15 nonprofits using TikTok well

March 29, 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Home 9 Donor Engagement 9 15 nonprofits using TikTok well

TikTok, the social network for sharing user-generated videos, was the breakout star of the past year. The platform currently boasts over 850 million active users and has become synonymous with dance challenges moves, cooking hacks, and Gen Z. But for nonprofits, TikTok presents a unique opportunity to tell their stories and connect with new audiences—and promote fundraising, too! 

Here’s a look at 15 nonprofits that are succeeding on TikTok right now:

1. Oregon Zoo

With nearly 300k followers, The Oregon Zoo is making a splash on TikTok and bringing fascinating creatures to animal lovers everywhere. Through behind-the-scenes videos of animals exploring their habitats and zookeepers caring for them, the account brings viewers to the zoo without ever having to look up from their phones. They also use popular TikTok songs to catch their audience’s attention and add an extra layer of emotional resonance. One of their posts, which features an elephant smashing a pumpkin, was viewed nearly 3 million times.

2. Pencils of Promise

Pencils of Promise delivers quality education to kids around the world, and they want to bring viewers along with them on their mission. The organization’s TikTok presence is small and still growing, but they’re already using the platform as an opportunity to tell the story behind their campaigns and give a voice to their benefactors. Through messages from their team members and partners, and images and videos of the communities they serve, Pencils of Promise calls young people to action by focusing on their work’s impact.

3. United Way 

For over 125 years, United Way has worked to build more equitable communities through education, income generation, and health. Their TikTok account emphasizes this mission and the organization’s values to its over 70k followers. Many of their videos are informative and meant to help their audience make sense of societal issues like the pandemic. Through videos of their programming (such as check-ins from United Way interns), hashtag campaigns, and calls for donations from their partners, United Way’s TikTok makes getting involved with the organization look fun.

4. Unicef

Unicef is undoubtedly one of the most recognized nonprofits, and its TikTok strategy is an essential reminder of its influence. With a reach of over 300k followers, some of the platform’s biggest influencers appear in their videos. But any organization can learn from the way they authentically share stories from their team members and benefactors and cleverly use the platform’s donation tools and hashtag campaigns. While Unicef’s campaigns respond to tragedies, their TikTok focuses on levity and finding the humanity behind every situation.

5. American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association is using TikTok to put its mission of promoting heart health into practice. In February, their followers were encouraged to participate in their “Keep the Beat” challenge and post videos of themselves moving along to popular music to raise funds for American Heart Month. The account posts daily, high-energy videos of its community members to raise awareness about heart disease and encourage activity, all while staying on top of the platform’s latest trends.

6. American Red Cross

The official TikTok account of the American Red Cross presents safety and emergency preparedness information to their followers in a fun and engaging way. Followers can learn how to prepare for a tornado, get COVID updates, and more through silly videos featuring Red Cross team members acting out a given scenario. Each TikTok includes closed captioning and a voiceover so that the vital information is accessible to everyone. They also post an occasional TikTok to bring attention to Red Cross actions worldwide or promote fundraising efforts.

7. ASPCA

ASPCA’s recipe for TikTok success is simple: lots and lots of cute animals. ASPCA is all about ending cruelty to animals, so on TikTok, they follow pets’ journeys from the shelter to loving homes once they are successfully adopted. Through adoption and fundraising hashtag campaigns, ASPCA uses TikToks to tug at viewers’ heartstrings and offer an intimate glimpse into the impact of adopting over shopping.

8. Malala Fund

Founded by student and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, Malala Fund invests in education programs to help girls go to school and reach their full potential. The organization uses their TikTok account, which boasts over 270k followers, to help amplify girls’ voices and support their audience as they learn from one another’s stories. Users can submit a video of themselves sharing a personal story or achievement through a Typeform for a chance to be featured in a post. Each post offers its audience a reminder that everyone’s voice matters and has a place there.

9. Save the Music

Save the Music Foundation is dedicated to supporting and advocating for music education in schools across the country. Their TikToks feature influencers and students on the platform sharing their personal experiences with music education and how it changed their lives for the better. Followers can also find clips of students playing music at school and home across the country. In an era when so many students still aren’t able to attend school and play together, Save the Music’s posts are a reminder of the enduring power of music and community—and the importance of preserving it.

10. No Kid Hungry

Since its launch in 2010, the #NoKidHungry campaign from the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength has worked to end childhood hunger in the United States. The campaign uses TikTok to tell stories from the field and highlight the young faces behind their operations. With nearly 40k followers on the platform, they also promote fundraisers and food drives to alleviate childhood hunger and feature stories from experts and influencers. The organization’s TikTok presence allows its audience to see the direct impact of their donations and spread awareness around childhood hunger, especially as the pandemic has increased its prevalence.

11. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude is a goliath in the fundraising world, tackling childhood cancer and disease research while supporting patient families. Their TikTok is flooded with short clips of kids celebrating moments of empowerment like competing in sports after fighting cancer or leaving the hospital for the first time. The account also makes great use of pinned videos. One explains the hospital’s presence on TikTok to share patient stories and St. Jude information. Another talks about the accounts they follow by posting screenshots of donors who put St. Jude’s donation link in their bios.

12. Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood’s TikTok is a master class in content with attitude. The team knows that current supporters dominate their viewership, so they tap into their audience’s frustration instead of courting new supporters. They use popular sounds to talk about their shock about abortion legislature and their enthusiasm for contraception access. They show off their support network with videos of advocates in front of clinics and government buildings. They also sprinkle informative videos into their content schedule with upbeat posts about PP’s services and news updates about reproductive access. As a result, their diverse content and emotionally gripping calls to action sustain a consistent stream of likes and comments.

13. UFW Foundation

The UFW Foundation supports farm workers by advocating for improved working conditions, immigration reform, and other worker protections. The tone of their videos alternates between hopeful and brutally revealing—for example, one popular video superimposes footage of immigrant farmers over the viral sound of Kim Kardahsian proclaiming “nobody wants to work these days.” A popular “day-in-the-life” video follows a farmer working from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. picking eggplants and habaneros in the Georgia heat. Every video closes with a specific call to action urging political engagement and campaign support. This account is a powerhouse of emotional storytelling but doesn’t fall into the trap of disempowering displays of hardship.

14. JED Foundation

The JED Foundation helps build teens’ emotional health and works to prevent substance abuse and self harm. While their TikTok follwoing is small, it’s highly engaged—benefitting from actionable health tips and information. JED’s TikTok generates de-stigmatizing content about mental illness and promotes self care practices that anyone can adopt. They worked with influencers like @rod, who produces the Millennial Recap series, and reposted his video promoting their donation link. Their content on self love, stress, and reaching out to struggling friends shows they practice the values they preach.

15. Resuce One

Rescue One, an animal rescue facility in Springfield, Missouri, has a TikTok full of compelling, binge-worthy videos showing animals being found and healed. Rescue One doesn’t overdo it with heavy editing, gimmicks, or trends, instead trusting the viral video formula: short videos + cute animals = engagement. They polish off their videos with enough text or voiceover exposition to help the viewer invest in the journey of each pet they save. Rescue One’s TikTok is a case study in the efficacy of simple content strategy done well.

Nonprofits looking to reach the next generation, create fresh content, and tell their story in a new and engaging way should test out TikTok for themselves. Finding the right strategy might take some trial and error, but accounts can succeed on the platform if they commit to staying authentic and having fun.

Katie Powers

Katie Powers is a copywriter and journalist from Illinois. She is passionate about telling stories that speak to lived experiences and celebrate the things that make life exciting. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Supermajority News, Marketing News Magazine and more.
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