way to spread the love. Share on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, pin on Pinterest, regram (requires a third-party app) on Instagram.

Ask permission to repost and give credit.

If you want to take someone else’s media and repost it on your accounts, ask permission to use the photo or video. Then, be sure to tag the person, giving them credit for the media.

Thank You Nonprofit Social MediaThank people for sharing.

Thanking people for sharing media will show appreciation and encourage them to post more. When organizations take the time to recognize people for supporting them, that goes a really long way for getting future content.

Follow backs.

Following people that follow you shows that you see them. It also places their media in your news feeds, thus making it easier for you to find.

User-generated content is a valuable resource that doesn’t really cost anything more than your time to use. If you have ideas that have worked for your nonprofit or you have any success stories from using the concepts here, please share in the comments below. (See what I did there?)

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