By: Taylor Shanklin

Facebook Continues To Alter The Game For Nonprofits & Social Impact

Facebook Announcements Part Deux

Facebook is at it again, recently making sweeping announcements that have organizations in a bit of a frenzy.  With changes to the News Feed, you may be wondering if Facebook will continue to be a useful channel for your organization?

The short answer is yes, it will, but we have to adjust our strategy.

What’s interesting to me is how much some of their recent product announcements affect the fundraising and social impact sectors positively.  (If you didn’t see their announcement in November about the fundraiser’s API, learn more in part one of this series.)

Should We Have Seen This Coming?

First off, this shift toward more interactions amongst people not Pages is not “new.” Facebook has been moving in this direction for the past couple of years. In 2015, Facebook changed the algorithm for News Feed in order to show “less promotional content and more of stories from friends and Pages they care about.” They started showing Page posts less often and brands, including nonprofits, began to consider (and implement) spending advertising dollars through Facebook. We have had to adjust and “pay to play” with Facebook for some time now.

Additionally, Mark Zuckerberg has been shifting toward a “community” focus. At the annual F8 developer conference, Zuckerberg announced a focus on virtual and augmented realities, as well as a focus on building a stronger community. "For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting with friends and family. And now with that foundation, our next focus is building community. We’ve always done a lot of work to help people share and get a diversity of opinions out there. And we’re always going to do this. But now in addition, we’re also working on building common ground, not just getting more different opinions out there but also helping to bring people closer together. And there’s a lot to do here.”

Why is Facebook Changing the News Feed again?

At its core, they say the News Feed changes are intended to create more meaningful interactions between people.  They want to cut down on people’s passive scrolling and drive more active engagement amongst friends and communities.  (Of course, the cynic in me can think of something else, but we’ll go with what’s on the surface for now.)

Because, regardless of Facebook’s motivations, I don’t think the shifts are doom and gloom for nonprofits and their organizational Facebook Pages. I prefer to look at the bright side and ask how do we adjust?

What Exactly Is Changing? More Critically, How Can Nonprofits Adapt?

First, there are two important things to understand about some of their changes:

  1. Facebook’s algorithm will show you more conversations.  They say that they want to show content that is more likely to engage and create meaningful interactions and that Facebook live video is an example of such. They want to get people genuinely talking.
  2. Keep an Eye on the Explore Feed. They say that posts from Pages will not be moved over to the Explore Feed, which is a discovery program rolled out in 2017.  With the Explore Feed, information from pages, publishers, and advertisers is siloed from the main News Feed section. According to Recode, The Explore Feed’s purpose is to show users posts from people or publishers they don’t follow, in the hope that they’ll find new stuff they wouldn’t otherwise see. However, keep your eye on this, as they test this more and more.

Second, how do you use this to your advantage and get your organization’s fans and supporters to start talking about you instead of you talking about you? Here are three ideas on how to do that:

  1. Have a real video strategy.  This involves Facebook Live and other video storytelling which involves your supporters and not just you the organization.  Even if you are reluctant and don’t want to be on a video, chances are someone within your organization (or major fans, volunteers, etc.) does like the camera.  Also look for tools that make it easy for your constituents to create their own stories of impact and experience with your organization, and easily share the content with your organization.  For example, I had the pleasure recently of getting a tour of the video platform Gather Voices, which helps organizations capture videos from their constituents and consolidate them into a single place.  Such video strategy and tech can help you drive real conversation and scale the ability for others to tell your story for you to their friends and family.
  2. Harness the power of your organization’s employee network.  Don’t bombard everyone with an ask to share stuff on Facebook all the time, but identify some key “thought leaders” within your organization and create some personal brands for them on Facebook, where they engage very personally with individuals who follow and support your cause.
  3. Encourage constituents to leverage social fundraising through Facebook Fundraising. Facebook fundraising campaigns will not be affected by this change, and the fundraisers are still going to show up in the News Feed (I predict more). People like to feel good stories from their friends and typically those stories drive a lot of conversation.  Therefore, use the power of Facebook to drive fundraising.  If people are on Facebook and you have their attention there, harness that and think about how you can truly use its fundraising capabilities.  If you had to focus your attention on just one thing and pick between Facebook advertising or Facebook fundraising, my recommendation is to focus more heavily on the Fundraising aspect at this point.

Focus on Your Donors First, not Facebook

While Facebook’s announcement will obviously impact your organization’s reach in some way, it’s important to remember it falls within the context of your entire fundraising program.  So, don’t freak out and hit the panic button. Continue to focus on building strong relationships with donors. Engage your donors in a meaningful way that makes them want to champion your cause and talk about it with their friends (online or offline).

Our team at Pursuant has put together a few resources to help you build stronger relationships we’ve learned through the years. Demystifying Donor-Centric Fundraising and The Intelligent Fundraiser’s Guide to Donor Retention both provide proven best practices when it comes to focusing on your donors, rather than the channels you use to engage them.

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