10 Tips for Non-Profits on Facebook

Facebook can be a valuable tool for non-profits worldwide, as the recent Haiti earthquake fundraising has illustrated, yet many non-profits may be unsure how to proceed with social network marketing. Millions of dollars were raised in the immediate aftermath of the January earthquake after Facebook users populated the network with status updates imploring friends to donate money with text messaging.

But you needn’t wait for a natural disaster to make Facebook work for your non-profit. There are many different ways to utilize the service for your non-profit, from creating an application to setting up a store or even buying Facebook ads.

If your non-profit is already on Facebook, or if taking your non-profit’s message to Facebook is something you’re planning to do, these tips can help you strengthen your social network presence.

Facebook has directly catered to non-profits present on the social network with a resource page, facebook.com/nonprofits, specifically to help them use the site. It includes the latest examples of how many organizations are using Facebook today. Be sure to take a look for more information.

1. Create a Facebook Page

You may or may not already have a Facebook Page, but there are a few good reasons to create a Page as opposed to a Group. First off, Pages allow you to publish directly into the news stream where you can engage your fans with a variety of different media, such as videos, polls and status updates. Secondly, Pages allow you to analyze how fans are interacting with your page via the Insights Dashboard, giving you instant feedback to help you adjust your method. You can also do things like buy advertising on Facebook for your Page to increase your number of fans (more on that below).

2. Use Causes

Causes launched in 2007 to help Facebook users be able to make a difference without having to leave the social network. The application markets itself as a way for anyone to make a difference using Facebook to tell friends about causes, ask them to donate and generally get the word out, according to their page, “Causes was founded on the belief that in a healthy society, anyone can participate in change by informing and inspiring others.”

Anyone can create a user-created advocacy group on Causes and administrators of those groups post announcements and communicate with members of that cause through email and Facebook notifications, foster discussions, share information, sign petitions and fundraise. Its Nonprofit Partner Center includes features to help organizations with multiple chapters better manage the app.

3. Make Your Facebook Page Unique

If you’re just going to duplicate what’s already on your web site on Facebook, you’re missing the point of taking your message to a social network. The idea is create content that’s Facebook-specific and build a community there. It’s easy to just point fans back to your web site, but these Pages tend to be less interesting than ones that keep users engaged on the same page with unique content that’s not on their web site.

The Facebook Page for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, for example, posts almost daily content that is Wisconsin-specific. This includes stories about local politician’s state income taxes, national stories about Wisconsin’s political battles in Washington, a commuter rail project and much more information not found on the party’s web site.

Depending on what your organization does, this could mean anything from sharing fun facts about a political cause to posting pictures of rescued animals to offering a special t-shirt to Facebook fans.

4. Be Active

Use your Page to give Facebook users an idea of what your organization does in real life.  Plug events, fundraisers, meetings and other activities. Publish insightful and interesting information in your status updates, ask your fans what they think with polls or when you post videos, photos or other links. Ask your fans to utilize the Share options when you publish to your Wall, so that friends in their networks can also find out about your organization.

Livestrong, an organization that works to fight cancer founded by superathlete and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, has more than 738,000 fans and is a very active Facebook Page. The Wall is updated daily — sometimes several times a day— not only with posts but also with replies to comments, with administrators answering fans’ questions and referring them to cancer resources. Posts offer all types of information from celebrities’ experiences with cancer to events to merchandise suggestions to fundraising tips and information on discrimination in the workplace for people fighting cancer.

In other words, Livestrong’s Facebook Page is active in all types of ways to keep their fans engaged, which is reflected in the personal way many of them engage with the Page.

5. Talk Back

Livestrong is also exemplary of how to talk back to your fans. Many of Livestrong’s fans share very personal information on the page, to which admins reply with information or condolences. If you’re trying to build a community on Facebook that requires conversation, in other words, you need to talk back and Livestrong is a good example of how to do so.

