10 Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofits

This is the sixth post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofitswritten and presented by Heather Mansfield. Please sign up for Nonprofit Tech for Good’s email newsletter to be alerted of new posts. Thank you!

Related Webinar: Facebook & Instagram Best Practices for Nonprofits
Related Certificate Program: Certificate in Social Media Marketing & Fundraising

With 2.9 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. Without a doubt, your nonprofit’s donors and supporters use Facebook on a regular basis and thus Facebook should be your first priority in your social media strategy. However, to stand out from the other nearly one hundred million Facebook Pages vying for likes, comments, and shares, your nonprofit needs to excel at Facebook to ensure feed exposure.

1) Set up your nonprofit’s Facebook Page to make a good first impression.

First impressions are important on social media. Ensure that when potential new followers land on your Facebook Page, the design of your cover photo and your profile photo is visually compelling.

To begin, use a profile photo that can be easily recognized in the feed. Too often nonprofits upload their logo as their profile photo, but when viewed in the feed the text in the logo is too small to read and the graphic in their logo is often cropped and illegible. In this example, Heal the Bay does not include the text in their logo in their profile photo and their cover photo powerfully speaks to their mission which creates a very good first impression upon first-time visitors.

Screenshot of the home page of the Heal the Bay Facebook Page

Another good example is The Marshall Project. Their profile photo is a graphic cropped from their logo and the cover photo/graphic includes embedded text which elevates their mission and brand:

Screenshot of the home page of The Marshall Project Facebook Page

To ensure your nonprofit’s page is well-designed, you can hire a graphic designer that specializes in the nonprofit sector or do-it-yourself using a low-cost design tool such as Canva.

Finally, it’s worth noting that after a new follower likes your page, it’s unlikely that they will ever visit your page again as the experience of your page will occur primarily in the feed through posts and ads.

2) Post 2-5 times weekly to your Facebook Page and respond to your followers.

The hard truth is that organic reach on Facebook is almost non-existent and unless your nonprofit is investing in Facebook Ads, it is likely that your organization is investing too much time into your Facebook presence.

According to the M+R Benchmarks Report, posts by nonprofits are only reaching 4% of your followers. That’s equivalent to sending an email to one hundred of your donors and supporters and 96 of those emails going into spam folders. That would render email marketing pointless, yet according to Rival IQ in their 2022 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, nonprofits are posting an average of 7.6 times per week to their Facebook Pages. Unless your nonprofit has an advertising budget or a large following, posting every day is a bad habit that needs to be broken.

A graph showing how often various industries post on Facebook

Even more abysmal, Rival IQ also found that nonprofits have an average engagement rate of .11% meaning that on average one out of every 1,000 of your followers will either like, comment, or click any on any given post.

A graph showing Facebook engagement rates for various industries

Knowing that organic reach and engagement are essentially non-existent, how often should your nonprofit post? Hubspot Research found that  the first two posts per week on Facebook earn a median of a single click. After that, it drops to zero clicks, so Nonprofit Tech for Good recommends that most small and medium-sized nonprofits post twice a week to maximize organic reach and engagement with the understanding that your organic reach and engagement will be very low regardless of how good your content is. Let that sink in. 

All that said, if your nonprofit absolutely can not invest money in Facebook Ads, here are five tips to maximize organic reach and engagement:

  1. If your nonprofit has 10,000 followers or less, posting twice a week is a good starting point. The only nonprofits that should be posting four or more times weekly are those that have 100,000+ followers. For the past decade, conventional Facebook marketing advice has been that nonprofits should post once, or even twice, daily. Today, that’s a worst practice not grounded in data or experience.
  2. Craft a compelling message (behind-the-scenes, a call-to-action, a positive story, etc.) that grabs your follower’s attention (easier said than done!).
  3. Share photos and videos that communicate the story of your mission and programs.
  4. Curate high-quality content that is relevant to your mission and programs.
  5. Respond to those that comment on your posts – even if it is simply liking their comment – engaging with your followers does make it more likely that they will see future posts.

