With a new year, there are many new developments for nonprofits to debate when strategizing their online outreach and communications plans - luckily, we’re putting all of digital strategy news in one place to make it easy on you.

Don’t be overwhelmed! One trait remains consistent among all platforms: quality (shareable) content = quality engagements with your supporters = impact and results. Each platform has the same goal: to keep you on their site longer and to keep you coming back; they each just have a different way of going about it.

Jump to the platform you want to learn about:




Who should care: Any nonprofits enrolled in their Google Grants program, as well as any nonprofits with a website aiming to rank high for search traffic

Change 1: Nonprofits must have a 5% or higher click-through rate to remain in their 501(c)3 Google Grant program

Reason: Too many nonprofits were enrolling in the program but not updating their ads to keep them current nor using Google’s best practices

What you can do:

1) Stop using keywords that aren’t performing well for your nonprofit and stick to the keywords that are (remember Google’s awesome Keyword Planner tool)
2) Update your ads to reflect what’s truly on your website and what’s really happening with your projects
3)  Run multiple campaigns at once, with different goals
4) Think like a local - target locally and use what locals already are searching for that is relevant to you nonprofit. No wonks – just locals.

Change 2: Mobile webpage loading time will now factor in search rankings

Reason: Mobile searching has outpaced desktop searching for three years in a row, with the gap only widening

What you can do: Talk with your web developer and make sure your website is up to speed. If you work on your website internally, the check it with Google’s speed tool.

Other Resources:

Search Engine Land



Who should care: Nonprofits who run a channel or want to break into YouTube for the search ranking benefits and attentive audience

Change 1: Added a “Bell” button beside the “Subscribe” button; this means anyone who wants to get an email notification when new videos are uploaded now needs to click both buttons*

Reason: Viewers subscribed to hundreds of channels were overwhelmed by volume, spending less time watching. Now you can pick just your favorites for email notifications, but still see new videos from the other channels when you sign into YouTube

What you can do: Just like you should add a “subscribe-to-our-channel” pitch at the beginning and end of every video, now ask them to click the bell too, explaining why your channel is worth getting in their inbox

Change 2: Search rankings and trending pages prioritize videos over 10 minutes long*

Reason: YouTube wants you to stay on their site to watch videos longer – and they found that you’re willing to do that when the channels you like simply put out longer content. Unlike Facebook, YouTube viewers tend to watch, on average, 85% of a video they have clicked on - so why not make those videos a bit longer and avoid losing viewers to other sites when the video is over?

What you can do: Watch time is one of the most important metrics (the other being the keywords you use) to get ranked highly by YouTube, so focus on creating videos that really teach your audience something valuable. More traffic comes to YouTube in search of “how to” than any other site, so use that to your advantage

Change 3: Channels can now do stories and have a community tab

Reason: Since it’s working for Instagram and Facebook, YouTube is trying it, too

What you can do: This change only happened a couple months ago and no channel has really mastered it. Start by inviting your subscribers to your community tab and seeing what conversations you can get going around your videos there. For the stories, however, these may be better left on Instagram or Facebook unless you are promoting an upcoming video

Change 4: To monetize your channel, you need at least 4,000 hours of watch time per year and 1,000 subscribers

Reason: YouTube is cracking down on people who upload one viral video and then leave their channel for dead - they want longer lasting channels with higher content, so they’re making the money carrot harder to reach

What you can do: If this money was a big part of your nonprofit’s fundraising, then you are most likely already over the threshold. The bottom line is if you want to make money on YouTube for your nonprofit then keep posting consistent (make a schedule and stick to it) and high quality content, and you will get there

Other Resources:

The Verge

*Some of these changes already happened in early 2017, but we’re going over them again because they’re easy to miss.*



Who should care: Nonprofits actively using Twitter for organic reach and influence

Change 1: Double the character limit from 140 to 280

Reason: Twitter has the slowest non-bot growth and most inactive users of any of the biggest social media sites

What you can do: Write a novel! Or at least a couple of sentences now - take advantage of this new feature, but still test which tweets do best with your audience

Change 2: Finally Twitter is starting to ban extremists who post a clear threat

Reason: Twitter should be doing a lot more in this arena, but rumor has it they have more active bot (read: fake, scripted) accounts than real ones - this is one step toward combating a much larger problem

What you can do: Report your trolls - if you keep doing it, Twitter has to keep listening. Have a small group of people within your nonprofit or friend circle who you can email to ask them to report a troll, too. However, don’t report someone just for having different views.

Change 3: Added filters to hide abusive language

Reason: See reason for change 2 - this is a HUGE problem on Twitter, and a reason why most of your everyday supporters are probably not on the platform anymore

What you can do: Use the filters and keep reporting those trolls

Change 4: Twitter is increasing transparency about who is buy ads, especially political ones (maybe)

Reason: They don’t want Russians to sway you not to vote again

What you can do: Wait and see. Twitter hasn’t been as forthcoming about their plan as Facebook, so we don’t yet know what this increased reporting will look like

Other Resources:




Who should care: Nonprofits on Instagram looking to turn their followers into real life supporters, donors, or volunteers

Change 1:  You can now follow hashtags in addition to accounts

Reason: People LOVE hashtags on Instagram - it’s how you find your niche community on the site. However, some accounts were taking advantage of that and monopolizing hashtags for their own benefit, this move is aimed at taking some of that power away

What you can do: pay attention to hashtags within your niche, comment on photos that use them, be a part of the conversation or build a coalition around one. If you have your own hashtag, think of its thread as a conversation and interact with your supporters there

Change 2: Supporters can swipe up on your stories to get to your website

Reason: It is notoriously hard to get Instagram followers to become customers, donors, or any kind of supporter outside of the platform - this feature is an attempt to increase that low conversion rate

