Revised with new information as of April
A free resource for nonprofit
organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
public sector organizations, and other mission-based agencies
Jayne Cravens, www.coyotecommunications.com
How Nonprofits Should Use Facebook
Every web-based online community evolves, and Facebook
is no exception: what Facebook is now is not what it was even two years
go, and not necessarily what it will be in two years. What started off as
an online dating site for college students (IMO) is now the most popular
online community in the USA, and in several other countries as well. It
won't be forever, (remember back in the 1990s when commercials said "Find
us on America Online!"?), but its popularity will continue for enough
years to make it worth using for any nonprofit organization,
non-governmental organization, school, government program or other
mission-based organization interested in engaging with a very large number
Unfortunately, there are a lot of nonprofits creating a profile on
Facebook and posting excerpts from press releases. That's not now
to use Facebook (or your web site, for that matter). If that's how you are
using Facebook, you are missing out on most of the benefits you
could gain from such.
Let me be blunt: if your Facebook page is pretty much just announcements
of gift shop hours, new items for sale in your gift shop or through your
organization, requests for donations, and the usual, boring press releases
about where your Executive Director is today, your Facebook profile is NOT
What your organization absolutely must do on Facebook - no excuses!
Create a fan page.
Those are things your organization absolutely, positively should be doing on
Facebook - no excuses. There are also things your organization should
consider doing, if you have time or if you feel it's appropriate for your
This is NOT a profile; you create a fan page from your profile that you already
have. Whomever will administer the page for your organization logs in to
Facebook with his or her own profile and then goes to this
page to begin setting up the fan page. It's easy to add and remove
administrators (in case whomever creates the page leaves your
organization). This is much better than creating an entire Facebook
account for your organization; with a fan page, endless numbers of people
can "like" your page, receive information about your organization (or
individual program - you can create fan pages for just your volunteer
involvement, for instance), and comment on what's going on. It allows
people to interact with your organization, but without you having to
friend absolutely everyone interested in your organization. Here's my
own fan page, which I hope you will like, as well as a fan page I
created for Canby,
Oregon-Area Bicyclists & Pedestrians (I'm on a citizens'
government committee re: this subject, and created the page as a way for
any citizen to offer feedback).
Regularly ask questions as your Facebook status update.
Not regularly inviting feedback is the #1 mistake made by nonprofits
using Facebook. It's inexcusable! Instead, regularly ask a question that
will get your followers commenting. For instance:
- Link to an article in the news that relates to your organization's
mission and ask in your status update, "What do you think of this?"
- Ask for people who attended your event last night to comment on
- Ask people what they would like to see in an upcoming publication
you are putting together, a video you will soon start filming, etc.
Do not post only press release summaries
Of course you an make announcements of gift shop hours and new items for
sale in your gift shop. Of course you can request donations. Yes, you
can issue those typical, BORING statements about where your Executive
Director is today. But if that is all you post, your Facebook
profile is NOT worth following!
Use the events feature.
This is one of the most under-utilized Facebook features, and it's a
real shame, because this feature can help you get the word out about a
public event to a MUCH larger audience, beyond only those who have
already "liked" you. By putting public events on the Facebook events
feature, you allow anyone attending to show all of their friends that
they are attending. You also allow anyone to share that information with
anyone else on Facebook. The only caution: you have to make it clear if
this is an event that requires RSVPs, whether or not you will accept
RSVPs sent via Facebook; most organizations put a note in the
description that says, "By RSVPing to this event here on Facebook, your
attendance is NOT confirmed; please do such-and-such to officially
register." You may have to put a reminder in the comments section as
Upload a few photos every now and again.
Seeing the faces of people in action - your clients, your volunteers,
your staff - gets people excited about your organization. Therefore, you
need to be sharing photos regularly in your status update. However, I
don't like Facebook as a place for a nonprofit to upload all of
its photos to share with the world, because we don't know how long
Facebook will stay the hot online social networking place (and won't it
be awful if you have all of your public photos there, all neatly
organized in albums, and then have to replicate that on the social
networking site that replaces Facebook in a few years) and because
Facebook is a closed garden - one has to be on Facebook to see the
photos (and, believe it or not, not everyone is on Facebook). But while
Facebook remains so popular, you should upload at least a few photos on
your fan page, particularly immediately following an event. Then, in the
description, provide a link to, say, your Flickr
account, noting that that's where people can find all of your photos.
Here's more on why to share
most of photos on Flickr rather than Facebook.
Post updates DURING an event.
