Our small charities guide to grassroots social media is designed to help you build a strategy that will energise and grow your local supporter base.
Eroding the top-down approach to charity digital marketing, grassroots social media movements offer the potential to connect to causes from the bottom-up. Less often used in the charity digital space, a top-down approach to marketing focuses on the head honcho – top leaders and their personalities are used to generate a cult following.
For small charities, this approach is less prevalent as charitable causes and good deeds outweigh personality and wit – there aren’t many Elon Musks in the charity world.
For smaller charities, grassroots social media movements offer the perfect way to scale up digital strategy and local efforts.
Why now for digital grassroots movements?
Advances in charity digital have made the environment ripe for localised action. UK grassroots movements have had a long history, since the Chartists in the 1800s. Mainly a working-class movement, the Chartists went door-to-door collecting signatures for the right to vote. Charities no longer have to go door-to-door campaigning for signatures – digital marketing and communications have changed the way people join causes.
Big data has also brought supporters separated by distance together. Big data collection across social media platforms Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram have made it easier for charity digital leaders to check in on niche topics and audiences. Essentially, charity marketing and communications can hone in on a subset of audiences based on geography, group membership, followers/followings, and engagement. For grassroots movements, local events play an important part of supporter engagement.
How to start a social media grassroots movement
Charities large and small can start social media grassroots movements. Size is not an issue – rather, targeting the right audience is key. This will mean choosing the right apps. Here is a step-by-step guide to sparking a charity digital social media movement.
Charity digital leaders looking to start their viral digital campaign need to think about what issue needs to be highlighted. Many viral digital charity campaigns started small and specific. Primed to go viral, registered charity BeautyBanks has started small – with around 25,000 followers the charity’s Instagram is basic but powerful; equally the point is simple. The charity connects donors with bulk retailer Easho to purchase beauty and hygiene products to help those living in poverty.
What can charities learn? - Know your supporter base. You’ll need to know who they are, where you can reach them, and what kind of content they will react to. A partnership with a well-known brand can be a successful way of doing this. But so can a well-targeted appeal to people who share similar values. Check out our case study of how Xmas leaver dinners used Social Media to energise a supporter base for an example of a charity successfully using grassroots social media to energise their supporter base.
What tools can charities use? - For charity digital leaders looking for new ideas, Google Trends can be helpful in taking the first step to action. This tool analyses top search results across various regions and languages.
Strong views have also helped non-profit grassroots movements sprout across the UK. For charity digital leaders looking for ideas, don’t shy from controversy. In fact, the opposite may be true – many of the most successful grassroots movements have come from taking a stand as a way to increase supporter engagement.
Anti-fracking group Frack Off is a network of local activists across the UK coming together to protests at fracking sites. The grassroots movement has a network across the country and has gone viral – picking up big-name charity support in the meantime. Charities Friends of the Earth, the Country Side Charity and Greenpeace all joined up to rally local citizens through social media, localised video footage, online forums, and protests. The strong stance has been rewarded – England has put a moratorium of further fracking until notice.
What can charities learn? - Your supporters identify with you because you share the same values. Use social media to amplify these values - not to dilute them.
What tools can charities use? - For more ‘extreme’ or niche movements, charity leaders can turn to sites like MeetUp, Care2, and others to link up with like-minded people. You can also check out our guide to some of these more ’niche’ social media platforms.
Charity digital grassroots movements can also empower volunteers and networks not only to fundraise, but to join the movement. Enabling supporters to download materials so they can campaign on your behalf is a powerful way to increase your charity digital movement.
In our recent feature, The Gold from the Stone Foundation distributes how-to guides for hosting local events on behalf of the charity. By supporting volunteers and activists to be part of the action, charity social media grassroots movements can spread with little cost implications.
What can charities learn? - Look for a meaningful connection over a wide range of less meaningful interactions. A like or share is great because they draw attention to your cause. But if you’re looking to attract volunteers, then you’ll need a more actionable campaign.
What tools can charities use? - For the Xmas Leavers Dinners, Twitter played an important role in sharing the message. Find out how at the link below.
For charity digital leaders looking to link up with similar causes, social media grassroots can also offer opportunities for leaders to engage with local events. #CookForSyria, the volunteer-led local dinner party was started by four friends hosting in London and Bristol to support their charity the Hands Up Foundation. Events can be hosted by individuals or celebrity chefs, empowering supporters to do what they can. Supporters can directly engage with the mission, by checking what they will need to host an event and how they can be supported.
What can charities learn? - Don’t be afraid to take risks. You’re more likely to connect with someone by putting yourself out there and expressing your charity’s verve and personality than by posting anodyne social content that resembles everything else in their feed. Being bold and cutting through the noise doesn’t cost a penny more.
What tools can charities use? - For smaller charities thinking of doing something outside of the box, grassroots movements are a perfect opportunity to try something new – hosting a supper club for supporters or employees can be a way of generating new social media content aligned with your digital strategy. Common platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can allow you to show your organisation’s planning. For charities looking to engage a younger audience, check out some of our coverage of TikTok.
Naturally, social media grassroots movements need to be shareable. For charity digital leaders implementing the movement – make it easy! Social media management tools and platforms can help share links, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook postings. Many social media management platforms even come at little to no cost for small charities.
What can charities learn? - Success is in the planning! Identify your targets, and do some market research to help you find the best platform for engaging them. Consider consulting a social media expert - you may already have one in your supporter base! Some charities are beginning to seek out digital professionals to volunteer their time and expertise to support good causes. Put the call out, the worst that can happen is no-one replies.
What tools can charities use? - For charities with a fundraising element in their campaign – crowdfunding can also enhance the power of the movement. For an example of small and local charities making use of grassroots social media, check out our case study of how Xmas leaver dinners used social media to energise a supporter base.
If you’re unsure which platform is right for your charity, then check out our guide to the best fundraising platforms for charities.
We have also offered guidance for the best new social media platforms for charities, as well as offering guidance on the best niche social media platforms for those charities that know exactly who their supporters are.