Dog in a hat

When discussing social media with nonprofits, the number one question I am asked is: “How can I get more people to like my organization’s Facebook Page?” There are a few basic first steps, including inviting your friends, using the build audience function to invite your organization’s email list, and making sure your Facebook page is linked to your organization’s website, but the most important rule to remember is that people will like your page and share your content if you generate relevant, interesting and interactive content on a regular basis. This is what we were looking to achieve with a contest we designed to help the Arts Bus in Randolph.

The Arts Bus is an organization whose mission is to provide children in Central Vermont with opportunities to discover their innate creativity by exposing them to transformative experiences, guided by inspiring artist-mentors. As part of the Vermont Digital Economy Project, we helped to craft a social media campaign that is directly associated with the purpose of the organization, encourages a wider audience to like their Facebook page, and encourages fans to produce and share content themselves.

The organization has struggled with social media. Their programs are based out of a bus that travels to areas with children including childcare centers, mobile home and subsidized housing communities, public pre-school programs, and more in rural Central Vermont. Since the students are under 13 years old, they don’t have Facebook profiles. To increase the visibility and fundraising capabilities of the organization, the Arts Bus wanted to find a way to connect with the parents of those children and to encourage the parents to involve their children in art projects at home. After brainstorming a few ideas, including posting the kids’ art work to the Facebook Page, sending a note home to parents so the parents can like and share the artwork, and creating a new gallery with photos from each event that could be shared on Front Porch Forum, an idea floated to the top: hosting a Facebook contest combining Halloween, arts, and pets called the “Critter Costume Contest.”

According to Arts Bus director, Cynthia Sandusky, “It’s not always easy to come up with fun activities to do together with your child, especially in an age when kids are on the social media fast track. The Arts Bus Project’s Facebook page is offering something sure to please every member of the family, while encouraging a child’s individual creativity and imagination – a Critter Costume Contest! Kids love dress-up, and their favorite pet can be their model!”

Here is how the contest works: parents are tasked with encouraging their kids to dress up their pets in preparation for Halloween. The parents can then either email the photo and a caption detailing the name of the dog, the costume and the first name and age of the kid who designed the costume to [email protected] or share the photo directly on the Arts Bus Facebook Page. The Arts Bus will add each new photo to a gallery of the costumed critters. Users are invited to Like and Share the photos of the critter they think is the best dressed. The costumed pet with the most likes and shares from now through Halloween will receive a watercolor set.

In addition to the likely increase in likes to their Facebook Page, the contest also furthers the group’s mission. As Cynthia Sandusky notes, “The Arts Bus is all about getting entire families interested in the arts, and our ‘Critter Costume Contest’ is a reflection of that effort. By using the social media tool of Facebook, the Critter Costume Contest is designed to encourage parents and their children to spend some time together, create together, and have FUN!”

For more information on the Arts Bus or to enter the contest, please visit or email [email protected].

We’d love to hear your ideas for contests to promote your work. Post your ideas on our Facebook page. In the meantime, here are a few other ideas to get you started, to help drive people to interact with you via social media by providing interesting content and engagement:

Historical Societies:

Scan in old yearbook photos and ask people to guess the public official or local celebrity,

OR ask people to tag friends who they are still in touch with.


Post famous quotes and ask patrons to guess the author or the book.

Post pictures of famous book jackets without revealing the title of the book. Ask people to guess which book it is (for example, an iconic Harry Potter book cover, or a picture of Sherlock Holmes.)

Other nonprofits:

Encourage people to take photos of themselves in various places with your nonprofit’s t-shirt on!

“Name our [something]” contest: encourage people to help name a conference room, a mascot, or even a newsletter. Have people vote with likes for the suggestion they like best.