Facebook for nonprofits: Maximizing ROI

December 27, 2012

The vast majority of our partners are on Facebook. Some have amassed impressive fan bases that number in the tens of thousands. They dutifully post day in and day out, spending several hours per month to keep online supporters informed, delighted, and, hopefully, engaged. Or are they engaged? What is the return on investment for all that Facebook love nonprofits are putting out into the world?

In many cases, it’s pretty low. Recent changes to Facebook’s Edgerank—the tool that determines what content will show up in each users’ newsfeeds—have resulted in a big drop-off in reach for nonprofit pages. For most groups, only 5-20% of fans will see any given post. And only a small fraction of those folks will comment or share.

So what is a nonprofit to do? Well, the first thing is to get clear on your goals for Facebook. We think most nonprofits should look at Facebook as an on-ramp to their organizational websites (or a platform like Salsa) where they can capture contact information and cultivate new friends as activists or donors.

For every Facebook fan that might be converted into a hardcore supporter, there are hundreds whose commitment to your cause extends only a click or two. And there are lots of cool tools like Causes, SignOn.org, and ActionSprout that give these busy but well-intentioned folks a way to get involved (and take full advantage of Facebook’s social mojo, extending your reach into fans’ networks).

The success of efforts like Greenpeace International’s Detox Fashion campaign show that online activism can create real change, especially when companies are the target and they see their bottom lines in the crosshairs.  For policymakers, however, office visits and hand written letters will always trump electronic signature (great research on effective advocacy here).

That’s why we urge partners to focus more on the quality of relationships than quantity. It’s easy and affordable to acquire thousands of fans through advertising. But mobilizing those people to act on behalf of your cause takes good content and a sound conversion strategy. Check out our social media mastery guide for tips on content that moves people. And drop me a line at nicole(at)resource-media.org if you’d like to brainstorm about your Facebook page.