Have one of the administrators of your fan page post from an event they
are attending, either one that is sponsored by your organization or one
that your organization is a part of in some way, and invite people to
come say hello to you wherever you are (Jayne here. I'm wearing a red
sweater and sitting at the couch at the top of the stairs at the
Portland Convention Center. Come say hi!). That feels spontaneous,
and doesn't feel like a super-structured PR message - and that's what
followers want! Don't overdo it - one or two updates in, say, one hour,
is fine, but more than that in an hour annoys most Facebook users.
Don't post 10 status updates within seconds of each other. Put at least
a few minutes between posts. Some organizations don't post more than two
status update an hour.
Post about changes to your web site.
Your web site remains the centerpiece of your online presence - too many
nonprofits and NGOs forget that. All roads lead back to your web site,
because while Facebook won't always be the most popular site out there
(remember MySpace?), your web will always be there, and there are still
millions of people who want the kind of in-depth information that only a
web site can provide.
Don't post a web address with no explanation.
You want to share a web page or newspaper article. Great. But put in an
explanation about WHY you are sharing such.
What you organization should also consider doing on Facebook
Note that, if your organization wants to use Facebook successfully and
engage in the aforementioned activities, you have to allow multiple people
to lead your organization's social media activities - not just the person in
charge of fundraising, not just the marketing director, but also the
person that supports and manages volunteers! She or he must be allowed
to use Facebook at work, no excuses!
Thank the volunteers who helped at your event last week by name. Even
better, put an @ sign in front of the name and make sure the link that
results goes to the person who really did help at your event. As a result,
the message will automatically be posted on the walls of any individuals
you name. However, be careful: some volunteers, and even some employees,
may not want to be named in such a public way, or may not want you
to link to their Facebook profile (they may not want to be so public about
what they do for your organization, or, they may have photos and items on
their Facebook page that can be seen by everyone and that some supporters
would find offensive); it's a good idea to ask permission first if you
think there is a possiblity someone won't like being named in a status
Post photos from an event or activity.
Post a few photos from an event or activity as that event or activity is
happening! Still a good idea for all photos to be put somewhere more
permanent and open, like Flickr,
but posting some (or a link to such wherever those photos are being
posted) shows how active your organization is. It feels informal and
unplanned - and that's what followers like!
Take a poll among your
Facebook followers. What do they think is the most serious
challenge facing the successful meeting of your organization's mission?
What do they think of the theme ideas for your Fall fund raising event?
Which historical figure do they think would have loved your organization
most? Be serious or be irreverent. A poll a month is a great idea - ask
your followers to generate ideas for polls you could offer.
Do not automatically have Facebook status updates post to Twitter
Never have Facebook status updates automatically post to Twitter. NEVER.
That's because Twitter will cut off the message after about 100
characters, often rendering your Facebook message incoherent on Twitter.
Here are some organizations that "get" FaceBook, in my opinion:
- Kentucky State Parks
- posts about upcoming special events at different parks, or special
deals, like women-only retreats. Every post makes me want to go! I'm
"friends" with a lot of state parks, and in comparison, all the others
are oh-so-boring in what they share on FaceBook (if they share anything
at all). Are you listening, Oregon?
- PeaceCorps - posts
mostly about what PeaceCorps members are doing in the field and special
recognition or events where members are honored. I imagine thousands of
former PeaceCorps members, as well as current members, swell with pride
with every post, being reminded of what a fantastic institution they are
a part of, and are further energized to become advocates for PeaceCorps
with friends and colleagues.
- U.S. Agency for
International Development - USAID - posts about what USAID is
doing and accomplishing in the developing world, and what new strategies
they are about to incorporate. Every post says "We're active, we're
focused on what people really need, and we're getting
results." Your tax dollars at work!
- Women of Uganda Network
- I've been a WOUGNET supporter
for many years, so it's no surprise to me that their Facebook
status updates would make me go "wow" so often. Every post is "here's
another fabulous thing we've been up to to help women and girls access
computer technology." Same for their
Flickr account, for that matter. Ladies, I swear, I WILL get to
International - This organization is based in England and is
focused on humanely changing the stray dog and cat situation in a
variety of countries, including in Afghanistan, by encouraging people to
become responsible pet owners and by dispelling myths about stray
animals. They don't post endless photos of animals in awful conditions;
their posts give me hope that this is a battle that can actually be won,
and dogs and cats can be valued and bring joy in any country, in any
Society of Henderson County (Kentucky) - Here's an incredible
success story, an organization that a few years ago was being attacked
by PETA and the public for its
horrific conditions and practices, and now, is an organization that
welcomes the public and volunteers into the organization and is a model
for other animal shelters. And their Facebook use is part of that amazing
What do all these FaceBook users have in common? Their status
updates are so compelling that I want to read them! They
are using FaceBook to micro-blog about "wow" things. And I feel like there
is a caring human writing their posts, not a cold PR person trying to
manipulate me. I feel like they are my "friend."
