September: Giving Tuesday Strategy

This guide is part of a series of guides designed to get your nonprofit ready for #GivingTuesday. If you haven’t read the first few guides in the series we strongly suggest you start there as this guide will make more sense.

Last month, we covered how to use Facebook ads with a light touch, to give your page a little extra boost before November. This month, we want to move from passive engagement to active engagement with your cause. This will move more of your supporters to a place where they are likely to donate on #GivingTuesday.

What we’re covering this month will draw heavily on the engagement ladder concept. If you’re not familiar with the concept, we’d encourage you to check it out. It’s not necessary to be successful this month, but a lot of this will make more sense with further context 🙂

Note: This month’s activities will require outside tools beyond Facebook.

Introduction to social actions

Social actions are any calls to action that encourages increased engagement in your cause from supporters. Social actions can range from polls, to petitions, to donation appeals. The key here is to meet your supporters where they’re at, without asking them to do anything they’re not ready for. Thus, with donation appeals being on the heavy side of things, we’ll want to start working up to that right now, well-before November.

It’s absolutely possible that your Facebook supporters are already at the donation level. This process will help you discover where your supporters stand before November.

For our purposes here, we’re only going to show you how to do this through the ActionSprout interface. If you’re using a different platform or host similar appeals on your website, the following principles will still apply.

There are three big “Weights” of social actions:

  1. Lightweight actions: directly build on the social experience of Facebook (Polls, questions, Sproutlets)
  2. Medium weight actions: directly tie back to your cause (Petitions, pledges, letters)
  3. Heavyweight actions: take supporters to the next level of engagement with your cause (donation appeals, event attendance, volunteering)

This month we’ll dive into buckets one and two. (We’ll get to bucket three in November!)

Crafting a social action

We use the word “crafting” on purpose. Creating a successful social action is a blend of art and science. We’ll cover the “science” portion here by sharing with you the best practices we’ve learned through our own data and experience. The “art” portion will come later as you try this for yourself.

Every Facebook page has a unique cause and a unique audience. As such, not even the most agreed-upon best practices will work for 100% of nonprofits, 100% of the time. Instead, start with best practices and test them on your audience. Did they work? How well? How can you tweak them for even better results? Through some trial and error you’ll find what works for your unique audience.

With that being said, STEP UP is how we remember our formula for the best social actions:

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 6.24.24 PM


Your supporters on Facebook are keenly aware that everything they do on the site is public. As such, they work carefully to sculpt their profile and activities on the site to create the persona they wish to display for the world. This practice governs whether they will engage with or share your content. As such, we like to say that your social actions should do two jobs:

  1. Serve your cause.
  2. Make your supporters look awesome doing it!

For example, if your supporters shared your social action (and gave you free reach!) would it reflect positively on them? Would it make them look awesome to their friends and family?


Your call to action needs to be easy to understand. There should be no question what you’re asking supporters to do and why. What’s the issue at hand? Who’s the petition directed at? In short, spell out what actions they need to take and what will happen when they do.


Supporters are more likely to act when they feel an emotional response, whether positive or negative. As such, the most successful social actions trigger an emotion in the supporter.


Answer the question, “so what?” Why should your supporters care about this? Why should they engage? How will it affect them personally? Your messaging and call to action should address these questions.


If a supporter feels like they can come back to the action later, you’ve lost them. They are not coming back. Your goal is to make supporters stop scrolling through the news feed, pay attention, and take action. Now.


Your social action must be believable. If it’s too outlandish, folks will think it’s a joke. If it’s overly optimistic, folks will view it as a pipe dream and give up before they’ve even started. Your call to action should aim for a reasonable change. If a supporter completes your action there should be a reasonable chance of real change.

Example: “Join to end world hunger” vs “Pitch in $10 to put a hot meal on a local family’s table tonight.”

See the difference?

Wrap up

Try a few lightweight to medium weight social actions this month and record what you learn along the way. We’ll use these lessons next month as we develop the language around your #GivingTuesday campaign.

Hint: A great place to start, if you’re unsure, is with successful past campaigns or topics your supporters are currently talking about.