3) Invest in Facebook Ads.

According to the Open Data Project, 53% of nonprofits purchased Facebook Ads in 2021. That’s a good number, but it leaves 47% of nonprofits that haven’t yet come to the understanding that Facebook can be a colossal waste of time if your nonprofit does not have a budget for Facebook Ads.

In truth, for Facebook to produce results for your nonprofit, you must invest a minimum of $100 a month in Facebook Ads. If your nonprofit is posting three times a week and boosts each post for $5, that’s $60 a month with $40 remaining for special fundraising and advocacy campaigns and experimentation. That said, keep in mind the average annual ad spend by nonprofits is $12,070 with an average return on ad spend (ROAS) of $1.05 for social media ads. Knowing how to effectively use social media advertising and Google Ads is one of the most in-demand job skills for nonprofit digital marketers and fundraisers.

Boosting a post on your Facebook Page is the easiest way to begin your experimentation with Facebook Ads, but boosted posts are just one of many types of ads available on Facebook including On-Facebook Donation Ads. You can target your ads to reach people by their interests, their gender, and their location – and whether you want your Facebook Ads to also be posted on Instagram if you have connected your Facebook and Instagram Ads accounts. There’s a steep learning curve to Facebook Ads and to improve you’ll need to experiment and track your results in Google Analytics. If you are good at being self-taught, be sure to read how-to guides and attend webinars.

In terms of Facebook Ads cost benchmarks, here is a useful summary from Web FX based on $300 million in spending:

A graph that shows how the cost of Facebook Ads including cost-per-click of $.97

4) Add a “Donate” button to your page and posts.

According to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 32% of online donors gave through Facebook Fundraising Tools in 2020. Of those, 89% said they would likely do it again. Nonprofits may have a love/hate relationship with Facebook Fundraising Tools, but it’s clear that donors who give through Facebook want to give through Facebook.

For detailed information on how to sign up for Facebook Fundraising Tools, how the tools work, and whether your organization is eligible, please see #7 in the post, 10 Online Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits.

Once approved for the tools, the first step is to add a “Donate” button to your Facebook Page. For example, the Humane Society of the United States:

The Facebook Page for the Humane Society of the United States with a Donate button featured.

However, it is important to keep in mind that since most engagement with your page occurs in the feed, most donors will not seek out or search for your Facebook Page to make a donation. You’ll have to ask them to visit your page to donate in your Facebook posts, on your website, or in email. However, most nonprofits would rather send donors to their website to make a donation to capture the donor’s full contact information, so have minimal expectations about people donating through the Donate button featured on your Facebook Page.

The second step once approved for Facebook Fundraising Tools is to add a Donate button to your posts:

A Facebook post that features a Donate button for the Humane Society

However, similar to the Donate button featured on your page, you need to have realistic expectations. The vast majority of all Facebook revenue (97%) was donated through peer-to-peer Facebook Fundraisers (discussed in #5 below). To be successful at fundraising through Donate buttons in your posts, you need excellent content (written and visual), an engaged community, and an advertising budget to boost your posts. To begin, add a Donate button to one post every other week. Experiment with content, your tone, and your call-to-donate messaging. If it works, increase frequency to once weekly.

It is important to note that Facebook has recently updated its advertising tools for nonprofits. First, nonprofits can now use image ads with a call-to-action (CTA) button embedded directly on images that can link to your nonprofit’s donation page on your website. For example, here’s a recent ad with a “Donate Now” CTA button from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND):

Kids in Need of Defense fundraising ad for the crisis in Ukraine

These types of ads are now commonly seen in the feed and while there is no data on their performance, many large nonprofits have embraced this format.

In addition, nonprofits can also add a Donate now button label when creating a Facebook Ad that links directly to your nonprofit’s donation page on your website. In the past, you could only use the Donate now button label for On-Facebook donations. For example, a recent ad from the World Food Program USA:World Food Program fundraising ad for the crisis in UkraineSecond, Facebook recently updated their On-Facebook Donation Ads to be more effective and to provide more insight into their performance. These ads allow donors to give directly through Facebook in two taps if they have signed up to use Facebook Pay.

