7 Social Media Red Flags That Turn Off Potential Funders

April 30, 2024
min read

You've poured your heart into your grant application, meticulously crafting each section. But just before hitting submit, there's one last query: provide your social media handles. Why? Funders aren't just looking to become fans; they need to scrutinize your online presence and assess your credibility, accountability, and potential impact. However, with the right approach, they might just become your biggest cheerleaders after witnessing your amazing work!

In today's digital landscape, social media isn't merely a tool for keeping up with friends and trending topics – it's a make-or-break catalyst for NGOs and startup founders seeking funding. While we've previously discussed leveraging social media to boost your funding chances, this blog post explores the potential pitfalls – how your social media activities could raise red flags and potentially sabotage your grant dreams.

Social Media Activities That Can Ruin Your Chances 

1. Inconsistent or Infrequent Posting

An inactive feed is like an empty void, signaling "lack of commitment" to funders. Imagine an NGO seeking funding for an education initiative, but their Twitter account only has a few tweets from over a year ago, and their Facebook page hasn't been updated in months. No new posts, no retweets, no engagement. This sporadic activity suggests a lack of dedication and follow-through – not the qualities you want to demonstrate when seeking funding.

Here is even a funnier scenario: the NGO included in its track records that it had a program 4 months ago but the activities are nowhere to be found on its social media page. To funders, this sporadic activity suggests a lack of integrity, dedication, and follow-through – not exactly the qualities you want to demonstrate when seeking funding. 

2. Sharing Divisive or Offensive Content

The founder is a national of a country and the startup also operates in a country. What happens in the country affects both the founder and the business, hence the founder is not out of place to have an opinion. From cultural wars to religious fracas to political differences, a founder can dabble into any as he/she deems fit but must be wary. Dropping your two cents wrongly can make you say goodbye to a potential grant funding. Posting rants, hate speech, and controversy might get you clicks, but they will also get you crossed off funder lists with the speed of light.  

Adeyinka Shoyemi, a Nigerian author living in west London, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for encouraging racial hatred and violence in Nigeria using inflammatory messages. Imagine funders examining a founder's page only to find divisive and offensive posts targeting certain demographics. The founder might as well kiss that funding opportunity goodbye.

3. Ignoring Negative Feedback or Gagging Reviewers

For startups with products or services, expect critiques and call-outs as part of the daily grind. While some feedback may be objective criticism, others could be mere distractions from competitors or trolls. When this happens, address the criticism transparently and with a willingness to improve. Deleting negative comments to maintain a perfect image or directly attacking negative reviewers is a major misstep that could cost you funding.

A perfect example is the CEO of Bento Africa, Ebunoluwa Okunbanjo. He was a boss with foul words and his story was featured in Tech Cabal's Toxic Bosses series. Ebun, before losing his position for the time being, was guilty of verbal abuse, which included unconscionable curse words, refusal to grant leave and time off, and erratic termination of appointments without due process. He didn’t stop his abuse even when employees left, he extended it to them at any given chance by telling laid-off employees that they wouldn’t find work anywhere. 

4. Overly Promotional or Spammy Content

Pride in your products or services is admirable, but constant, overly self-promotional content can be a turnoff. It may signal a hidden agenda or lack of market demand, which funders might see as a bad sign. Let the impact of your work speak for itself through authentic storytelling, not empty boasts or repetitive selling points.

Imagine a funder checking out a startup's Instagram page and the page is littered with posts like "We're the best!" and "Our product will change the world!" without a single customer testimony. This includes bombarding existing and potential customers with promotional emails or texts. Businesses like Opay or Moniepoint do not need this because their services do the talking. While promotion is allowed, self-aggrandizement is an insincere and arrogant marketing strategy. It can scare funders away.

5. Sharing Inaccurate or Misleading Information

In the era of misinformation, founders relying on secondary research must be extra vigilant to avoid peddling fake facts or false narratives. Funders have zero tolerance for organizations sharing inaccurate or unsubstantiated information, even unintentionally, as it can seriously damage credibility.

