Facebook for Nonprofits — a work in progress.

Yesterday I read that Facebook has released a new effort to help support nonprofits. I immediately applauded the social network, and felt a wave of relief come over me on behalf of my nonprofit partners. (I’m currently working with three in my digital/social strategy consultancy, and I promise to disclose whom, when it’s relevant).

Finally, I thought… Help has arrived!

I immediately perused the new site, Nonprofits on Facebook. It’s beautifully designed and full of best-practices for the equivalent to a startup seeking seed funding. Bear in mind — I’m not the average Joe when it comes to social marketing and I’m privy to that. I pride myself in never, in my 16 years of online marketing, being a “focus group of one.”

There are wonderful success stories on the new nonprofits site, for starters. If you’re looking for the sweet stuff, start there. There’s plenty of 101-level tactical suggestions for those looking to learn the Facebook basics. You know, the type of thing you needed in 2009–2011 when you were setting up your page? Topics such as learning how to balance your content and exchange value, tag other high profile supporters, or how to write copy that helped you build engagement amongst the people who already want to hear from you, but can’t hear from you, but you’re not sure why, so you Google “How to [reach more people/raise awareness/drive engagement/collect donations/build my database] on Facebook” and search Reddit and email your friends who run pages for brands and they all tell you the same thing this new site does:

Spend money.

Damn it! That’s where they lost me. This whole effort seemed more like an ad campaign to get more money FROM nonprofits not FOR them!

If Facebook really wants to support nonprofits, they can take this a step further and really move the needle. Here’s some suggestions:

  1. Strategy-wise, Facebook should understand that most nonprofits are more savvy than 101-level. They’re resourceful, passionate people who already beg, scrape and hack for every dime they can find, then take a portion to spend on Facebook ads in hopes to reach their goals. I think this fact was completely overlooked in the development of this new site.
  2. Adjust or eliminate the choked-off default reach for certified nonprofits.
  3. Discount their advertising rates, or allow nonprofits to apply for grants, like Google does. (Thanks to a comment on the Facebook for Nonprofits post for this one. I hope Facebook reads those, by the way).
  4. Assign a representative — no, a coach — to help pair up nonprofits and celebrities and media. Someone who isn’t paid on commission.
  5. Feature a nonprofit effort weekly in a more mainstream outlet or press release for exposure. Maybe it’s alongside a button to allow the public to seamlessly support children’s cancer organizations in a carousel format. Perhaps the Red Cross’ “blue-skies” blood donation efforts (disclosure: my former team was a partner of the Red Cross Blood & PHSS Divisions), or perhaps featuring a collection of wonderful organizations who are helping the homeless, funding clean water (disclosure: I have a partnership with One Drop), or any other collection of efforts in a one-click non-competitive format.
  6. Idea I’ve pitched to at least four people at various, unnamed social networks who all loved it, but “wasn’t the right person to talk to.” To Facebook’s credit, they’re wonderful about connecting people after natural disasters. (Like — Nobel Peace Prize-level innovation, in my opinion). I want to see this type of connectivity scale to support other causes, too. I’m partial to mental health awareness (disclosure: I have a partnership with PROJECT 375), so I’ll use that area as an example: The next time the mainstream media fuels the fire by glorifying a horrible event such as a celebrity suicide or a school shooting — Why doesn’t Facebook make it just as seamless for people to connect to help? Perhaps in the form of a professional therapist in your area who counsels youth after a traumatic event. Then, more importantly, doesn’t charge the therapist or the organization a dime.

Look, I applaud Facebook leadership for trying to do what’s right — supporting nonprofits trying to navigate the needle-in-a-haystack world that is Facebook. Leadership may read the comments in their release announcement and feel as if no good deed goes unpunished. They’d be wrong. The fact is Facebook has the power to move the needle for organizations making the world a better/safer/cleaner/smarter/healthier place by looking at they way they deliver messaging to people who opt-into receiving it. While I don’t necessarily condone exclusivity or special treatment on their platform, I do plead for the social giant to continue to explore this path and do everything they can to give help to the organizations who dedicate their lives for important — often lifesaving — causes. Many are survivors themselves, and dammit, they could use a break. Not an ad campaign to drive more ad campaigns.

About Nate Ludens:

I work with sports and entertainment brands to design and execute social media strategies that produce real results. Through strong relationships, top social data tools and a ton of experience as my foundation, I’ve contributed to several sizable campaigns and events. I promise to keep a realistic, humble, and honest approach to the consulting work I do.

Let’s connect on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, shall we?

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