How to (or not to) Use Snapchat for Your Nonprofit

Like frosted tips and neon windbreakers, to most, Snapchat seemed like nothing more than a funky fad. Understandably, an app that lets you send a picture that only exists for up to ten seconds, then disappears into the void for all eternity, didn’t exactly seem viable for long-term success.

The tides have changed and people have embraced Snapchat into the same category of social media powerhouses as Facebook and Twitter.

A recent article reports that Snapchat has surpassed 150 million daily users. To put it into perspective, that would mean the (relatively) new app has passed Twitter’s daily users, which is estimated to have just under 140 million.

With all the talk of Snapchat, it’s time to decide if your nonprofit organization should be using Snapchat – and if so, how?

“Should my nonprofit organization be using Snapchat?”

70% of Snapchat’s users are under the age of 24.

The first thing to note about Snapchat is the demographic of people dominating use of the app. If you noticed, the majority of users are millennials. Surprise, surprise.

If your organization is already appealing to a younger crowd, it will be an easy transition to embrace the app and build a following big enough to make adding another platform to your social media strategy worthwhile.

If your organization is trying to reach a younger crowd, promoting your Snapchat user name in the right places and giving your posts value for users is key to being successful and gaining a following.  

“I think we could get behind this Snapchat thing.”

I know I get pretty antsy around three o’clock in the afternoon. Snapchat provides a way to get my antsy energy out and do something fun on social media. Whether it’s as simple as pranking your coworker, walking to lunch as an office or live-Snapping a fundraiser event, Snapchat is only effective if you keep it on the brain and get creative with it. If your organization spends most of the day at a desk, posting a story of your desk job isn’t going to do the trick.

With that being said, it may simply not be a fit for your organization. You may decide that the time you’ll spend creating content for Snapchat won’t provide enough engagement in return and you won’t have enough time to make Snapchat worth it for your organization.

“I don’t think Snapchat makes sense for our organization.”

Guess what? That’s completely okay.

Just because everyone is talking about Snapchat doesn’t mean you have to jump on it right now. Focus your energy on social media assets you already own – grow and engage the crowd you already have.


Your organization can use Snapchat without owning an account.

This one is important. Snapchat offers this awesome feature where you can create a branded filter for users in your geographic location. You don’t have to do anything to gain a following on a new platform, but rather, when someone enters the geographic area that you’ve determined for your Snapchat geofilter, your filter will show up right in the palm of their hands.

The best part is that it’s super cheap and the submission guidelines are pretty lax. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Create a filter (you can use Snapchat’s templates for help)
  2. Log into a Snapchat account (literally any Snapchat account, doesn’t have to be your organization’s account).
  3. Choose the dates and times you want the filter to be live.
  4. Specify the geographic area you want the filter to cover.
  5. Pay for it.
  6. Wait for people to start talking about your organization.

Prices don’t vary by location either, so covering an entire block (about 190,000 square feet) in Los Angeles costs the same as a block in Lincoln, NE; under $10 for two hours.

I would recommend using this feature when you host events or when there are events near you. For example, Nonprofit Hub is located right by the University of Nebraska campus. During dead week and finals week, we let students hang out and use our space to study. Building a Snapchat filter during a couple hours of the day during the week really helps get the word out without spending an arm or a leg.

Don’t use it if you’re hosting an event where the majority of the attendees won’t be on Snapchat.

Snapchat has a second option that lets people create free filters “for their city, university, a local landmark, or another public location. No brand logos allowed.” It’s a lot harder to get these filters approved and the submission guidelines make it difficult to draw a direct connection between the filter and your organization compared to the paid version.


Don’t discount the potential.

Every social media platform is adopted early by a younger audience. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were dominated by the 18-24 age group. Eventually, each one was (and continues to become more and more) embraced by an older audience, removing the idea that “social media reaches millennials,” and “traditional media reaches an older audience.” As of now, Snapchat isn’t being used by as many people from an older generation, but as the application grows, new users will embrace it. Sky’s the limit.


Your homework is to decide whether it makes sense to create a Snapchat account for your organization, use paid geofilters, or just completely stay away from Snapchat for now. Whatever you decide, keep an eye on on Snapchat’s changes and pay attention to its growth. When the social media platform went live, it had no actual marketing value for a company. Now it’s a billion dollar advertising asset for companies of all sizes. That being said, it may not be a fit now, but with its constant updates, they may be cooking up just what you’re looking for.


use snapchat

Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

June 24, 2016

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