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Social Media Listening for Non-Profits: A How-To Guide

Authors: Aleh Barysevich Aleh Barysevich
Posted Under: Social Media
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Social Media Listening for Non-Profits

For non-profit organizations, every marketing task can be a serious challenge. Many have limited budgets and small teams, but raising awareness about the causes and collecting donations takes a lot of work. Getting people to see the organization and trust it enough to donate their time or hard-earned money also takes great effort. In this post, I’ll explain how social media listening can help with all of that.

The existence of social media is a gift to nonprofits. Surely, it’s a gift to anyone, but in particular to companies with small budgets. We know that social media works well for nonprofits: 55% of people who engage with causes via social media are inspired to take further action, like donating money (68%), volunteering (53%), donating items (52%) or attending an event (43%). Plus, social media exposure is “free.”

55% of people who engage with causes via social media are inspired to take further action, like donating money (68%), volunteering (53%), donating items (52%) or attending an event (43%). Click To Tweet

Or at least it used to be “free.” With the algorithms evolving, less and less traffic is reaching business pages that don’t pay for social advertising. This means less awareness, fewer donations, and fewer volunteers.

While the majority of nonprofits have dedicated pages on social networks and do some social media marketing, in the year 2020, this is not enough. You have to either throw your money into social advertising or get creative.

Social listening is for the ones that choose to get creative. It’s not an obvious solution, and it’s not widely popular among nonprofits. But it can help achieve many goals that nonprofits usually have:

  1. Raising awareness of the organization and its cause
  2. Increasing donations and participation
  3. Building a loyal community
  4. Managing your reputation

So here comes the big question.

What is social listening?

Social listening is the process of finding mentions of keywords on social networks, news, blogs, forums, and the web using a social listening tool (e.g., Awario, Brandwatch). Social analytics, which usually follows social listening, is responsible for analyzing this data to give you the answers you need.

Keywords can be anything, such as“Syrian refugees”, “animal rights”, or “Save The Children”.

Questions that one needs answers to can also be very different. Usually they are:

  • How popular is our organization?
  • Is our organization getting more or less popular? What does this depend on?
  • Does our organization have a good reputation?
  • How much do people talk about our cause?
  • Is the talk about the cause increasing or decreasing? What does this depend on?
  • Where is the talk happening? Which geographical locations and where on the internet do people talk about the cause?
  • What else do they say when they talk about our cause? (e.g., do “climate change” and “recycling” go hand in hand in people’s conversations?)
  • Who can help promote the cause?
  • And so on.

So let’s get to the how-to part and start with the first two goals.

Raise awareness and increase donations/participation

Why do these goals go together? Because the workflow is the same for both. First, you find people that are already interested. Then, you take what you can from them—either their money/time or their word. This is how you do it:

1. Find out who already talks about your organization.

First, you need to know who is already there for you in order to know what kind of people to reach out to in the future. You hopefully already have the stats on your regular donors and volunteers.

To add to that, find people online who’ve mentioned your organization and look at their analytics: what is their demographic? Which locations do they come from? Which social networks do they use?

While they might be the people who talk and not actually help you in any solid way, they are still important. You simply need people to spread the word on social media. The word may finally meet the ones who will provide help.

Also, the conversations signal that these people are interested in the topic — they might just not have enough resources to contribute right now. But that might change, so you better put these people aside for future targeting.

2. Find people who talk about your cause.

To reach more social media users that could donate or help your cause, you’ve got to find people that are interested in your cause. Luckily, with social listening, this is just as easy as finding mentions of your organization: you use the same tool to find people that talk about your cause by monitoring that cause.

Then, go through the data to discover who these people are where they hang out, and reach out to individuals, telling them about your organization and explaining how they can help. These people are “hot leads” — you already know they are into the topic — all you need to do is convince them to act on it. This sounds like it’s still a challenging task, yet it’s much easier than convincing “cold leads” — people who are usually approached on the street by non-profit employees.

Find People Who Talk About Your Cause
Mentions feed for the keyword “animal rights”. Screenshot from Awario.

3. Find influencers and brand advocates.

In both groups of people described above, you’ll have influential authors: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users with millions of followers, Reddit anonymous authors, famous bloggers and more. Most social listening tools will show you \ lists of people with the large following: some will have just over 5K and some will have millions of dedicated listeners.

The first group (the ones that talked about your brand) is a group of your potential brand advocates. They’ve talked about your organization once or twice  — they can do more of the talking and help spread awareness.

