The Truth About TikTok for Associations

At first glance, the popular social media app may not seem a good fit for nonprofits. But the creative, quirky nature of the platform can help your organization stand out, as demonstrated by the National Down Syndrome Society.

With 1 billion monthly users, TikTok’s potential for sharing a message is enormous. But the platform’s meteoric rise hasn’t been without roadblocks. Not only was TikTok thrust into the political sphere, but it’s also been marred by preconceived notions that it’s only a place for lip-syncers, silly memes, and funny dances—not established organizations.

But therein lie the possibilities for associations, which may struggle to be seen as approachable: TikTok provides a space to create content that highlights an organization’s personality and unique spirit.

“I think we were one of the early nonprofits to jump on board, and we got lucky that a few of our videos did go viral,” said Michelle Sagan, digital media manager at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). “I think TikTok realized that nonprofits were jumping on board, and they were monumental in helping us get going.”

Consider these insights from Sagan as you think about how to use TikTok for your association.

TikTok—and TikTok For Good—Are a Place for Nonprofits

While some may not see TikTok as a space for associations, large organizations such as the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and the UN Refugee Agency maintain active pages that have amassed millions of likes.

Sagan points out that TikTok does more than support content: It has additional resources that help nonprofits spread their messages to a wider audience. She works directly with TikTok to schedule live events, for example, and the platform’s For Good program helps nonprofits reach more viewers with promoted hashtags and analytics.

“We work a lot with their nonprofit arm,” Sagan said. “They’ve hired people to help nonprofits develop TikTok content.”

TikTok Can Help Your Community Shine

TikTok only allows video, so there will always be audio and visual components to your content. This makes it an ideal space to put members of your community front and center. Rather than feature NDSS leadership or employees on its page, Sagan said the organization has made members of the Down syndrome community the stars of most content. As a result, the videos feel more authentic, and each person’s unique personality helps differentiate the brand from other organizations.

“It’s not about NDSS or our CEO; it’s putting people who have Down syndrome first and foremost to tell their stories,” Sagan said. “We work to break down barriers for them every day, and that video channel has helped us create more awareness.”

TikTok Puts You in Front of a Young Audience

Recruiting younger generations to join isn’t easy, but it’s important for any association. TikTok’s user base is generally young—41 percent of users are ages 16 to 24—so it might be the right platform to focus your efforts.

“We had a lot of things on the policy side that were already working for us, but we thought, ‘How could we get them out there to a new audience?’” Sagan said. “You have to decide, ‘Are we going to do everything the way that we’ve always been doing it, or are we going to adjust and find the new generation where they are?’”

TikTok Can Be a Fundraising Tool

Sagan said NDSS’ work on TikTok has raised awareness and donor contributions simply by interacting with a new audience. But Sagan further drove engagement by putting calls to action on the page’s bio, along with links for visitors to contact their members of Congress on specific pieces of legislation. She also has taken advantage of TikTok’s donation stickers to raise money.

“We’re not in it for the donations—more for awareness—but they can translate long term. People get on our newsletter list, start following us on other channels, and jump on board,” Sagan said.



Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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