You don’t have to answer every single question or respond to all your fans’ comments, but an occasional reply gives the impression that an organization is engaged with its fan base and interested in what they have to say. And that’s important because, well, Facebook is a social network (emphasis on the social) and communication is at the core of social networks.

6. Create an App, Game or Quiz

Finding new and creative ways to engage your fans is an important part of fostering an active Facebook community that will want to take their engagement from the virtual to real world by becoming involved in your group physically or fiscally. One way to do this is creating an application, game or quiz that fans can use once, or ideally, several times. This can include creating fun content that they can post to their Walls so friends in their networks can also learn about your organization.

A few examples are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quiz, What Do Quizzes Really Know About You?, which asks questions about Facebook privacy. Once the user completes the quiz, the results are publishable to their Walls for all of their friends to see, thus increasing the likelihood that more people will visit the ACLU’s Facebook Page.

Another way to go is to create little gifts for your Facebook fans that they can share with their friends, (RED) helps fight HIV in Africa and created an application called (RED) Kisses that fans may use to send different types of kisses to their friends. This type of app is usable an unlimited number of times and is published to the user’s Wall for their network of friends to see each time.

7.  Add a Store, Donations or Other Boxes

(RED) included another good feature on their Facebook Page: a store. Adding a store or donations box right on your Facebook Page makes it easier for fans to buy merchandise or give money to your organization. In (RED)’s case not only was the store there, but it was prominently included on its own tab. Sometimes one click away is too many, but if there’s a store prominently displayed on your Page, either on your profile page or as a tab, fans don’t have to leave Facebook to participate with your group.

There are all types of features you can add to your Page that allow your fans to feel ownership of your organization, like a fan badge or a sign petition box for their profile pages. The added bonus of this type of promotion is that, whether it’s published to your fan’s wall or their profile page, it also gets lots of new eyeballs to notice you.

8. Heed Feedback

It’s important to monitor your Facebook Page to see what’s working and what’s not. Do your video posts get more comments than your blog posts? Are fans checking out your Causes page or your store? Also, as the administrator of a page you can always check the Insights Dashboard for specific information on the age, sex and location of your fans to see what’s working with different groups. Times change, and so does Facebook, so if you are interested in a long-term presence there it’s important for you to notice what’s working for you and adjust what isn’t.

9. Segue Into Other Media

President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign utilized social media to the max, not only focusing on Facebook and Twitter, but utilizing text messaging, email, phone calls and even its own unique social network. But moving from one media to several starts with just one piece of information.

Although you want to create a unique Facebook experience for your fans, you can also use Facebook to branch out into other media to communicate with them and FORGE, a non-profit that works with displaced communities in Africa, is a good example.

As seen above, they recently asked fans on their Wall to sign up to add FORGE to an email signature campaign to raise money for their organization. Use Facebook to get your fans’ email addresses, or ask them to sign up for your SMS service to take your organization’s campaigns to other aspects of your fans’ media usage and become an even more active part of their lives.

Another way to reach into other media is to sync your Page’s content with other media your organization may use, such as Twitter or a blog. Facebook enabled syncing status updates with Twitter feeds in August and the option to import a blog to Facebook has been around for a while as well.

10. Buy a Facebook Ad

Facebook ads — displayed on the right-hand side of a user’s Page — are an easy, economical and effective way to increase your fan base or visits to your page. The self-serve advertising system allows you to place orders for people (or profiles) that match whatever demographic requirements you may have, mothers of children with a certain illness for example, and you’re only charged for performance.

CHERUBS, an organization created to support congenital diaphragmatic hernia research and awareness, ran a Facebook ad recently that piqued this reporter’s interest, leading to the discovery that this congenital deformation occurs when a developing baby’s diaphragm fails to form or to close totally, allowing abdominal organs into the chest cavity. I may never donate to the group, but one of their objectives is to create awareness, and they did so with the help of a Facebook ad.