What happens when these organizations post to FaceBook? People
respond: They click "like". They post glowing comments. They
repost to their own status on FaceBook. They blog about it. They tell their
friends. My guess is that these organizations see greater attendance at
events, greater numbers of volunteers signing up to help, and probably an
increase in donations - tangible
results that make online activities worth doing.
Here's a blog I wrote about what
nonprofits I think do a great job with Facebook.
- Daily, Mandatory, Minimal Tasks
for Nonprofits on Facebook & Twitter
There are a lot of nonprofits using Facebook and Twitter just to post
to press releases. And if that's how your nonprofit, NGO or government
agency is using social media, then your organization is missing out on
most of the benefits you could gain from such. Facebook, Twitter and
other social media are all about engagement. Social media is NOT
one-way communication; you want people and organizations to read your
information, but you also want them to respond to it. And they want
YOU to respond to what THEY are saying. I broke these must-do tasks
down into the most simple, basic list as possible - these tasks take
minutes, not hours, a day
- How to handle online criticism of your
- Nonprofit Organizations and Online Social
Networking (OSN): Advice and Commentary
Potential Power for Social Good – with REAL examples
- Stages of Maturity in Nonprofit Orgs Using
- How Not-for-Profit and Public Sector Agencies
REALLY Use Online Technologies
This provides real-life examples of what agencies are using the Internet
for, and links to other resources offering even more advice and
examples. Includes information about online solicitations and fund-raising.
- Basic Press Outreach for Mission-Based
Like fund-raising, press relations is an ongoing cultivation process.
Your agency strategy for press coverage needs to go beyond trying to
land one big story -- you want the press to know that you are THE agency
to contact whenever they are doing a story on a subject that relates to
your mission. These are basic, low-cost/no cost things you can do to
generate positive attention from the media.
- What are good blog topics for mission-based
The word "blog" is short for "web log", and means keeping a journal or
diary online. Blogging is NOT a new concept -- people have been doing it
long before it had a snazzy media label. The appeal of blogging for an
online audience is that it's more personal and less formal than other
information on a web site. Readers who want to connect with an
organization on a more personal level, or who are more intensely
interested in an organization than the perhaps general public as a
whole, love blogs. Blogs can come from your Executive Director, other
staff members, volunteers, and even those you serve. Content options are
many, and this list reviews some of
- For Nonprofits Considering Their Own
Podcasts: Why It's Worth Exploring, and Content Considerations
(includes my own podcast)
- How folklore, rumors and
urban myths interfere with development and aid/relief efforts and
how to prevent or address such.
- THE CLUETRAIN MANIFESTO
"We appreciate your efforts in spreading this important sedition." A
project from 1999 that is still completely relevant today (and shows why
the Internet has ALWAYS been "online social networking" and there's
nothing at all really all that new about sites like FaceBook). It's a
challenge to companies to quit thinking that they can control the
Internet and online culture and shape it to fit their outdated PR and
marketing dreams, and to quit fearing its "open" nature and, instead,
realize that this open system can actually be a good thing in the quest
to meet customer needs and move products and messages.
consulting services & my
workshops & presentations
credentials & expertise
My book: The
Last Virtual Volunteering
Community Outreach, With & Without Tech
Free Resources: Technology
Tips for Non-Techies
Free Resources: Web
Development, Maintenance, Marketing for non-Web designers
Free Resources: For
people & groups that want to volunteer
or from my web site
Coyote Helps Foundation
Jayne's Amazon Wishlist
social media (follow me, like me, put me in a circle, subscribe to
Disclaimer: No guarantee of accuracy or suitability is made by the
poster/distributor. This material is provided as is, with no expressed
or implied warranty.
Permission is granted to copy, present and/or distribute a limited
amount of material from my web site without charge if the
information is kept intact and without alteration, and is credited to:
Otherwise, please contact me for
permission to reprint, present or distribute these materials (for
instance, in a class or book or online event for which you intend to
The art work and material on this site
was created and is copyrighted 1996-2018
by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved
(unless noted otherwise, or the art comes from a link to another web