5) Empower your supporters to fundraise for your nonprofit on Facebook.

As mentioned, 97% of all Facebook revenue was donated through peer-to-peer Facebook Fundraisers. Not enabling your Facebook followers to create Fundraisers for your nonprofit is an opportunity lost.

To begin, once approved to use Facebook Fundraising Tools, feature the “Fundraisers” tab on your page. For example, Wildlife SOS:

Wildlife SOS Facebook Page featuring the Fundraisers Tab

Those individuals most likely to create Fundraisers on behalf of your organization will do so for their birthday because two weeks before their birthday, Facebook prompts them to create a Birthday Fundraiser for their favorite nonprofit. Most Birthday Fundraisers are created without the nonprofit having asked.

That said, imagine if nonprofits made a concerted effort to ask their followers to create Birthday Fundraisers on Facebook! Your nonprofit can do so in Facebook posts, on your website, or via email if you have your subscriber’s birth dates. Most nonprofits don’t want to promote Facebook Fundraisers because Facebook does not provide the contact information of fundraisers or their donors (only their email address if the donor opts-in to provide it), but if Facebook is where your supporters want to fundraise, it’s worth considering proactively using and promoting Facebook Fundraisers. For example, Wildlife SOS has an engaged, loyal following and they regularly ask their followers to create Fundraisers:

Wildlife SOS post asking followers to fundraise for them on Facebook

Wildlife SOS does not ask people to fundraise on Facebook on their website or via email – only in Facebook posts. They limit the fundraising experience entirely within Facebook, including thanking their fundraisers on their Fundraiser page:

A Thank You graphic that Wildlife SOS posts on all Fundraisers created on Facebook

Most nonprofits skip thanking their fundraisers, but according to GivePanel, fundraisers who are thanked throughout the process raise 35% more than those who are not.

Finally, for those nonprofits concerned about not capturing the contact information of your Facebook fundraisers and donors, limiting the promotion of Fundraisers within Facebook is a good compromise. Some donors will opt-in to provide their email address and your nonprofit could attempt to capture the contact information of your fundraisers by including a link to an opt-in form in your Thank You message.

Facebook and Instagram are two of the largest social networks in the world and are essential to your nonprofit’s social media strategy. When used correctly, both platforms are effective for communicating the story of your mission and programs and inspiring donors to give and supporters to take action.

In this two-hour webinar, you’ll learn the big picture of how Facebook and Instagram fit into your organization’s digital marketing and fundraising strategy. 

6) Create a Nonprofit Page Fundraiser for important, timely campaigns.

Nonprofit Page Fundraisers enable nonprofits to crowdfund on Facebook. Ideal for important, time-sensitive campaigns such as Giving Tuesday and issues related to breaking news, nonprofits that have been approved to use Facebook Fundraising Tools can launch a crowdfunding campaign on Facebook in minutes.

A Nonprofit Page Fundraiser by Greater Good Charities in support of humanitarian relief in Ukraine

It’s worth noting that donations are On-Facebook and there are no donation processing fees for nonprofits. That said, to maximize the success of your Nonprofit Page Fundraiser, here are five basic tips:

  1. Start with a $5-10,000 Goal. If your goal is achieved, you can increase the goal amount.
  2. Boost posts that feature your Nonprofit Page Fundraiser.
  3. Encourage your followers to “Share” on Facebook and “Invite” their friends to support.
  4. Post regular updates to the Nonprofit Page Fundraiser and post thank you comments for your donors.
  5. And of course, don’t promote your Nonprofit Page Fundraiser if it has “$0 raised.” Always donate to your own nonprofit to get the campaign started.

7) If eligible, experiment with Subscriptions to gain monthly donors.

For nonprofits that regularly use Facebook Live, have 10,000+ fans, and a highly engaged community (50,000 post engagements within the last 60 days), Facebook offers the ability to gain new monthly donors through their Subscriptions service.

