The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Contest on Social Media for Non-Profits

If your non-profit is ever looking for a win/win scenario on social media, a contest is the way to go.

Social media contests are nothing new, but a well thought out and creative one can help your association or other non-profit achieve its goals. The second part of that win/win comes when your members or community have a chance to voice their opinion, win a prize and a have a little fun, all at the same time.

But just like anything you do on social media, contests shouldn’t be created haphazardly. A poorly formulated contest can do more harm than good for your organization. So we’ve set out to compile a list of dos and don’ts when planning a contest for your non-profit that will go a long way to helping you increase engagement and promote awareness on social media.

The Dos

Do create contests that will help you reach your overall goals. It’s important to ask yourself what the overall goal of your social media presence are and how can you structure a contest to help you reach this goal. For example, if your association wants to promote a new service, you might want to consider setting up a contest that encourages members to post about the benefits of said service or contribute feedback about it. Conversely, if you already have a large following on Twitter or Facebook, starting a contest that aims to increase followers is probably not a great way to allocate your resources.

Do take the time to plan the contest thoroughly. Take some time to ensure all the angles of your contest are covered, including budget, design, timing, wording, possible problems, etc. It’s also a good idea to make sure all relevant departments and personnel are informed of the contest, its goals, its rules and how it’s all going to work. This way, all staff members can answer questions and promote the contest to your community.

Do monitor the contest and follow up with contestants. Whatever your goals are for creating a contest, increased engagement is probably at the root. Monitoring the contest submissions gives your non-profit a chance to communicate with its members and show them that their voice is being heard and will likely encourage them to keep participating in other facets of the organization. Doing so in a timely manner is important to showing your community how much you care about them and how much value you can offer them.

Do have a plan to highlight the winner. Showcasing the eventual winner of your contest is a great way to not only cap off a successful initiative, but also tell a story about a member of your community. The winner of your contest may be a member of your association, a long-time volunteer for your non-profit or a new person in your community. Use this opportunity to tell their story and connect your organization with the great tale.

The Don’ts

Don’t skip the fine print. Writing up a list of contest rules, the methods for choosing a winner and any legal add-ons can save you a lot of headaches and possible court dates in the future. When your process is clear and transparent, it will make for a smoother ride for both you and contestants and encourage your community to participate in future contests.

Don’t ignore the regional and social media platform rules for running a contest. There are certain laws that your province or state may have about running contests. Similarly, many social media platforms also have guidelines to follow when running a promotion. Read up on these rules before starting up your contest because a misstep at this stage could cause you to be kicked off a site or be called out by lawmakers.

Don’t let up with the promotion. Let your followers know about the contest. And then let them know again and again. Don’ get us wrong, nothing is worse than being bombarded with the same message constantly on social media, but a consistent reminder to your community about the contest can help it flourish. Brainstorm some creative ways to promote the contest throughout the duration of it, such as using current submissions as a way to get potential contestants interested. Always be clear about what the contest involves and its parameters.

Don’t think it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a potential for disgruntled members or trolling social media users to use your contest as a platform to provoke a nasty response or air their grievances. Think about the possible scenarios beforehand and create a response strategy. It’s not a certainty that this will happen, but it’s always a great idea to be prepared to stop the negativity before it ruins the campaign and perhaps even turn it into a positive.


Contests are great ways to get your non-profit’s community engaged. Your organization can also reap some other benefits, such as increased use of a service, more awareness of a cause, an increased following or crucial feedback. Preparation, creativity and attention to detail are all key factors in putting on a successful contest. If you keep that in mind, it could be a jackpot for both you and your members.

1 thought on “The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Contest on Social Media for Non-Profits

  1. Pingback: Looking Back At the Year That Was: Trends and Topics for Non-profits and Social Media | Incline Marketing

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