Snapchat presents a social world with the potential for social impact, and nonprofits are starting to take notice.

The video-messaging world of Snapchat has been mostly populated by millions of teens and twenty-somethings since its launch in 2011, but recent analysis says the app is increasingly popular with an older audience more relevant to most nonprofits. Snapchat now captures 18 percent of all social media users in the U.S., with more than 100 million daily users and 8 billion daily video views.

And because Snapchat commands the attention of its growing audience — young and old(er)— the app holds promise for meaningful social media marketing and social change. Some say the viewing rate of Snapchat content is around 90 percent — astronomical when compared to email open rates that usually peak at 20 percent.

Scores of larger nonprofits are expanding their social media presence to include Snapchat to take advantage of its surging popularity and impressive audience engagement. If you’re not sure whether Snapchat is right for your nonprofit, read my blog post to answer the four strategic questions to ask your nonprofit before joining the platform.

Once you’ve decided that Snapchat makes sense for your nonprofit’s social media strategy, follow these top four ways nonprofits use Snapchat for social impact:

1. Tell Your Story

The Snapchat ‘Stories’ feature allows nonprofits to create a powerful visual narrative over the course of 24 hours, which can highlight breaking news or convey your nonprofit’s mission. You can also partner with high-profile friends to tell your nonprofit’s story.

Penny Appeal highlighted its poverty relief mission and catalyzed supporters for the Syrian refugee crisis by partnering with boxer Amir Khan for 24 hours. Khan Snapped the story of Syrian refugees as he welcomed them to the island of Lesbos, and he shared contribution links to Penny Appeal with calls to donate for the crisis.

2. Start a Visual Campaign

Nonprofits have used Snapchat with great success to promote campaigns with content that plays on Snap’s ephemerality. Nonprofits must employ commanding imagery and emphasize pertinent information to build excitement for the campaign before the image vanishes in one to 10 seconds..

Denmark’s branch of the WWF leveraged social media’s selfie culture and hashtag phenomenon to spotlight the crisis of endangered species. The nonprofit shared a series of animal close-ups with an overlay that read, “Don’t let this be my #lastselfie.” The bottom of the ads listed a SMS number or website with a call to action imploring viewers to help. The Snaps’ quick disappearance only added to the campaign’s sense of urgency.

WWF Snapchat

Another great example comes from the environmental nonprofit OndAzul of Brazil, which shared 10-second video Snaps that visually illustrated environmental hazards destroying natural habitats.

3. Personally Engage your Donors and Volunteers

Snapchat enables nonprofits to engage donors and volunteers directly with one-on-one messaging. Send a quick photo or video message of support to volunteers about to embark on a service project and encourage them to Snap you with videos of their experience.

The British health nonprofit Tenovus encouraged volunteers to share their experience with the hashtag #selflessie to play on the selfless volunteer selfie. You can also send an instant ‘Thank You’ to a donor or a volunteer.


Audience engagement can furthermore motivate, as well as commend, action. The nonprofit giant DoSomething has a Snapmaster who engages their young audience with personal messages and calls to action. For Valentine’s Day in 2014, the Snapmaster prompted teens to create hand-made cards and send them to homebound seniors.

4. Make your Events More Fun

Users often take advantage of Snapchat’s fleeting nature to share silly and candid shots to build enthusiasm for events. Snapchat users love exclusive content, which gives nonprofits an opportunity to preview events behind the scenes or cover events in ways that can be more fun and goofy than typically seen on Instagram or Facebook.

The key Snapchat takeaway is that the most successful nonprofits on the app leverage, rather than fight, its fleeting format. Snapchat presents a social world, but more than that it presents an opportunity to tell your story in a new way and engage your community for greater social impact.

Does Snapchat fit into your social media strategy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.