8 social media tips for food banks

  • In the face of increasing demand, food banks need to work harder than ever to maintain their stocks
  • Many are using social media to build support and generate donations
  • Here we share tips and examples of how to use social media to build engagement with donors and volunteers

The Trussell Trust runs a network of 420 food banks across the UK, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis. The group – which holds its annual conference on 17 May – relies on donations from the public, which make up more than 90% of what it shares.

According to The Trussell Trust’s latest statistics, the use of food banks is increasing across the UK. Between April 2016 and April 2017, nearly 1.2 million three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis, an increase of more than 70,000 since 2015-16.

Zurich insures many food banks across the UK, which are working harder than ever to meet this rising demand, and increasingly turning to social media to connect with local communities and ask for donations.

We take a look at Trussell Trust food banks and other independent food aid providers, to explore how social media can be effectively used to boost support and generate donations.

1. Donation appeals

Some food banks are already using social media for donation appeals. These work particularly well with images of the things that are needed and using language that explains why more food is needed, without forgetting the simple power of “please” and “thank you”.

For example, Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank often combines appeals for donations with the number of three day emergency food supplies it provides each week.

Don’t forget to tell people how to donate. New Mills Food Bank has this information pinned as its top tweet.

2. Share local and national stats and data

Sharing national data about food banks from The Trussell Trust or other sources can help provide context for your work.

Involve your followers by sharing information about your impact or how need is increasing. For example, Feltham Food Bank reported that demand doubled in one year as part of an announcement about a food drive, while Taunton Foodbank shared local statistics from the Trussell Trust report.

3. Storytelling

Share what people referred to you say, or better still, help them to share themselves. Even a simple quote can be a powerful way to tell a story.

Images or other contributions can also really stand out. Harlow Foodbank shares letters it receives, while Uckfield Foodbank shares creative writing and recipes submitted by its clients.

If you can’t share the stories of the people you help, take a look at The Trussell Trust’s case studies of people helped by the organisation.

4. Be part of your local community

Broaden your list of followers by connecting with the community. Search for local people and businesses on Twitter or Facebook and follow or comment on their posts.

Many local areas also have active hashtags on Twitter (#WokingHour or #LeedsHour), which can be a great way to foster community spirit and donations.

Unless they want to be anonymous, name-check and thank businesses and people who have made a significant contribution.

5. Using personality

Don’t be afraid to use emotion and to inject personality and familiarity into posts. People are more likely to engage with you as a person than as an organisation.

Responding to messages and sharing memorable moments and achievements can be a great way to build the conversation. Stretford Foodbank marked volunteer Joan’s 95th birthday, while Manchester Foodbank posted a photo with author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay at a recent collection.

6. Join in with hashtags

Join in with the things people are talking about. This could include local events or national celebration days such as National Tea Day in April, Mental Health Awareness week in May, or Egg Week in October. See this list of food-related celebration days for inspiration.

7. Be prepared for busy times of the year

Seasonal events can help to drive donations. Think about campaigns or posts you could write to drive donations around Christmas, harvest, lent, Easter or Mothers’ Day, for example.

8. Share stories from others

Watch out for stories in the media that discuss food poverty. Whether these are part of a serious news piece or on a soap opera, share these clips or write a blog post about how this relates to your experience.

An item on the BBC2 Victoria Derbyshire show about a food bank in Cornwall used Twitter to share photos of a typical weekly food package for one person.

The practicalities

Developing a social media strategy or checklist can be a great way to manage your social media, particularly if you rely on volunteers. Draw up guidelines about what you will and won’t talk about on social media, which channels you are using and for what.

Statistics from your social media channels can give great insight about the best time of day to post content. On both Facebook and Twitter you can access information on how people are responding to your posts by clicking on the “Insights” or “Analytics” buttons on your page.

Our post about running social media out of hours, How can charities manage social media 24/7?, will give you some ideas to get started.