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Nonprofits, Facebook, Best Practices, and What a Difference It All Can Make

This is a guest post by Megan Knight, intern at Dawn Westerberg Consulting LLC

Facebook is an internet phenomenon, with over 500 million active users; it is the largest social networking site to date.   Not only is Facebook populated, but it’s utilized.  Each month, a reported average of 700 billion minutes is spent on the site.    That being said, Facebook is certainly worth considering for your nonprofit.   You won’t be able to reach all 500 million users, but you may be able to engage the right individuals on another level.

As stated in a previous post, I touched on some great reasons to why nonprofits should consider social media in their marketing strategy.  I briefly discussed five different vehicles of social media (Facebook included) and gave a few suggestions on how nonprofits can use each.  However, I’d like to go more in depth and focus just on Facebook.

So to get started, let’s get some terms defined.  Facebook has three main types of profiles available:

Individual Profiles: This pretty self-explanatory.  Personal profiles for users generally have no (official) affiliation to a business.

Community Page: These are designed for causes and community organizations.  Sounds great right?  Not so much. Check out this article for reasons why you should avoid community pages for your organization.  These are deceiving pages that could undermine what content you can control.  If you are an official representative of a nonprofit, you need to avoid these pages!

Official Pages: Also known as Fan Pages are designed to promote a brand, business, or organization.  These pages allow content to be customized, and also offers the organization the ability to interact with users, also known as “fans”.  These types of pages are what I will focus on in this article.

Designing the Right Type of Page

Before you start, I suggest that you define some objectives and goals you want to achieve by implementing this page.  It’s crucial to have some direction especially when you start adding content.  Do you want to focus on fundraising or mostly on raising awareness? Or maybe a balance of both?  Goals may change over time, but you don’t want to try and do too much right off the bat, prioritize.  Make a timeline and keep your organization accountable.

First, begin by making your Facebook Page Name as accurate and concise as possible.  Once you make your name, you cannot change it.  This also pertains to the URL. Keep it simple; make it as close to the organization’s name, so it’s easy to remember.

Next, keep in mind that your content is everything.  Make sure your information page matches information on your website.  It’s important that the organization’s purpose is obvious.

Be unique.  If you know how to code HTML, use the “Static FBML” application to add HTML elements to your website.  This can be a banner, a Twitter icon, a YouTube video, or any element you deem relevant.

Another suggestion is to create polls and/or quizzes.  The ONE Campaign is a great example of an interactive page.


Don’t forget about fundraising!  Using Static FBML, you can add a donate button that links back to your website.  If you aren’t capable of that, consider adding the Causes application, this is a great way to promote fundraising right on your page.  However, please note in order to be eligible your organization must be listed at Guidestar.org.

Execute and Maintain

Be active on your page.  Ask questions and then answer some; be accessible to your fans.  Post videos, articles, success stories, or anything that you know that your audience might find useful or inspiring.  Tag supporters in videos, photos, and notes.

Make it easy to get involved. Post volunteer opportunities and direct fans to the right place.  Whether it is contact information or a website, make sure to include the next steps.   A great example of this implemented is Catholic Charities of Dallas.  Just today, I found this organization looking for Spanish speaking volunteers.   At the end of the post there was link back to the nonprofit’s website and an email address of the coordinator.  Within an hour I was signed up to help translate later this week.

Create profile badges for supporters to put on their blogs, websites, etc.  Another suggestion is to place this badge in your email newsletter.

An important practice to also consider is contests and/or promotions.  Take a look at what Blood:Water Mission did recently to raise more money and awareness for it’s cause.

Bloodwater Mission


Additional Best Practices to Keep in Mind:

Use your logo as the profile picture: This seems pretty mindless, but make sure you promote your brand as much as possible. Another suggestion: if you have an event coming up, use the event’s logo until the event is over. This also helps with promotion of the event.

Your Twitter audience is different from your Facebook audience: True, there may be some overlap, but it’s important to treat them as separate opportunities to reach people.   If you are just copying and pasting content from medium to medium, you may lose some creative flow.  Each site can engage people in different ways, don’t forget that.

Use the Links Application: This helps ensure that all links are posted correctly.  If you prefer not use this, make sure each and every link includes the http:// tag.  This will allow each user to access the link in one easy click.

Keep Your Content New and Dynamic: The more content you push out, the more people can be exposed.  Ensure that the content is engaging and personal, not just propaganda.  Post “exclusive” Facebook content, such as interviews, videos, etc.

Use the Notes feature: In lieu of a blog, this is a great feature that you can utilize for your organization. If you do have a blog, put your blog’s RSS feed (Social RSS Application) on your page.

Reach out to other “unofficial” fan pages: Unfortunately with Facebook, just about anyone can create a fan page.  So it may be entirely possible that a page for your organization already exists, but it’s controlled by a supporter. If this is the case, do not panic.  Reach out to user and ask to collaborate.  Tag each other in posts, ask for feedback, but I suggest that you ensure that your page is specified as the “official” Facebook page.

Utilize the Facebook Insights Dashboard for fan page analytics. Also, just as with any other marketing tactic talk to users and see what’s working and what’s not. Adjust if necessary.  You can adapt more technology such as applications as you go along, just keep the creativity flowing!

All in all, remember that each Facebook Page is unique and should fit each organization in it’s own way.  Don’t try to be just like another, try and find your own niche, it will be worth it, I promise.

Supplementary Resources:

Official Facebook Document on Best Practices

5 Successful Elements of a Facebook Fan Page

Non-Profit Website Design Examples and Best Practices

Great Example Pages:

ONE Campaign

Blood:Water Mission

Catholic Charities of Dallas

5 Responses to Nonprofits, Facebook, Best Practices, and What a Difference It All Can Make

  1. Man, these posts you’re working on are grand slams! It’s always like finding a hidden treasure when you come upon a post that details the “how to” aspect of things, and you’ve got the hang of that very well.

    Great job!

    • Dawn says:

      Megan has done a great job of putting together some rich summaries of these tools and as you point out the helpful “how to.” She’s really put her heart into these posts! 🙂 Glad that you like them!

  2. […] I just posted another article about social media focusing on Facebook.  Definitely check it out here! […]

  3. […] Expanding on her original post, which I highlighted last week, Megan details how nonprofits can use Facebook, and best practices. Tremendous […]

  4. […] Facebook, Best Practices, and What a Difference It All Can […]

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