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How Many Hours Per Week Should Your Nonprofit Invest in Social Media?

July 11, 2012

To follow up on Monday’s post about why nonprofits should consider hiring a social media manger, below is an excerpt from Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits that helps further explore the time commitment necessary to create and sustain a comprehensive social media stategy for your nonprofit. The estimates below allow for the time required to research and create content for your social media campaigns, the actual time spent engaging and participating in your nonprofit’s online communities, and the time necessary to monitor and report ROI. It’s important to note that the time requirements for each tool are fluid and are always changing from week to week, but the estimates do provide a framework that will help you draft a realistic social media manager job description and decide what social media tools your nonprofit can utilize based on your capacity.

Deciding What Social Media Tools to Use

How deeply your nonprofit can dive into social media is directly related to your capacity in terms of staff time. The truth is that you get out of social media what you put into it. If you can invest only 5 hours a week, then you will get the return on investment (ROI) from 5 hours of work. If you hire a social media manager who can invest 40 hours a week in engaging your supporters online, then your ROI will be significantly higher. How many social media tools your nonprofit can use effectively is directly related to the number of hours your nonprofit can invest.

If your budget is limited, you can distribute the responsibility for using various tools among different staff members, but implementing an effective social media strategy that is dispersed among multiple staff members will require strict organization and disciplined leadership. The era of “winging” it in social media is over. Your supporters and donors now expect well-executed, integrated social media campaigns.

If your nonprofit wants to use the majority of the tools listed here effectively, then you need to hire a full-time social media manager. It’s also worth noting that these time estimates do not include website maintenance, e-newsletter publication, donate now campaign management, or group texting and text-to-give campaigns, so pick and choose carefully based on what your resources allow. It’s better to utilize a few tools very well than many tools poorly.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Creating Video Content : 15 Hours Weekly

As a starting point, all nonprofits should be investing time and resources in the “Big Three”: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Facebook is the largest social network in the world and is becoming increasingly integrated into the Social Web with every passing second. Once your nonprofit’s Facebook page has been created, it requires no more than three to five hours a week on average to maintain.

All nonprofits should also experiment with Twitter. Not everyone is a natural-born Twitterer, and it may take time to find the right person at your nonprofit to be the voice(s) behind your Twitter avatar, but it’s worth the investment of resources. Though it is not as large as Facebook, Twitter is heavily used by the media, the blogosphere, and professionals from all sectors. Of the Big Three, Twitter requires the most time to utilize.

Finally, and even if your nonprofit is not yet producing videos (you can “Favorite” videos to build your channel), you should have a YouTube Channel. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, behind only Google. It is highly trafficked and should be the foundation for your nonprofit’s video campaigns. You may later decide to expand and also use other Web-based videos tools like Vimeo and TwitVid, but skipping YouTube in your social media campaigns is a big mistake for the simple reason that its user base dwarfs all others. The time required to utilize YouTube will vary from week to week, but on average, you should allot five hours per week in your job description to post, create, and share video.

Flickr and Digital Photography: 5 Hours Weekly

Actually uploading photos to Flickr doesn’t require much time, but shooting digital photos, editing them, and then properly adding them to Flickr sets and collections with tags and titles can become time-consuming. Nonprofits that host many events or are related to the arts, animals, nature, or international development should definitely be using Flickr. Many people today are overwhelmed by text, and photos and slide shows can often do better at communicating your message than text-heavy articles or blog posts. Flickr is the largest photo-sharing social networking community on the Web and should be your starting point for your online photo-sharing campaigns. Time and resources permitting, you can then expand to also using tools like TwitPic and Facebook Photos.

LinkedIn: 5 Hours Weekly

LinkedIn is a powerhouse in ROI. Unfortunately, most nonprofits that dabbled with LinkedIn groups in the early years did so incorrectly and abandoned their groups much too soon. Those that stuck around are beginning to reap the rewards of early adoption. Using the site for your own personal professional reasons aside, managing a LinkedIn group and company page for your nonprofit requires a minimum time investment of five hours per week. As the site continues to grow in popularity and functionality, that amount could easily increase. At the very least, every nonprofit needs to claim its company page and then subsequently invest two to three hours per month monitoring the page.

Blogging: 10 Hours Weekly

Before 2006, blogging in the nonprofit sector had the primary purpose of giving a nonprofit a human voice—a personality or character voice that classic Web 1.0 writing does not permit. Usually the responsibility of blogging was relegated to executive or program staff, who blogged editorial opinion pieces about issues and organizational development. Today, the purpose of blogging has completely changed, and more often than not, blogging is the missing piece in a nonprofit’s social media strategy.

To blog effectively, a nonprofit must allocate a minimum of 10 hours per week to blogging. That includes the time necessary to research and write material and to secure images, videos, and graphics, as well the time necessary to manage and edit guest bloggers. In the era of the Social Web, content is queen, and blogging is the easiest, most cost-effective, search engine optimization (SEO)-enhancing tool out there for publishing content. If your nonprofit takes social media seriously, so much so that you hire a social media manager, blogging should be at the top of your to-do list.