The first step is to go to your page and select Creator Studio > Monetization > Subscriptions to see if your nonprofit’s page is eligible. If yes, get started with Subscriptions by adding your banking info, creating your supporter benefits, and setting your monthly donation amount. Once approved, you’ll be able to add a “Subscribe” button to your page (visible on mobile only) and your live video posts. For example, the Dolphin Project:

The Dolphin Project on Facebook Monthly Subscriber benefits for becoming a subscriber of the Dolphin Project on Facebook

If your nonprofit is not eligible for Subscriptions, hang tight because Facebook Stars (currently in beta) will launch soon and will likely have a lower engagement requirement for eligibility.

The pricing structure for Facebook Stars A screenshot that shows a person purchasing Stars on Facebook to benefit a nonprofit

8) Utilize Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger currently has 1.3 billion users worldwide and that number will grow significantly when it is merged with WhatsApp. It’s also very likely that Facebook Fundraising Tools will be extended to Messenger through Facebook Pay which will transform Messenger into a very powerful fundraising tool for nonprofits.

That said, currently, Messenger is used by nonprofits primarily as a one-to-one communication tool through the “Message” button on pages. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to respond to messages within 24 hours in your Inbox in Meta Business Suite.

Dashboard of Meta Business Suite

In Meta Business Suite, your nonprofit can also set up an instant automated reply that appears after someone first messages your page. Be sure to include a link to your website in the automated reply. Your nonprofit can also create an automated “Away message” if admins will be offline for a while.

The Automated Responses functionality for Facebook Pages

Finally, Facebook Messenger Ads are worth experimenting with. As mentioned, Facebook Fundraising Tools will likely be integrated into Messenger. Those nonprofits that embrace Messenger Ads now are the best positioned to raise the most money through a Messenger Donate button.

9) Experiment with Facebook Stories.

As mentioned earlier, Facebook Pages can be a waste of time if your nonprofit does not have a budget for advertising. The same is true with Facebook Stories. In discussions with small and medium-sized nonprofits, there’s a lot of hype about stories (which disappear 24 hours after posting), but very little ROI and stories can be time-consuming to create.

If you have yet to post a Facebook Story, use Facebook’s Mobile App or on desktop go to Creator Studio > Create Post > Add Story. In Creator Studio, you can add text and attach a button/link to your story.

A screenshot that demonstrates how nonprofits can upload a Facebook Story using Creator Studio

Stories can be one image or video, multiple images and videos, or a graphic of text. Post a story every other day and then monitor your Insights.

Screenshot of the Analytics in Facebook's Creator Studio

Analytics for an individual Facebook Story in Business Suite

As you can see above, engagement and traffic from stories for Nonprofit Tech for Good are exceptionally low considering our page has over 100,000 followers.

Experiment with Facebook Stories and make your own decision. Follow and study large nonprofits that post stories regularly and perhaps experiment with Facebook Story Ads and the Fundraiser Sticker, but if the ROI isn’t there, don’t hesitate to drop Facebook Stories and move on.

10) Schedule a monthly Facebook Study Hour.

Facebook is constantly updating its tools – pages, ads, events, fundraising tools, etc. Often, new products and upgrades are released without mention. Pick one day a month and create a Facebook Study Hour for yourself. Browse the left bar on your page home to see what’s new. Click around and experiment and if you are new to Business Suite and Creator Studio, spend some time learning how to effectively use these tools.

Screenshot of the media planner is Meta Business Suite for nonprofits

It’s also a good idea to browse the Facebook Newsroom and Social Impact website for important news and announcements at least once a month.

Our Certificate in Social Media Marketing & Fundraising program covers the fundamentals of social media marketing and fundraising for your nonprofit. Participants will learn how to create and maintain a content strategy, current best practices for the top-performing social media sites, and how to be an early adopter of emerging social media trends.

The program requires the completion of four webinars and costs a total of $100 USD. You can attend the webinars live or view the recordings. Learn more & register!

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