What you can do: Be creative! One advantage you have right now is that not many brands are utilizing stories and that’s a huge mistake. Stories are where people feel closest to you. Don’t worry, you don’t have to task someone with filming their everyday life  with their phone, you can still make it high quality and edit it off your phone before uploading your 15 seconds of content - or you can do what this brand did and “trick” people into sliding up, but I’d be cautious to not turn people off of your organization

Change 3: Recommended accounts are now shown in feeds too

Reason: Instagram wants users continually following more and more accounts to keep them on the app longer

What you can do: Your organization’s account should follow similar organizations with followers you’d like to share. If yours is a conservation organization, follow a lot of outdoors-oriented accounts and post photos using similar hashtags. Essentially curate who you follow and tailor your content to be closer to influencers with huge followers and you are more likely to be shown as an organic recommendation in this new feature

Other Resources:




Who should care: Nonprofits using Facebook organically who want to continue being seen by their audience

Change 1: The great algorithm change of 2018

Reason: They say they want to re-prioritize what Facebook was originally all about: family and friends. In reality they want to increase ad rates and encourage more pages to pay to play (or grow or reach their followers or do anything significant)

What you can do: Organic-only social media strategies should have died back in 2015, but now it’s even more important to realize that an organic-only social media strategy = no strategy. Your organization needs an ad budget that prioritizes quality (shareable) content and engagement with followers, especially if that engagement helps convert your Facebook followers to email subscribers or followers on other social media platforms - start putting your eggs in multiple baskets if you haven’t already! Lastly, a quick blog like this one or this one, with some money behind it to get it to your page followers will help if you are choosing to still do mostly-organic posts in the future

Change 2: Dropped fees for nonprofits raising money on Facebook

Note: this only applies to 501(c)3’s, not personal causes or political nonprofits)

Reason: They’re about to squash your reach so they may as well throw you a bone

What you can do: Fundraise directly through Facebook! This is one more way to ask people to donate, so take advantage of it

Change 3: Prioritize local news over national news outlets in your newsfeed

Reason: Facebook wants your trust back and chances are, you trust your local news more than national news channels

What you can do: traditional media and meaningful press relationships aren’t dead - this is proof. Pitch, pitch, pitch - it’ll help your SEO and your social media credibility

Change 4: Increased time requirement for videos that run ads to 3 minutes

Reason: If you noticed in your personal newsfeed, Facebook started running 15 second ads on videos that weren’t much longer than that themselves...with Facebook’s average watchtime per video being less than 10 seconds, these ads produced little benefit to Facebook or its advertisers

What you can do: Don’t want ads on your videos? Keep them shorter than 3 minutes, this is standard for Facebook anyway (most of your audience will watch 10 seconds or less), but let the ads be extra incentive now

Change 5: Added stories for pages/brands

Reason: The key to Facebook’s longevity is continually increasing the opportunity for users to engage with it, without leaving the platform - just like with Instagram (owned by Facebook), this is one more effort at keeping people on Facebook for as long as possible

What you can do: Use them! As with Instagram, brands aren’t paying attention to this new feature as much as their more familiar features, giving your organization a big (organic) leg up in connecting with your supporters

Change 6: Added more messaging capabilities for brands/pages

Reason: While most social media platforms are still growing, it’s usually with older generations; meanwhile younger generations are craving instant messaging apps more than ever before - hence, Facebook wants them instant messaging through them and they want brands taking advantage of (and paying for) this too

What you can do: Personalization is key for getting your supporters to be donors and volunteers, or even just retaining them over the years - having a messaging strategy, whether bot-oriented or human-powered, is part of that. Note: you can also message people who previously messaged your page too

Change 7: Added labels for political ad sources

Reason: Russians were able to message and motivate audiences outside of their country better than the countries were able to, leading to massive elections influence & voter suppression (I often say it’s easier to get someone NOT to vote via social media influence than it is to get them TO vote)

What you can do: Like Twitter, we’re still unsure of exactly how this will look but make sure your political ad strategy includes this knowledge and how you want to approach it if your organization is listed as the one running the ads.

Other Resources:

New York Times
Digiday (this article at Digiday too)
Digital Trends
ePolitics (this article at ePolitics too)
Becker Digital Strategies



Who should care: Nonprofits what want to retain online donors or online action takers

Change 1: Personalization is no longer option, it’s mandatory

Reason: I checked my email once a day between Christmas and December 31st - do you know how many emails I got each day from nonprofits doing end of year online fundraising? Hundreds - and I’m not subscribed to that many lists. Most went straight to spam and were deleted. The ones that made it through to my inbox has one thing in common - they were highly customized to my experience with the organization or to my local

What you can do: Have a strong, robust CRM that allows you to add source codes, activists codes, and tags, as well as track what emails are being opened and click on. Create as many segments of your list as capacity allows and talk directly with (not to) those segmented audiences, which leads me to my final point of this blog

Change 2: Less blasting, more conversations

Reason: Blasting information over email, regardless of click through rates and other engagement metrics means less deliverability in the long run of your organization’s emails. Gmail is getting particularly strict about this

What you can do: Along with that customization, listed above, your emails should always include and invitation for your supporters to ask - use this as key metric to determine your email strategy over time. What asks does your audience like? What asks do they not? Who shows up when you really need them to? Who is worth not keeping on your list anymore because it’s keeping these metrics low? Make sure when growing your list, you’re aiming for retention and quality of emails (do they open and click through your emails?) - not quantity, which will just get you into trouble

Other Resources:

Only Influencers
Pure 360
Return Path
EveryAction blog
Really Good Emails