In the second group, you’ll find your social media influencers. They care about the cause, they talk about it, they probably advocate for some other nonprofits. No harm in reaching out to them and asking whether they would also spread the word about your organization.

Influencers Report
Instagram influencers for keyword “animal rights”. Screenshot from Awario.

4. Find relevant journalists and media outlets.

Social listening is a huge help when it comes to PR because social listening tools find media outlets and individual journalists who are already interested either in your organization or in your cause.

For PR, you should simply choose a social media listening tool that monitors news and blogs, narrow your search to only these resources (hence, excluding social networks and the rest of the web), and create alerts for your organization’s name, other nonprofits in your niche and your cause. Once you have a list, you can reach out to the sources and journalists that have either already mentioned your organization or a similar one or that often talk about your cause.

Find Journalists
Influential Media for the keyword “PETA”.

Build a loyal community

So far we’ve talked about finding different kinds of people on social media that are interested in your cause and potentially interested in participating and reaching out to them asking to mention your organization to their followers, or to donate their time/money/clothing, etc.

While these people might agree to it once, it would be better if they could contribute regularly and inspire their friends to do the same. To do that, nonprofits should do their best to show that they don’t perceive the contributors as cashpoints. And this is all about creating engagement.

Firstly, of course, you have to engage with people that are already your followers on social media. You have to post content, ask questions, reply to comments — let your followers know that you’re interested in their feelings and opinions. Ask why they chose to support your cause, what brought them to your organization. Ask for their stories.

Secondly, join the conversations that you’ve found through social listening. Talk not as a marketer, but as a friend. Social media is a place for discussions, for ideas, for fun — no matter how serious the cause is.

Asking people for money always comes second. First comes the engagement.

Keep an eye on your reputation

For nonprofits, there’s nothing quite as vital as reputation management. All success depends on how much people trust the organization with their money. And at the same time, plenty of nonprofits get accused of doing something wrong. Their reputation goes up and down, and sometimes, the organization isn’t even aware of the causes and the changes happening.

With social listening, it’s possible to monitor the sentiment and the topics discussed about the organization in real time. Every time there’s a spike in negative mentions, a marketer or a social media manager will notice it, dig into the mentions that have caused the spike, and see what the negativity is about. This gives the organization a chance to reply in time, explain the situation or solve a problem, and stop the escalating crisis.

Similarly, one can react to individual negative and positive questions, keeping an eye on the issues surrounding the nonprofit, and showing appreciation to the ones spreading the good word about it.

Social Listening Example for Animal Rights
Dashboard for the keyword “animal rights”. Screenshot from Awario.

Tools used for social listening

There are plenty of social listening tools on the market. I’ve picked three awesome social listening tools that offer discounts for nonprofits.


Awario is a social media listening and analytics tool that tracks mentions of any given keyword on all major social networks, as well as news, blogs, forums, and the web. It has a Boolean search option, so no matter how challenging your organization’s name is, you can still find relevant mentions of it online.

The tool analyzes mentions’ growth, sentiment, reach, major topics that surround your keywords, locations & languages, sources etc. It also finds social media influencers and PR opportunities. And you can engage with social media users straight from the app.

Pricing: $29/mo for the Starter plan, $89/mo for Pro, and $299/mo for Enterprise. Saves 2 months with a yearly plan.

Non-profit discount: 50% off Pro and Enterprise. Apply here.


Mention is a social media and web monitoring tool. It finds mentions of any keywords, analyzes them, and provides you with insights into mentions’ growth, sentiment, locations & languages, surrounding trends, etc. Mention also has social media management features.

Pricing: Solo is $29/mo, Pro is $99/mo, and Enterprise is $450+/mo. All yearly plans save you 2 months.

Non-profit discount: 20% off yearly subscriptions.


Agorapulse is a social media management and listening platform. It has publishing and scheduling features; lets you assign roles to the members of your team; shows trends, sentiment, and other insights into your audience; identifies influencers.

Pricing: Medium is €99/mo, Large is €199/mo, X-Large is €299/mo, and Enterprise is €499/mo. Yearly plans save you to 20%.

Non-profit discount: 25% off monthly and 15% off annual subscriptions.


Social media listening is a powerful method. With its help, you can find like-minded people wherever they are. You can let the online public know how you’re making the world a better place. And you can inspire people to do the same.

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