During the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, there was a lot of misinformation on what to do and not do to stay safe from the virus. For example, imagine a startup applying for a health grant shared on its handle that drinking gin cures COVID-19 because an unverified website said so. Imagine what would happen to the application if the claims were fact-checked during due diligence by funders. Sharing false information, even unintentionally, can seriously damage an organization's credibility in the eyes of funders.

6. Engaging in Harassment or Online Aggression

Nothing screams "unprofessional" like online bullying or trolling. Keep your composure and let your product or service – not your anger – do the talking. Aggressive and immature behavior is a major red flag for funders, as it shows an inability to handle criticism or disagreement professionally and constructively.

For startups, competition is allowed. Now, say you tasted your competitor’s product and you found a fault with it. Instead of responding with a better product, you went online with your startup’ handle to attack your competitor's product and make derogatory remarks about their team. While this might give you the attention you crave, it also shows a severe lack of professionalism and emotional intelligence. Not being able to separate emotion from profession is a red flag for any serious potential funder because you can turn on them someday too. 

7. Poor Engagement with Followers

Your customers are your lifeline, so neglecting their comments or failing to engage them is social media suicide. It signals a lack of commitment to gathering feedback and refining your offering based on user input, which could cost you funding.

What would funders think of a startup that posted about its products but failed to respond to comments asking where to get the product, how to use it, or what the product works for? This lack of engagement makes the startup look unserious and disconnected from its customers.  

How To Avoid Social Media Temptations

1. Have a Content Calendar and Post Consistently

Keeping your audience engaged requires a steady stream of fresh, relevant content. Plan a content calendar detailing which aspects of your offering you'll share across all channels. For example, a startup producing rice could dedicate the first five days to recipes using their product (jollof, white, fried, coconut, and milky rice), then spend the next fifteen days diving deeper into each. By sticking to this schedule, you maintain an active, engaging presence that keeps your community informed and invested.

2. Engage Actively 

Social media is a two-way street. Just as you'd feel let down by a lack of engagement on your posts, so too do your customers when you neglect to reply, ask questions, and encourage discussion. Ignite conversations by posing thought-provoking queries under your content. Under your post, consider asking questions like "Have you tried our products yet?" or "What would you like us to improve on?". You can ignite a conversation from there. 

3. Soak your pages with Testimonials and Data-Driven Case Studies

In addition to statistics, include real stories of lives changed and tangible evidence of your work's positive impact. Share compelling narratives that resonate emotionally while backing up your claims with data.

Kitian Hub is an education NGO and right there at a vantage point on their website, you can find testimonials from students whose lives have been transformed by their programs. Their social media pages are also littered with the same. Not anywhere will you find posts of them ranting or attacking sister NGOs. 

4. Establish Clear Social Media Guidelines for Your Team

While you and your business may follow social media best practices, one errant post from a team member could cost you funding. Develop clear guidelines and protocols for your team's online engagement to maintain a consistent, professional brand voice.

Two workers of a popular fast-food restaurant lost their jobs for posting an unprofessional video on their personal social media handles during work hours. While that looks like an extreme reaction, it sends a good note to funders that the business does not condone negligence of duties which could affect the operation and waste funders' investment. 

5. Address Criticism Constructively

Negative feedback is inevitable, but how you respond can make or break your reputation. Address criticism transparently, commit to improving, and avoid becoming defensive or dismissive. A constructive response can have funders saying, "We must support this amazing organization!"

In the wake of the Nigerian canned food fiasco, a pregnant customer bought an Erisco Foods product and complained about the concentration of sugar in the product and this led to her arrest and detention. Complaints are normal and often about the quantity and quality of a product or service. Instead of lashing out, the brand should acknowledge the valid concerns in the same channel the complaint was made, thank the user for their honest input, and do the needful. The needful could be a replacement or improvement in subsequent ones. 

Such a response can have funders saying, "We simply must support this amazing organization!"


An organization's social media presence is a crucial factor that funders closely examine when evaluating funding opportunities. With the increasing importance of online credibility, professionalism, and demonstrated potential for impact, founders and NGOs must exercise caution and implement best practices in their social media activities. 

Avoiding negative social media pitfalls and consistently maintaining a positive, engaged online presence can significantly enhance the chances of securing vital funding. Ultimately, an organization's social media strategy plays a pivotal role in realizing its vision of creating positive change and making a tangible impact.

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