Niche Networks (Ning,, Care2, WiserEarth, BlackPlanet): 5 to 10 Hours Weekly

There’s no shortage of niche networks out there to experiment with. Ning allows nonprofits to launch their own social networking communities. and Care2 specialize in social networking focused on causes and online petitions. WiserEarth is for environmentalists. BlackPlanet, Quepasa, Bebo, Hi5, and Orkut cater to communities of color and international audiences. Over the last five years, many niche networks have come and gone, and whether these survive depends upon whether they adapt and innovate as the Web continues to evolve.

The decision to invest time in these sites depends on your supporter base. If your nonprofit primarily serves the African American community, it’s worth experimenting with a group on BlackPlanet. If your nonprofit does international development in Asia or Latin America, try Hi5 or Quepasa. If your mission is one that requires privacy, such as working with victims of domestic violence, try building a closed community on Ning. There’s no guarantee of return on investment, but if you have the capacity and an enthusiastic social media manager, there’s no harm in dabbling to discover if one or two of these niche networks are a fit for your nonprofit.

Peer-to-Peer Fund-Raising Networks (Razoo, Crowdrise, FirstGiving, GlobalGiving): 5 to 10 Hours Weekly

It’s a brave new world in online fund-raising. Letting go of control and empowering others to raise funds for your organization by creating fund-raising pages on peer-to-peer fund-raising networks can either result in hundreds of new online donors or be a colossal flop. Your success depends on your mission and how engaged and passionate your supporters are for your cause. If your nonprofit regularly hosts events that require people to solicit donations from friends and family, like marathons and walk-a-thons, peer-to-peer fund-raising is an absolute must. It can also work well for nonprofits that respond to natural disasters or crises. In addition, peer-to-peer fund-raising campaigns can produce positive results when they are offered for birthday, holiday, graduation, or memorial gifts. If your nonprofit meets these requirements, pick one site and invest 5 to 10 hours a week encouraging your fund-raisers, thanking them, and providing tips and training.

Location-Based Communities (Facebook Places, Foursquare): 5 to 10 Hours Weekly

Location-based communities have a big role to play in the future of nonprofit communications. As with Facebook in 2007 and Twitter in 2008, the early adopters began experimenting with location-based communities in 2009. This is a trend that will evolve dramatically over the next few years and is likely to spur hundreds of new Web tools to experiment with and be overwhelmed by, but the best social media managers will adapt quickly. Much of the work involved with these tools will take place on smartphones and tablets and, depending on your check-in volume, will require 5 to 10 hours a week.

Related Links:
Free Webinar on August 30: Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Webinar for Nonprofits
Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits on Amazon
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits

18 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012 12:58 pm

    This post has some great information for those interested in determining how to allocate time on social media. I do want to add that I don’t agree that all nonprofits should be on those three social media tools – or try out Twitter. Social media can be an awesome tool – or a complete waste of time. It depends on the organization’s needs. For some organizations, using YouTube will never be useful – for others it’s the first place they should go. Social media is not one size fits all and needs to be approached with much consideration and planning.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 12, 2012 5:50 am

      Thanks.It’s does depend on the nonprofit of course, but I am advocate of Twitter for most nonprofits – primarily to reach the media (local, national, international), bloggers, etc., but also because Twitter is perfectly positioned to dominate when social media and Social TV collide. No one is even close to what Twitter is doing when it comes to “TV”. 🙂

  2. Amelia Simpson permalink
    July 12, 2012 3:43 pm

    Reblogged this on Left side is for walking .

  3. Editor permalink
    July 15, 2012 1:34 am

    Reblogged this on Social Media Marketing for Non-Profits.

  4. July 16, 2012 4:31 am

    I am not sure that I agree about the twitter info but what an excellent article. Thank you!

  5. July 16, 2012 2:08 pm

    Good point about prioritization — if you do everything on this list, I count 50-65 hours/week (or, including website updates, internal meetings, etc., probably 80 hours/week).

    Social media ROI can be about time as much as money.

  6. July 16, 2012 5:13 pm

    I completely agree. The not for profit landscape is experiencing a significant shift in how they are marketed. Perception is reality to a great degree, and it has become critical to look and be perceived professionally in social media circles. Along with social, mobile is experiencing a tremendous growth within the space as well, providing new and creative ways to raise money and build awareness. It is a “bold new world” for the organizations willing to reach beyond traditional methods of marketing.

  7. July 17, 2012 11:09 am

    No mention at all of Google+ – very surprising considering it’s normally viewed as better than FB for serious networking by businesses and non-profits

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 17, 2012 11:37 am

      The book was written before Google+ Pages came out. I have written about Google+ in other blog posts, but this is an except from the book.


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