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How Not to Flounder on Facebook: Tips for Your Nonprofit

By on Monday, June 27, 2011

Quite often, I hear about nonprofit organizations starting a Facebook page and floundering. They launch a Facebook page without consideration for the medium, the audience, or their own goals and needs for their organization. To make it even worse, usually someone in charge (who did not launch the page) has heard a rumor about another nonprofit that is raising thousands of dollars on Facebook with just a few clicks, and wants for you to do the same thing overnight, while continuing to do your other job responsibilities.

So how do you rescue your nonprofit from flopping around and become a tech-savvy nonprofit using Facebook with expertise? These five tips are a starting point to rescue your nonprofit from floundering on Facebook.

1. Set goals for your organization’s Facebook presence. What does your organization want to gain from being on Facebook? Do you want to connect with existing donors and supporters? Are you hoping to meet new donors and supporters? Are you planning to raise money for your programs? If you are mainly just trying to claim some Facebook turf because someone told you to – can you consider that maybe your organization could gain more from this form of communication? That you might see other dividends, in the form of closer relationships with supporters and a less formal face to your mission?

2. Keep the tone conversational. Facebook is an informal environment. This is the place where people share photos of their children, comment on sports teams, and play games like Farmville. Your tone should be conversational and not just PR-ese or news release copy. If posting a link to a press release or a program page, write a more informal comment with the post.

3. Ask for engagement.  Ask questions with a photo so your organization stands out. Invite your Facebook users to talk about things that matter to them and relate to your nonprofit’s mission. Acknowledge key dates and holidays that matter to your supporters.

4. Add Facebook to your organization’s website and email signatures. You would be surprised how many nonprofits forget to add a link to their Facebook presence to their website and email signatures.

5. Use a social media calendar. As nonprofits acquire Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts and compete for attention, the need for scheduling outgoing communications has gotten even more significant. It’s an information-heavy world, even for nonprofits. If you have two programs jockeying for Facebook time, schedule them over two days. Try to post regularly on Facebook – once per day is great. Look at your comments and “likes” – determine what is the best time for you to post information by the level of user interaction you attract.

6. Appoint staff time for managing your organization’s Facebook page. Yes, Facebook can be added to another person’s job responsibilities. But it does not take care of itself. Tending and feeding of this medium is required. Don’t forget to cross-train a few people and share the passcodes among the staff, so if someone is out of town or gets sick, you don’t have any way to update.

7. Do not set up your nonprofit organization as a person.  Setting up a nonprofit entity as a personal account on Facebook like a person violates the terms of use, and can get your account deleted. I am always amazed when I see groups on Facebook who are still doing this, and have heard some horror stories from those who have been busted. Set up your account as a nonprofit organization.

8. Familiarize yourself with the tools and monitoring capabilities. Set up notifications for comments so you can monitor them in real-time and not be surprised by a phone call from a higher up who just went on your page and found something alarming. Learn how to read the Insights reports Facebook will email you and look at the numbers weekly.

9. Design policies for commenting and posting on your nonprofit’s Facebook page. What comments should be kept on your Facebook page? If another organization posts information on your page and is trying to raise money, for a similar cause, do you leave it or delete it? If someone is posting a link to promote something that might be useful to your supporters/members, should you leave it, or delete it? If someone goes on the page and posts something obviously crazy, then do you keep it or delete it? And what qualifies someone to be banned as a user? If a researcher goes on your page and wants to solicit your members for research, are you ok with that? What about a reporter who is fishing for a story, comment or source? What about internal policies for your staff about what qualifies for a Facebook post?

10. Remember – it’s about building relationships. Facebook is another avenue for communicating with supporters, donors, and the public. Ultimately, it is about furthering your organization’s relationships with these key audiences. To do that, your conversations on Facebook must be real and authentic, not just auto-feeds, pleas for money, and press releases. This is a format that rewards sincerity and invites sharing. It’s a great opportunity for many nonprofits to share their stories and missions.

These are just a few tips – here’s some additional online resources to help your nonprofit manage its Facebook presence:

Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofits by Heather Mansfield at Diosa

Nonprofits on Facebook

Facebook 101 for Nonprofits

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