Should Your Nonprofit be on Facebook?
The answer to the Facebook question will be either yes, no, or maybe, and it will be determined by the type of organization you have and who your nonprofit servers. To better answer the question, we’ll answer the question in three parts:
Yes. You are a charity or NGO that has a public face and depends on public support in some way.
Facebook Pages (distinct from personal profiles) are public facing by default. With nearly 2 billion accounts (1.79 active users) it is highly likely that you have an audience on Facebook. That means that there are people there that want to know more about your organization, and that your nonprofit wants to reach. Facebook is a fantastic way to reach out to people to let them know what you do, what you are all about, and who you are trying to help. Equally, a Facebook Page for your NGO or charity, gives people an opportunity to communicate with you, and importantly to find ways to help your organization. People can share news about your good works with their friends, and they can more easily find ways to help your organization financially, if your nonprofit organization depends on public fundraising in some way.
Any organization that is dedicated to “doing good” out in the world, in any way whatsoever, will benefit immensely from a presence on Facebook.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical care where it is needed most in nearly 70 countries. They make excellent use of Facebook, as you can see for yourself.
Maybe: Your Nonprofit organization is membership based, and serves primarily members of the organization
Membership based nonprofits, such as professional associations, and clubs, may or may not benefit from a Facebook “Fan Page“. Business and organizational Fan Pages are meant to be public, and that is the key consideration.
Keeping in mind that Facebook Pages are public by default, whether your organization will benefit a lot, a little, or not at all, will depend largely on how important public outreach or input is to your organizational goals.
For most professional associations a Facebook page should be an organizational priority. Especially if the members are part of a self-regulating profession. Self-regulating professions have obligations to the public, in addition to obligations to members of the profession. Anything that enables better communication, and enables increased transparency, will probably enhance the public perception of the profession.
The OBA (Ontario Bar Association) uses a Facebook page. You can see immediately that they are reaching out to their members, but are also presenting a professional image to the public.
Clubs can also benefit greatly from Facebook. However, in the case of private clubs, there is another option that should be considered. As with other organizations, a Facebook Page is a good idea if the club is reaching out to the public. If the club is more focused in serving club members than on public outreach, it should probably create a Facebook Group instead of a Facebook Fan Page. A Facebook group page serves as a home base for club members. It is a place on Facebook where members can share pictures, videos, and stories with each other. A place where members can meet each other online to communicate. Unlike a “page”, a “group” can be completely private so that only group members can participate in conversations or see each others posts.
A Facebook Page is best for an organization that wants to inform its members, or the public, and seek input or kudos from members and/or the public. A Facebook Group is best for an organization that wants a place for members to meet online and share things with each other.
No: Your nonprofit organization is private, it serves only a very specific community and purpose.
There are indeed nonprofit organizations for which Facebook may not be a worthwhile investment of time, energy, and money. The one that springs most immediately to my mind is a Condominium Corporation. Some larger condominiums, or condos with board and committee members that are already very active on social media might want to set up a Facebook Group for owners and residents, but many condo corporations are already faced with overworked volunteers that are struggling to keep up with the day-to-day demands of keeping their particular nonprofit running smoothly. These smaller organizations are likely best off with the philosophy of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Something for organizations in the “no” group to consider though, is that they may one day face demands for more transparency and/or better communications.
A group may well be the answer to meeting demands for better communications. Unlike in the dating world, when it comes to social media for nonprofits “no” indeed might mean “maybe”.
When your nonprofit, NGO, or charity wants to talk about how to make Social Media work for it, get in touch. I’d love to help you out.